MARNE, Mich. — Throughout his career at Berlin Raceway, NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones had never won the track’s prestigious Money in the Bank 150.
The 27-year-old on Wednesday night checked that event off his storied resume. Jones conserved his tires and pulled away with the win in the closing laps, joining Brian Campbell as the only Super Late Model drivers to claim both the Money in the Bank 150 and Battle at Berlin.
The victory for Jones was emotional in numerous ways. He celebrated in Berlin’s Victory Lane with his own car while simultaneously reflecting on the memories he shared with his late father Dave.
“It’s been a long time since I won a race here, and the last one was an emotional one,” Jones said. “I lost my dad that week, and this was the day in 2016 when he actually passed away. It’s a tough day like always, but it felt good to be at the track racing.
“I bet he’s got to be smiling right now.”
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Jones also felt a sense of catharsis Wednesday evening after enduring several shortcomings in last year’s Money in the Bank 150.
Having not run the event in five years up until that point, Jones admitted he was too conservative with his tires throughout the 150-lap feature. He still managed to finish 10th but knew he would have to be more aggressive if he wanted to win the race this year.
After lining up on the outside pole following an invert, Jones quickly shot out to the lead in front of Lee VanDyk before going into tire-conservation mode. Kyle Crump took control of the Money in the Bank 150 while Jones maintained track position in the top five.
Jones worked his way back to second right as the final competition caution of the evening was displayed with 30 laps remaining. All Jones needed to dispatch Crump was an efficient restart on the outside line that effectively sealed him the victory.
While Crump was disappointed a solid evening did not ultimately result in a win, he took pride in having an opportunity to race one of the best stock-car drivers in the country for the win at his home track.
“I kept waiting for [Jones] to make a mistake, but he doesn’t make mistakes,” Crump said. “I guess that’s why he races on Sundays. But damn that was cool to race with Erik Jones for the win. That doesn’t happen often, and if you’re going to lose to a guy, he’s not a bad guy to lose to.”
With fresh tires at his disposal, Jones felt he would be able to fend off any charge from Crump if a caution did not come out in the closing laps.
The Money in the Bank 150 victory served as a refreshing change of pace for Jones in the middle of an inconsistent season in the Cup Series. He credits the speed in his Super Late Model to the dedication of his crew members and is looking forward to more races with them, which will include a chance at this third Battle of Berlin triumph later this year.
“It feels good,” Jones said. “I’m a confident guy and always feel good about my ability, but it’s tough when you’re running not how you want to run. We’re trying to get things better on [the NASCAR Cup Series] side, but it feels good to come wrench with some good friends. This is a good crew, and it’s a super cool day.”
Bubba Pollard finished in third behind Jones and Crump, with Andrew Scheid and Gio Ruggiero completing the top five. Blake Rowe, Sean Hingorani, Scott Thomas, Trevor Sanborn and Austin Hull were the rest of the top-10 finishers.