The Go Bowling 400 is just the 11th race of Erik Jones’ NASCAR Cup Series rookie season but two years have already passed since the Furniture Row Racing driver made his first start in stock car racing’s top series at Kansas Speedway.
The 20-year-old Byron, Mich., native was just 18 on May 9, 2015, when he substituted for the injured Kyle Busch in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota Camry. Jones qualified a very respectable 12th, led lap 82 and was running fourth with fewer than 75 laps remaining when he crashed in Turn 4. He was able to return to the action but finished 25 laps down in the 40th position.
“That first NASCAR Cup Series race was an interesting experience,” said Jones. “It came about very quickly. I didn’t even know I was going to be running the car at Kansas Speedway until maybe two weeks before so I didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It let me be wide open and go into it with a clear head to do the best I could. It ended up being a good experience and I learned a lot. We had a really fast car that day and it’s a weekend I won’t ever forget.”
Jones has two other starts at the 1.5-mile tri-oval in Kansas City, Kan. He qualified on the pole and finished 11th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on May 8, 2015, and last October 15 started second and finished 15th in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Furniture Row Racing’s No. 77 5-hour ENERGY team participated in a Goodyear Tire test May 9-10 at Kentucky Speedway. The two-day test on the 1.5-mile tri-oval in Sparta, Ky., was in preparation for July 8 Quaker State 400 NASCAR Cup Series race but also provided insight for this week’s race.
“This week’s test at Kentucky Speedway was really good for the 5-hour ENERGY team,” continued Jones. “We learned some things that we think will benefit us this weekend as well as the upcoming one-and-a-half-mile tracks like Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was nice to get some data on a repaved track like what Kansas Speedway is as well, so we the goal is to use that information to get our season going back in the right direction.”
Jones is currently 20th in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series driver standings. His 200 points places him five behind Matt Kenseth for 19th and 27 behind Kurt Busch for 15th.
Jones is third in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, one point behind Ty Dillon and nine behind Toyota Racing teammate Daniel Suarez.
The 267-lap, 400.5-mile Go Bowling 400 will consist of three stages of 80/80/107 laps (laps 80/160/267). 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.
Saturday’s race will air live beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on the Fox network, SiriusXM 90 and MRN. Qualifying (single-vehicle, two rounds) is scheduled for Friday at 6:45 p.m. ET on FS1.