KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Getting pushed to the win? That’s the kind of thing we typically would’ve seen last week at Talladega Superspeedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Erik Jones and race-winner Christopher Bell illustrated a bit of a different interpretation of that Saturday at Kansas Speedway in the Kansas Lottery 300, albeit unintentionally and with something more than the garden-variety bump-draft.
In the waning laps, Bell managed to maneuver his No. 18 Toyota around Jones’ dominant No. 20, sliding up the track before being rear-ended by the Monster Energy Series regular. Bell drove away from the run-in to the win, and Jones limped to the finish with the brunt of the damage.
According to Jones, the contact was unavoidable from his standpoint. The positioning of Bell, he says, was not.
“I just don’t think that’s the way to do it,” Jones said on pit road following the race. “I get he was clear, but he wasn’t clear for the run I was having on the top. I was in the gas and there’s no way I could slow up enough to let him in. It’s just unfortunate. It took me out of the race. Obviously, it worked out for him. I don’t know, I just don’t really appreciate that. I don’t think many people do. It is what it is.”
Jones led a race-high 186 of 200 laps and appeared set to cruise-control his way to a third XFINITY win of the season before the contact with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate derailed his day. The 21-year-old was saddled with a 15th-place disappointment, while Bell earned his first career win in just his fifth series start.
“I tried to drive in really deep into Turn 3 and clear him and get back to the top. I hate that we didn’t get to race it out and he didn’t get to finish, but it’s my first XFINITY win and it’s something I’m really proud of,” Bell said in Victory Lane.
“I’m going to apologize and it sucks that we couldn’t race it out or that he didn’t finish the race. I don’t know man, I cleared him there. We were both on old tires and we were both sliding around.”
Bell, for his part, told reporters in his post-race press conference that he’s planning to reach out to Jones immediately if he doesn’t cross paths with him before leaving the Kansas track.
Jones told NASCAR.com that he’s “never seen him run anyone dirty,” but that they’ll “absolutely” have a conversation.
“We definitely need to talk about it,” he continued. “Obviously, Christopher is in the Toyota development line and coming up through the ranks. I’m sure we’ll be racing each other for a long time. It’s not the way we want to race as teammates or fellow racers, so we’ll have to work it out.
“That’s racing. It’s not always going to go your way and it didn’t go our way today.”