Erik Jones grabbed his helmet and went back to school to prepare himself for Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at the Watkins Glen International road course.
The No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota driver made the trip to Watkins Glen International on July 20 to seek out the expertise of legendary road racer and instructor Chris Cook. Jones has raced on the 11-turn, 2.45-mile road course only once, qualifying 13th and finishing 12th in last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
“I went up there to Chris Cook’s school, made some laps and got a good visual of the track,” said Jones. I’ve been there only once, in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, so it was nice to get a visual in something that’s a little bit slower. You can really see the whole track that way and get a good idea of where you want your car to be. Chris was able to come out and help me out with a few things that I fought in the Xfinity Series car. Hopefully, that will help and give me a head start headed into the weekend.
“I also did some simulator work this week to prepare for the race. I think it’s always helpful to get in the simulator to at least get another visual and another feel for being back on the track before I get there for real. It reiterated everything I saw there with Chris and will hopefully give me a head start when we unload the 5-hour ENERGY Toyota on Friday.”
Jones and the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota team bounced back with a resilient eighth-place finish last Sunday at Pocono Raceway after not making it to the checkered flag in the previous two races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was Jones’ sixth top-10 finish of the season and second straight top 10 at Pocono (he finished third in the June race there).
“It felt good to get another solid finish at Pocono after the previous couple of weeks,” said Jones. “Chris [Gayle, crew chief] and the engineers had another good strategy that played out pretty well until we had the gun malfunction on pit road. That put is behind but we were able to get back into the top 10. We had a top-five car at the end so it would have been nice to see what we could have done if we’d had the chance to get up there.”
Jones is 16th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 21 races. He is 22 points behind Ryan Newman for 15th place.
The 21-year old is second in the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. His 202 points are 10 behind Daniel Suarez (212) and 31 ahead of third-place Ty Dillon (171).