AVONDALE, Ariz.—Brandon Jones came alive in the second half of the LS Tractor 200 to score his first win at Phoenix Raceway.
Jones, who qualified eighth, was not really a factor in the first half of the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.
But with 20 laps to decide the contest, Jones passed Kyle Busch for the lead and held on for his second career win.
"Couldn’t believe the 54 (Busch) dove down to the bottom when there was no lapped traffic in front of us and I took advantage," Jones said. "This was a big day. We pulled away from the field by a good bit, had an amazing race car and I’m looking forward to many more here.
"I came into this race thinking Phoenix is maybe not my best track and we win the race. I’ve got a lot better tracks on the schedule and it’s going to look pretty good for us.”
Last weekend’s winner Harrison Burton finished second, 3.556-seconds behind Jones at the finish. Busch, Brad Keselowski, Justin Haley, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson, Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Riley Herbst rounded out the top 10.
Busch won the pole for the event but Cindric took the lead early. With the exception of Ray Black Jr., spinning in Turn 2 on Lap 32, the first stage was fairly drama-free. Justin Allgaier took the lead from Busch on Lap 40 and held on for the stage win with Chastain, Briscoe, Busch, Cindric, Gragson, Keselowski, Haley, Burton and Jones in tow.
Allgaier remained out front for the start of Stage 2. Busch took the lead on Lap 76 but turned the point over to Chastain during the third caution when Colby Howard wrecked on the backstretch. Grayson grabbed the lead on the restart and held on for the Stage 2 win. Chastain crossed the line second following by Briscoe, Busch, Ryan Sieg, Jones, Burton, Cindric and Brandon Brown.
Gragson remained in charge when the race returned green on Lap 100. Allgaier regained control on Lap 117, however, a rash of cautions and pit strategies shook up the field. Joe Nemechek triggered the fifth caution after wrecking the No. 47 Mike Harmon Chevy in Turn 4. Allgaier opted to stay out on fuel and quickly dropped through the field on old tires.
Jones’ No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was set-up for long runs. He restarted second on Lap 137 following the wreck between Brown and Dillon Bassett—which carried over between the teams after the race. After Daniel Hemric lost control of his car on Lap 143 and collected Black, Joe Graf Jr., and Alex Labbe in process, the end game was set with 47 laps to decide the contest.
Busch held the point on the restart, but 10 laps later Jones took the lead.
"Just killed the front tires," Busch said. "I’ve complained about the same things since we unloaded here and we arrived here to get it better and we just never did anything to make it any better. It’s just the group I got and we’re kind of behind the eightball a bit.
"Thanks to the JGR Xfinity shop for giving me a good piece here. Came out here to ride, but just missed the setup.”
Despite his heart pounding as he passed the current Cup series champion, Jones ran flawlessly over the final 20 laps. With the Xfinity Series tour returning to Phoenix to decide the title, Jones feels good about his chances in November.
“It just looked like his (Busch) stuff didn’t hold on very good. He drove to the bottom and I looked at him and thought there’s no way he just went to the bottom since I was so strong on the top," Jones said. "That just gave us the position to do it. Man, I cannot believe the lead we ended up getting. These guys put in a lot of work. This is a new car we brought to the track this week. This is big for us.
"This is obviously a championship race at the end of the year. We have something to bring back and compete with them. If we continue to put in the work, we’re going to be there at the end of this thing.”
Harrison Burton holds a three-point lead in the standings over Chase Briscoe.