Box Score Info:
- RACE: NASCAR Xfinity Series; Zippo 200
- TRACK: Watkins Glen International (2.45-mile road course)
- DRIVER: Brandon Jones
- CAR: No.19 Toyota Service Centers Mobil 1 Toyota Camry
- START: 20th
- FINISH: 7th
- LAPS: 82/82
Brandon Jones and his No. 19 Toyota Service Centers Mobil 1 Toyota team traveled to the Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York for the first of four road courses for the 2018 season. Crew chief Chris Gabehart had set up a strategy for the 2.45-mile track, but Mother Nature and a mid-race red flag changed the complexion of the race and several teams had to change their strategies, including the No. 19 team. Jones had to drop to the rear of the field under penalty for unapproved adjustments. He spun out early causing slight front end damage, dropped back as far as 35th and was able to charge back through the field and into the top-10 by lap 80. He crossed the start/finish line in a very hard fought seventh place.
Saturday’s 82-lap Zippo 200 took the green flag at 3:18 p.m. ET. Jones qualified 20th, but had to drop to the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments. The first caution flag flew early on lap 4 and Gabehart advised Jones to stay out. Jones reported he had a little chatter in turn 2, but was good overall. Racing resumed on lap 8 and Jones had fought his way up to 19th. Gabehart called his strategy move on lap 12 and had Jones green flag pit early for fuel, four tires and a wedge adjustment. The 40-car field began to cycle through and Jones was racing back in 35th position. On lap 18 Jones spun, brushing a curb causing him to run into a barrier which resulted in slight damage to the front end. The spin dropped Jones back to 32nd and that’s where he finished stage 1.
Gabehart told Jones to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap and advised him the rain was coming toward the track. With Mother Nature lurking, Gabehart told Jones to dig in and gain as many spots as possible. NASCAR called for a weather caution on lap 35, which allowed the teams to bring their cars down pit road to put on their rain tires and wipers. On lap 37 the rain poured in and there were cars all over the track. The 01 car spun in turn 1 bringing out the fourth caution and eventually the red flag for over 10 minutes to allow track crews to make repairs to the safety barriers. The race went green on lap 38 and on lap 39 Gabehart brought Jones down pit road to put the slicks back on and advised Jones to watch out for dry and wet spots. On lap 40 stage 2 ended and Jones had fought his way up to 15th.
The final stage went green on lap 44 and Jones was up in fifth place. He fell back to 13th on lap 47, but was able to fight back and was in seventh by lap 54. On lap 55 Jones green flag pitted for the second time for fuel, four tires and more minor adjustments. While cycling through Jones reported that his Toyota Camry was extremely loose in the esses. Jones had fallen back to 17th on lap 72, but made a final charge through the field gaining 10 positions by lap 81 and worked his way back into the seventh position on the final lap, earning a career-high Watkins Glen finish.
Joey Logano won the Zippo 200 followed by AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Preece and Aric Almirola.
Talk about finishing in the top 10 today after an exciting race at Watkins Glen.
“Despite the craziness that happened with the rain, we had an issue. We got on a curb pretty hard and got into the barrier some and I thought I hurt it worse than I did, which we actually just kind of had some body damage and nothing really too critical. We salvaged and stayed after it all day and came home with seventh in our Toyota Camry. We stayed after it and it was a pretty phenomenal day by everybody. I think it definitely gives every one of our guys and myself some confidence going to Mid-Ohio.”