FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Teenager Erik Jones pulled away to his first career Xfinity Series victory Friday night, outrunning Sprint Cup stars Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the same Texas track where he picked up his high school diploma a year ago.
The 18-year-old Jones turned away a strong bid from Keselowski on a restart with 25 laps remaining, winning by 1.6 seconds in his ninth career Xfinity start.
Jones had earlier battled Earnhardt for the lead, even bumping the popular driver from behind before getting past him and pulling away before a crash that led to his dramatic duel with Keselowski.
“I don’t know what to say right now. It’s surreal,” Jones said. “We beat Cup guys tonight. That’s huge for us. That’s huge for our team.”
A year earlier, Jones ran a Camping World Truck race at Texas Motor Speedway rather than attend his high school graduation in Michigan, and track president Eddie Gossage presented him his diploma during introductions.
Jones, who won from the pole, became the youngest winner in the truck series in 2013 at Phoenix. He has four career wins in his full-time series, but none this year.
Keselowski was second, and Earnhardt took third, with both getting quick questions after the race about Jones in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
At 18 years and 10 months, Jones is the second-youngest Xfinity winner at Texas behind Chase Elliott, who won last spring’s race at 18 years, four months.
“I knew he was good,” Earnhardt said. “Now everybody else knows.”
Elliott finished eighth, and Xfinity points leader Ty Dillon was 12th.