The tight confines of Martinsville (Va.) Speedway dealt Brandon Jones, driver of the No. 33 Russell Chevrolet Silverado, a 32nd-place finish in his debut with GMS Racing, after being swept up in a late-race accident.
The 17-year-old showed speed in Friday’s opening practice session when he clocked in with the third fastest time, earning him a 16th position for Saturday’s Kroger 200. In the opening laps, Jones showed a matured sense of patience, running consistent laps and effectively navigating lapped traffic. On Lap 15, crew chief Shane Huffman informed Jones that his lap times were consistent with the race leaders. Jones advanced into the top 15 by Lap 24 and held his position until the race’s first caution was displayed at Lap 28 for fluid on the track. Under the yellow, Jones reported a similar condition as in practice; his No. 33 Russell Chevrolet was “way too loose into the center, but good on exit.” Huffman kept Jones on track during the caution, but a “really free” balance held Jones from progressing further through the field on the ensuing lap-35 restart.
Jones escaped a spin on Lap 57 with no damage, after tangling with two other trucks in Turn 3. Under the yellow, Jones came to the attention of his GMS Racing team on pit road for four Goodyear tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and spring rubber adjustment to alleviate his loose balance. By the halfway mark, Jones had broken into the top 20, and cycled into the top five by staying out under caution at Lap 109 when the race leaders came to pit road for scheduled stops.
From a restart on Lap 115, Jones’ older tires proved to be a hindrance, as the GMS Racing driver found himself outside the top-15 by Lap 135. Another quick caution allowed Jones to gain positions by staying on-track, and he restarted 13th on Lap 150.
On Lap 151, Jones’ day would come to an unceremonious end after contact from the No. 05 truck sent his Chevrolet hard into the Turn 1 wall, bringing his debut with GMS Racing to a premature conclusion. Jones was credited with a 32nd-place finish. The Atlanta, Ga., native will be back behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet at Phoenix (Az.) International Raceway on November 7.
Start - 16 Finish - 32 Laps Led - 0
Brandon Jones Quote:
“That’s Martinsville (Speedway). We were trying to work on a pretty cool pit stop strategy that we had going on. That kind of stuff happens, and I hate that we got caught up in some else’s mess. We ran in the top five, and felt like we could have finished up there. We got shuffled back because of tire strategy. We weren’t far from coming back to pit road to put tires on it and start making our way back up there. A couple guys got together behind us, and we got caught up in that mess. Unfortunately, that’s how Martinsville can go.”