Erik Jones showed patience, determination and talent in wheeling his No. 77 SiriusXM Toyota Camry to a sixth-place finish in Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
It was Jones and the Furniture Row Racing team’s second consecutive and fifth overall top-10 finish as the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season reached the halfway point of its 36 point-race schedule.
“It was a good night for us,” said Jones. “You know we didn’t have the track position all night and it was kind of unfortunate. I think we had a car that probably could’ve run with the 78 and the 18 (Kyle Busch) at times. The SiriusXM Camry was fast. We ran well all day. A good building block for us again. I learned a lot and hopefully some good momentum for New Hampshire.”
Jones took the green flag from the outside of Row 7 and quickly settled in for the scheduled 267-lap, 400-mile race on the 1.5-mile banked oval. He moved up one position by Lap 9 and into the top 10 by the competition caution on Lap 30. He raced as high as seventh before finishing the first 80-lap stage in eighth place, earning three championship points in the process.
Stage 2 was a start-and-stop affair as it was slowed by four caution periods. Jones and crew chief Chris Gayle took advantage by stretching fuel and staying out the entire 80-lap segment. The No. 77 SiriusXM took the green-and-white checkered flag at the conclusion of Lap 160 in fifth place, earning six more championship points.
The restart for the final stage found Jones out of the primary racing line where he dropped to 16th place. He quickly regrouped, however, and was back in the top 10 by Lap 195.
Gayle called Jones to pit road for a green-flag stop on Lap 225. The SiriusXM pit crew executed a very quick and clean stop which then set up Jones to run to the finish.
Jones methodically worked his way back up the running order and was sixth with five laps remaining while teammate Martin Truex Jr. was headed to his third win of the season. Then, on the final lap, oil on the track brought out the caution flag so the race went into overtime.
The No. 77 Toyota came to pit road for right-side tires and returned to the racing surface in third place for the final dash to the checkers. Unfortunately, Jones spun the tires on the restart while Truex Jr., who had stayed out on older tires and kept the lead, set sail again to take the win. Jones crossed the line in sixth place.
“It’s nice to know you’ve got good stuff,” said Jones. “We’re trying to improve our whole weekend and get one solid weekend together, but it’s really good to see and know that the 78 is so fast every week and is winning these races. Hopefully, we can get up there soon and battle them out for one.”
Jones picked up three spots and is now 14th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings. He is 36 points behind Ryan Blaney for 13th and 45 behind Joey Logano for 12th.