Erik Jones sees victory slip away in final moments at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Ross Chastain shouted “Oh my God!”

Erik Jones apologized to his team.

Such were the emotions after Chastain passed Jones for the win on the final lap Sunday to win at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I just got too far out there,” Jones radioed his Petty GMS Motorsports team after crossing the finish line sixth. “Sorry.”

Jones, who led 10 times for 25 laps, could not hold off the pack coming to the checkered flag.

Heading to the tri-oval on the final lap, Jones led Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch, but Jones had gotten too far ahead, allowing those behind to build momentum as they closed on the No. 43 Chevrolet. 

Larson darted high. Jones moved up to block. Although Larson made contact with Busch, sending Busch’s car into the wall, Larson got to the outside of Jones. Chastain stayed on the bottom with a line of cars behind him. Jones had no help and fell back as a line of cars, led by Chastain, passed. 

“I tried to defend and … I kind of opened the door for (Chastain) and he cruised by,” Jones said. “You just get only so much of a picture in the car, in the seat, and I was trying to do what I thought I needed to do to win the race. Unfortunately, there were other circumstances, which is Talladega.”

Standing on pit road shortly after the race ended, Jones was asked if he would have done anything differently.

“Defending (Larson), probably would have stayed on the bottom,” Jones said. “I didn’t realize the bottom was coming with that much momentum. Rick (Carelli) was probably telling me, my spotter, (but) I was in my own world. 

“You’re trying to do what you can see, and you’re also trying to listen to him. Obviously, if I would have known that the bottom had that much steam, would have probably stuck with it. … It’s frustrating. You work that hard for 500 miles and it comes down the last few thousand feet. It’s tough.”

The result is Jones’ third top 10 of the season. He had six top 10s all of last season. Jones moved from 19th to 17th in the season standings after the race. He trails Christopher Bell by 12 points for what would be the final playoff spot at this time.  

“It’s good in the sense that we needed a good run,” Jones said of the finish. “We needed a good run. We’ve struggled the last three races. Since COTA haven’t finished well. We needed a good finish to get some points. We were falling back too far in points. In that sense, it’s good. 

“In the other sense, it was frustrating. I try to look at the positives. That was we did have a fast car, led laps, were in the lead coming to where we needed to be. It just makes you want to work harder.”