Jeff Choquette led the first 212 laps on Sunday at the Rattler 250 but was denied his second victory of 2017 due to contact from Garrett Jones and an ill-handling set of tires.
Choquette led off the Lap 200 restart but was quickly hounded by Jones for the top spot. Jones tapped the back of the Jett No. 9 but didn’t budge from the bottom of the track. Jones finally shoved Choquette up the track on Lap 212 and took the lead.
Jones had both of Choquette’s rear wheels up before completing the pass and that allowed Harrison Burton to move into second. Before the next lap had ended Burton had passed Jones for the lead. Choquette returned the favor against Jones on that next lap and that sent the No. 88 nearly outside of the top-10.
Choquette finished fourth and Jones rebounded to ninth, and spoke to each other after the race, sharing no hard feelings whatsoever. For his part, Choquette was only peeved that a suspect set of tires arguably slowed him after the Lap 200 break and cost him a chance to win.
“The only thing we changed all day was the tires, we didn’t do anything else,” Choquette said after the race. “We can’t control the four tires we put on the cars and this has happened to us time and time again. It happens in practice.
“You just don’t get consistent tires right now. It shows right there. You go from being a straightaway ahead of everyone to a straight and a half behind.
I only had one change — and that was the four Hoosier tires.”
As for the contact with Jones, Choquette said he understood why the 17-year-old pressed the issue, and that he understood why it came back around two laps later.
“No, he did what he had to do,” Choquette said. “I was blocking the bottom pretty hard and wasn’t giving him room. He did what he had to and when I got back to him I had to do the same. I just couldn’t wait around. I wasn’t good enough to let him get back in there.
“So no, no animosity, just a hard racing deal.”
“Me and Jeff were racing hard at the end, and both times, when I got into him and he got into me, guys were lined up behind us and ready to go,” Jones said. “It’s the end of the race and you have to go. The outside line is a killer. We both did what we had to do.
“Unfortunately, our tires ballooned up after that and we just lost the feel for the track. We finished eighth which is a decent points day and we’ll take it and go on to Nashville.”
Choquette is usually pretty even-tempered but showed signs of frustration in the garage area. He felt he had the best car and believed Hoosier had some degree of responsibility.
“Of course I’m a little bummed,” Choquette said. “I’ve been here before, you know Nashville comes to mind last year. We ran up front all day, put on four new tires and here we go again. This is not my first rodeo. It sucks. We had one of the best cars, should have finished first or second. Consistency if what we need.
“Everyone spends a lot of money to come here and race so stuff like this is kind of BS if you ask me.”