Erik Jones and his Furniture Row Racing team return to NASCAR Cup Series action this week in the GEICO 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with a chip on their collective shoulder after their early exit from last Sunday’s race.
The No. 77 Furniture Row Racing team is coming off its shortest outing so far in Jones’ rookie season. Damage from a Lap 5 crash last Sunday at Richmond International Raceway saddled the team with a 38th-place finish.
The pack racing Talladega provides may be one of the more challenging venues on the NASCAR schedule to get back in the saddle but Jones is confident heading into the weekend. He will be driving the No. 77 ToyotaCare Toyota Camry this weekend. ToyotaCare is a complimentary maintenance plan and roadside assistance program is provided with the purchase of every new Toyota vehicle for up to two years.
“Racing at Talladega is a challenge because there are just so many things that are out of the drivers’ control,” said Jones. “We can bring the best car we have but you really need the right things to happen and not get caught up in a mess so we can be there at the end. We had a decent day going at Daytona in February but got caught up in a wreck early that ended our day. The Furniture Row Racing team is going to try to make it to the end of this one and, hopefully, give our ToyotaCare Camry a shot to run up front.”
The 20-year-old Byron, Mich., native has four starts at the 2.66-mile oval, two each in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He’s qualified well, between third and sixth, and finished well in the Truck Series (sixth in 2014 and fourth in 2015). His XFINITY Series record includes a 21st-place finish last year and a 30th-place finish (due to an overheating engine) in 2015.
Jones was able to shake the rough day at Richmond with a NASCAR XFINITY Series test Tuesday for Joe Gibbs Racing at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
“It was nice to just get back in a race car quickly after Richmond,” said Jones. “It was definitely a frustrating day for it to end in the first five laps. I thought we had a pretty good Toyota Camry so it was unfortunate not to be able to get to show that. But it was definitely nice to get back in the seat and get that racing mindset going again early in the week and getting in a little extra preparation for Talladega.”
Jones is currently 16th in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series driver standings. His 193 points at the one-quarter point of the 36-race season places him eight markers behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 15th and 36 behind Ryan Blaney for 12th.
Jones is second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, six points behind Toyota Racing teammate Daniel Suarez.
The 188-lap GEICO 500 will consist of three stages of 55/55/68 laps (laps 55/110/188). In each of the first two stages, drivers finishing in the top-10 will receive championship points (10 to 1) with the winner receiving one playoff point. The overall race winner will earn 40 championship points and five playoff points. Playoff points accumulated during the season will carry through the first three of the four playoff rounds.
Sunday’s race will air live beginning at 2 p.m. ET on the Fox network, SiriusXM 90 and MRN. Qualifying (single-vehicle, two rounds) is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on FS1.