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CORDELE, GA :: Erik Jones captured the pole for Sunday’s CRA Speedfest at Watermelon Capital Speedway but it wasn’t without some skepticism from the professional motorsports audience.

The soon-to-be Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie spun in Turn 3 during his warm-up lap and drove his car backwards around the track to the entrance of Turn 1. He then pointed his machine back in the right direction and turned-in two timed laps.

On a cold and windy evening in South Georgia, the spin was seemingly enough to warm up his tires, and take the No. 20 to the top of the charts. It immediately caused one team owner to yell “that’s bullshit” with rival NASCAR Speedfest invader Spencer Gallagher chiming in that it was intentional.

Even veteran driver and crew chief Brian Keselowski lightheartedly accused him of the deed. For his part, Jones denied it and even displayed surprise that his Super was able to capture the pole.

“Nah, I got so tight that I was kind of worried that I would get into the dirt, so I got back in the throttle to make the corner and I just lost it,” the 2015 Truck Series champion said. “I showed up here two years ago in practice and did the same thing.

“Either way, I didn’t think we had a car capable of sitting on the pole based on practice. We did a couple of mock runs and the best we could do was a 15.87 so to pick up a few tenths was impressive. I think we caught the weather right so I’m not sure we could do that again. It worked out good and I think we have a better race car than a qualifying car so this sets us up good for tomorrow.”

Speedfest does not employ an invert so Jones will start the race from the front row alongside NASCAR K&N East Series regular Harrison Burton. The 16-year-old made an off-season switch to Fury Race Cars and was fastest in practice throughout Friday.

He was disappointed to come just short of the pole, but is excited for race day — even though Speedfest has a reputation of turning into a wreck fest.

“Here’s the key,” Burton explained. “You just have to patience in this race. You don’t need to bump someone out of the way, even if you’re faster on Lap 125, because you’re not going to get any slack on Lap 165. You just have to be mindful of everyone and then race hard at the end.”

Scotty Ellis, Chase Purdy and Brandon Setzer completed the top-5 in time trials.

Defending race winner Bubba Pollard put up the eighth fastest time and wasn’t particularly pleased with his car.

“We just suck, that’s all there is to it,” Pollard said bluntly, admitting that he always struggles here despite the overall good run of results. “We always find a way to be there at the end, and that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow. Hopefully.”

Reigning Snowball Derby champion Christian Eckes qualified 11th.

Racing action begins at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday with a local Legend Car race, the Pro Late Model 100-lapper and the Super Late Model 200-lap main event. Speed 51’s 51TV pay-per-view service will broadcast the event in its entirety.

The complete starting lineup for the Speedfest 200 SLM race can be found below.

  1. Erik Jones 15.673
  2. Harrison Burton    15.682
  3. Scotty Ellis 15.709
  4. Chase Purdy 15.722
  5. Brandon Setzer 15.768
  6. Casey Roderick 15.770
  7. Chandler Smith 15.776
  8. Bubba Pollard 15.776
  9. Jeff Choquette 15.827
  10. Stephen Nasse 15.830
  11. Christian Eckes    15.875
  12. Derek Scott Jr.    15.901
  13. Chris Dilbeck 15.909
  14. Martin Latulippe 15.915
  15. Zane Smith 15.921
  16. Spencer Davis 15.939
  17. Kyle McCallum 16.016
  18. Spencer Gallagher 16.049
  19. Jordan Pruitt 16.052
  20. Connor Okrzesik    16.054
  21. Jerry Artuso 16.092
  22. Raphael Lessard    16.138
  23. Brandon Jones 16.240
  24. Austin Thaxton 16.247
  25. Justin  Ashburn    16.287
  26. Steve Dorer N/A

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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