RACING

Brandon Jones steals ARCA Menards Series win at Watkins Glen

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Brandon Jones (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig/ARCA Racing)

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WATKINS GLEN, NY – Sammy Smith topped Friday night’s General Tire Delivers 100 at Watkins Glen International. Kyle Busch Motorsports driver led nearly every lap. Only Taylor Gray was able to challenge Smith for the lead throughout the 41-lap event on the 11-turn, 2.45-mile road course.

And neither of them won the race.

A chaotic restart on the final lap of the race allowed Joe Gibbs Racing driver Brandon Jones to steal the win, giving the 25-year-old NASCAR Xfinity Series three regular wins in its four ARCA series starts Menards in 2022.

RELATED: Complete Watkins Glen results

“First win on a road course,” Jones said. “It’s really important for us. [Smith and Gray] were really hard to beat all day. In the end, we were all on top of each other, really, so it was about timing that last reboot and trying to force the issue a bit.

A car stopped on the track with a few laps to go pulled out the final race warning flag and set up a final lap restart with Smith in the lead and Gray lined up next to his rival in second.

Gray, inside Smith, appeared to overload Turn 1 after receiving a push from Jones. Gray made contact with Smith and both drivers veered off the track, allowing Jones and eventual second Nick Sanchez to take the top two spots.

Jones beat Sanchez to the finish line to take the win. He ran the ARCA Menards Series race on Friday night in preparation for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at The Glen.

“I had seen it many times,” Jones said of a string of restarts lining up behind Smith and Gray. “[Gray] was really aggressive, so I was kind of waiting for something to happen.

Sanchez, who took the ARCA Menards Series championship points lead from teammate Rajah Caruth with a win at the most recent event at Michigan International Speedway, felt lucky to record a second-place finish at Watkins Glen.

“On days like today we were probably a fourth or fifth place car and we finished second,” Sanchez said. “You want to win them, but you also have to look at the points.”

Jesse Love finished third ahead of Daniel Dye in fourth. Dye, another ARCA Menards Series title contender in 2022, also felt lucky to get a top-five finish.

“It was a tough day,” Dye said. “I was really learning all day. But we learned and had to keep fighting.

Smith recovered a top-five finish with his dominant car and finished fifth.

Parker Chase, Austin Wayne Self, Gray, Dale Quarterley and Conner Jones round out the top 10.

Not including the scheduled race break midway through the General Tire Delivers 100, the event saw four warnings; three for incidents and one for debris. The penultimate yellow flag of the race, eight laps from the finish, was the result of a violent crash involving Amber Balcaen and Chris Werth.

Both drivers were able to get out of their cars on their own.

Friday night’s race, the 13th of the ARCA Menards Series season, also served as Round 7 of the 2022 Sioux Chief Showdown. Smith entered the Watkins Glen race with a 19-point advantage over Gray in the standings for this series.

Friday’s General Tire Delivers 100 was the first leg of a double weekend for the ARCA Menards Series. Drivers and teams face a quick turnaround, as the series is scheduled to race the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday, August 21.

The Atlas 100 is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. ET and can be viewed live on MAVTV Motorsports Network or FloRacing.

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