For the second consecutive year, an early deficit was too much to overcome in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for Erik Jones.
Jones was eliminated before the checkered flag Sunday afternoon at the Charlotte Roval when he had to retire from the race because of a hole in the radiator. The No. 20 Camry suffered damaged during a Lap 24 accident in Turn 1 when Jones was hit from behind and he spun into the tire barriers.
The accident was a chain reaction that started with Kurt Busch hitting Chris Buescher, who then hit Jimmie Johnson. When Johnson spun he collected Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, and Jones.
“The damage wasn’t bad at all, we had that fixed completely,” Jones said. “We punctured a hole in the radiator with one of the suspension pieces or frame pieces went through it. Kind of a freak deal. Usually a wreck like that wouldn’t end your day by any means.”
Jones entered Charlotte knowing he had to win the Bank of America Roval 400 because he was 45 points below a transfer spot. He was running eighth at the time of the accident, which Jones, who used the word “dive bomb” in describing it, did not expect to happen so early in the race.
“It’s frustrating; it’s frustrating not to even have a chance to run the whole race,” Jones said. “We didn’t make it to the first stage and it wasn’t our fault, and that’s probably the most frustrating part, to get taken out and there was nothing you can do about it.
“Have to keep going all year, win some more races, and come back and start over again in next year’s playoffs.”
A mechanical issue in Las Vegas resulted in a 36th-place finish and Jones was credited with 38th in Richmond after his car failed post-race inspection. He will finish last at Charlotte.
“You never know what’s going to happen with strategy,” Jones added. “I thought we had a good strategy in place that we were going to stick to and see how it worked out, but we didn’t get the opportunity to. It’s really frustrating.
“The Craftsman Camry – we were struggling early, but we had a plan that was going to get us up front and that was the first iteration restarting there and we just got taken out. It’s early to be racing that hard, not even the first stage. It’s just unfortunate.”