Box Score Info:
- RACE: NASCAR Xfinity Series – Johnsonville 180
- TRACK: Elkhart Lake’s Road America Course
- CAR: No. 19 Toyota Camry
- START: 9th
- FINISH: 9th
- LAPS: 45/45
The NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) was at Elkhart Lake’s Road America Course on Saturday in Wisconsin for the third road course race of the 2018 season. Brandon Jones was on the wheel of the No. 19 Toyota Service Centers Toyota Camry during the full 45-laps of a hard fought 182-miles. Jones had a solid ninth place qualifying run, but spun and hit the wall early and collected major damage to the nose of his Camry. The 19 team worked hard to make the front end repairs and keep Jones competitive so he could charge his way back into the top-10 from the 35th position. Crew chief Chris Gabehart took a gamble late in the race by saving his last set of tires for the end. This call worked out and the fresh four Goodyears helped Jones charge his way through the field and come home with a ninth place finish.
Overcast skies and a dry racetrack set the stage for a green-flag start to the Johnsonville 180, which began on Saturday, August 25th at 2:13pm CT. Jones started from the ninth position.
During Stage 1 Jones was able survive a couple early race cautions until he smacked the inside wall on lap nine causing major damage to the front of his Toyota Service Centers/Mobil 1 Toyota Camry. He was able to get it turned back around and stay out racing for one more lap to end Stage 1. Jones pitted for major repairs to the front and the 19 crew jumped into action cutting off the splitter, checking for more damage and making sure the hood was strapped on. He ended up back in 35th, but was able to check out the toe and steering and advised Gabehart he was okay.
The sixth caution flag flew on lap 14 when the 22 car hit the wall. Gabehart brought Jones back down pitroad for more front end repairs and fuel. Stage 2 ended on lap 20 and Jones finished it in the 28th position. Jones pitted for more front end repairs, fuel, four tires and the team strapped the hood down again. On lap 25 Jones broke back into the top-20 in 18thand Gabehart advised him to keep digging.
On lap 28 Gabehart made the call of the race by bringing Jones down pitroad under a different strategy than the rest of the field by taking fuel only and no tires. This set Jones up as the only car with a set of fresh Goodyear tires in case there was a late race caution.
Racing resumed on lap 30 and the track position gave Jones an eighth place start. With the worn tires Jones did start falling back, but on lap 36 the late race caution Gabehart was gambling on came out. Gabehart called Jones down pitroad to get his four new tires while the leaders stayed out. With seven laps to go when the race went green, Jones started digging his way through the field from 25th picking off the field one by one until he broke into the top-10 on lap 42 and was able to capture his 10th top-10 of the season when he crossed the finish line on lap 45 in a very hard fought ninth place finish.
Justin Allgaier won the race followed by Matt Tifft, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Elliott Sadler to round out the top five.
“To finish with what this Toyota Camry looks like in ninth place is pretty phenomenal. I was watching the guys during those pit stops and they were using all the time they could with the caution clock there and watching them ratchet strap radiators in and stuff – there was a lot going on. I was pretty proud of everybody to be able to salvage that. (Chris) Gabehart (crew chief) made the call obviously to get our Camry up there. He made the call to leave the tires off and then put them on towards the end. I think having that rear grip is what I really needed to attack at the end and be really good. We’re all laughing about it. We’re all smiling, but at the end of the day that’s what we needed to do if we wanted to stay in the battle for points.”