Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones dodged all but one of a number of bullets to earn a ninth-place in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway while teammate Martin Truex Jr.’s night resulted in a 34th-place finish when he was caught in a 10-car wreck on Lap 72.
It was Jones’ fourth top-10 finish of the season for the NASCAR Cup Series rookie.
Despite the early exit, Truex and the No. 78 team remained second in driver points, 18 markers behind Kyle Larson.
The No. 77 Sport Clips Toyota Camry was 20th after the first 40-lap stage. Jones then gained invaluable superspeedway knowledge in the second stage by leading twice for nine laps (44-47 and 49-53). He shuffled back in the pack but, due to cautions and pit strategy, was 11th when the field restarted on Lap 102.
He was fifth by Lap 114 and second on Lap 121. He maintained position in the Top 8 for the next 28 circuits.
Jones was seventh on the restart with three laps remaining but contact from behind on the back straight with two laps remaining sent the No. 77 Camry spinning onto the apron. He restarted at the tail end of the lead lap for the overtime finish and was able to grab ninth place when the checkered waved on Lap 163.
Despite the top-10 finish, Jones dropped one position, to 17th, in the point standings after 17 races. He is nine points behind race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 16th place.
“It was an up and down night,” said Jones. “The Sport Clips Camry was up front at a few points and back at a few points – just learning and trying to figure everything out. I don’t know exactly what happened when we got spun around. I think I got up inside of somebody or somebody came down on me and just got spun around unfortunately. Still, got a decent finish out of it – top 10 at a superspeedway so that’s a good finish and some momentum for next week.”
Truex dealt with handling issues on the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/NRA Museum Toyota Camry during the first stage, resulting in a 29th-place showing after 40 laps. With adjustments made during the break, however, he was up to 22nd by Lap 49 and 18th by Lap 64.
The negative effects of pack racing on a superspeedway played out just eight laps later. Hit from behind in Turn 2, Truex then made contact with the car in front of him and the accordion effect eventually gathered up a total of 10 cars. Repairs were made on pit road to make another lap under caution but, on pit lane for further repairs, NASCAR informed crew chief Cole Pearn his driver was to pull into the garage, his race concluded.
“I just tried to slow down, but you know you get hit from behind, you hit the guy in front of you - there’s nothing you can do,” said Truex Jr. “When you’re going 190-something and everybody stops in front of you, it’s kind of hard to do anything. Unfortunate night for sure for our Bass Pro Shops Toyota. This July race, man, I don’t think I’ve finished it in like five years. It’s just – it’s been a tough one every time. Every time we feel like we’re doing something okay we get in a big wreck, so it’s been a tough one for sure but rebound and go to Kentucky and hopefully go for some more wins.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the race. The balance of the top 10, in order, were: Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Michael McDowell, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Brendan Gaughan, AJ Allmendinger, Jones and Chris Buescher.
The race had 33 lead changes among 16 drivers and there were 14 cautions for 51 laps.
The next race is Saturday night July 8 at Kentucky Speedway.