LOS ANGELES – Erik Jones, Justin Haley and Cody Ware highlighted performance improvements for their respective teams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Jones headlined the group with a 4th-place finish in Sunday’s 150-lap Busch Light Clash feature.
Jones steadily moved through the field during the feature, even giving a bump to Ryan Blaney that led to Blaney having mechanical woes on Lap 115.
While Blaney’s HANS device became a boomerang between his neck and Jones’s car, Jones continued on to a Top 5 effort – besting the likes of Kyle Larson, William Byron, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, A.J. Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott.
The 4th-place finish seemingly builds upon four finishes of 12th or better Jones scored in the final 10 races of of 2021, including an 8th-place finish at Martinsville, the Coliseum’s bigger sister track.
Jones’s Petty-GMS teammate, Ty Dillon, contrasted his typically clean, consistent style with aggression in the second last-chance qualifying race.
Dillon was involved in numerous incidents late in the race but emerged as the first to cross the line in the last-chance race. However, a restart violation knocked Dillon out of a win.
Dillon mixed up his clean, consistent style that allowed him to finish 21 of his 381 NASCAR national series starts, dating back to 2011. While he did not make the Sunday feature, his performance was a lesson on how to harness his tenacity when a big opportunity is on the line in the future.
Despite a DNF, Justin Haley showed promise for the future with a top 5 run going until he was wrecked by Kyle Larson on the frontstretch.
Haley ran the 4th-fastest time in practice and started the feature in 3rd after winning his heat. In the feature, Haley ran in the top 5 but a wreck with Larson dropped Haley to a 19th-place finish and out of the race on Lap 116.
Haley’s day ended with misfortune but his performance turned some heads as he embarks on Kaulig Racing’s first full-time NASCAR Cup Series season.
Haley’s teammate, Allmendinger started 21st and gained 12 positions, to tie Erik Jones for the most positions gained during the feature, en route to a 9th-place finish.
In Allmendinger’s last-chance qualifying race, he held off Cody Ware who showed speed in practice and the last-chance race.
Ware finished 4th in the last-chance race and ended practice with the 13th-fastest time – even besting eventual race winner Joey Logano.
Ware’s teammate, Ryan Preece, won the last-chance race after a late-race scrap and restart call against Ty Dillon. In the feature, Preece appeared to be at around halfway but brake failure took him out before the second half began.
RWR has received backlash for their performance – a consequence of suffered of using older, more worn-out parts and pieces to save money – but a consolidation of parts to level out the field of Next Gen cars appears to be putting them on the subsequent upswing with other teams.