Berlin Raceway is mostly flat, but Erik Jones’ two days in Marne, Michigan has been full of peaks and valleys. Two laps into Monday evening’s practice session the rear end broke on Jones’ no. 61 machine and he pounded the turn one wall destroying the race car. At the end of 251 laps on Tuesday night Jones rolled his backup car into victory lane as the winner of the Battle at Berlin 251.
“These guys worked so hard,” Jones told Speed51.com powered by JEGS in victory lane. “We brought a brand new car here for practice on Monday and wrecked pretty hard. We just KO’d it. These guys at Port City went and put another car together late last night. It’s amazing, man. They worked so hard and I wanted to win for them so bad. They really deserved it.”
Jones qualified 14th and slowly worked his way through the field to get to the front. He wasn’t a factor in the beginning as it was 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott who dominated the early stages of the race.
But in the final stages of the race Elliott started to fade. Elliott battled hard with Ross Kenseth, Jones, and John Hunter Nemechek, but he couldn’t hold the bottom as the laps wound down.
“I got too tight for me and my capabilities there at the end,” said Elliott. “I hate it. I thought we had a good car there, at least to start off, but
unfortunately that isn’t the part that mattered.”
Jones battled hard with Kenseth with about 50 laps remaining before driving deep into turn one and powering under Kenseth off turn two to take the lead with 47 laps to go.
After that it was all Erik Jones as he stretched his gap out to almost half a lap on second-place when he took the checkered flag.
However, the turning point for Jones came on a restart on lap 185 when a spin by second-place runner Lauren Bush spun out off turn four coming back to the green. Her spin resulted in about half of the field piling up on the frontstretch, but Jones managed to barely squeak by on the inside.
“I cranked it left and throttled up and made it by,” Jones said. “That was the point in the race where I thought it might be our day. If we could make it through that I knew we could make it to the end of the race. It was a pretty close call, but that’s part of racing.”
About 11 cars piled into the crash, including front runners Chad Finley, Travis Braden, Terry Senneker and Brian Campbell. Dominique Van Wieringen also took heavy damage. Only Campbell was able to return and managed to finish eighth.
Jones, a regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, has struggled with luck over the last month and a half. He’s hoping that this win will turn things around for him in all facets of racing for the rest of the year.
“It’s been a while since we’ve won this year,” Jones said. “We’ve led a lot of laps and have had fast cars, but it’s been about a month and a half of disappointment and hardship. This turned everything around and it feels great.”
In fact, Jones’ luck has been so bad recently that Monday’s crash almost led him to leave the Marne area, because he was so disappointed.
“Honestly after we wrecked yesterday I wanted to go back home,” he said. “I was ready to go back and visit the east side of the state. I was convinced to stay over and race today and I thought it was a good idea to get back out there and try to get a win and it was the right decision.”
Jones is a two-time Snowball Derby winner, and a Winchester 400 winner. The Battle at Berlin 251 is one of the few prestigious Super Late Model races that he hadn’t crossed off his list.
“This is pretty special,” Jones said. “I’ve got a lot of family and a lot of friends here. My emotion was definitely pretty emotional when I crossed the line. It was kind of hard to keep it together with about two to go and especially taking the white.”
To see a replay of all Tuesday’s action with Trackside Now from Berlin Raceway on-demand, click here: http://speed51.com/trackside-now-battle-at-berlin-251-race-day/
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
ARCA/CRA Super Series
Berlin Raceway, Marne, Michigan
Battle at Berlin 251 Official Results
|3||8N||John Hunter Nemechek|
|19||33||Wes Griffith Jr|
|25||5||Dominique Van Wieringen|