Erik Jones and the No. 77 SiriusXM Toyota team look to hit the reset button at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500.
After a wreck and 36th-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway two weekends ago and a Talladega-type wreck and 35th-place finish last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, the 21-year-old series rookie sees the cozy confines of Martinsville’s 0.531-mile oval as the perfect place to refocus for the final four races of the season.
“It’s definitely been a tough couple of weeks both on the track and off,” said Jones. “What happened at Talladega was almost inevitable. Last week I just got loose and then lost it. I hated it for the guys because we were running up front and looked like we were heading for a top-five finish.
“It will be good for all of us to get to Martinsville for some classic short track racing in the SiriusXM Toyota. There are some good tracks left on the schedule for us to get strong finishes and this weekend should be one of them.”
Jones qualified 15th and finished 12th at Martinsville in April which, at the time, was the Furniture Row Racing team’s second-best finish of the early season. It was a day of ups and downs for the Jones who finished eighth in Stage 2 but then had to battle back from getting caught up in a wreck with fewer than 100 laps remaining.
“We learned a lot at that first Martinsville race,” said Jones. “We went two laps down, had to pit under green, had a tire rub and then got caught up in an accident. But we stayed focused, got back on the track and the handling of the car the rest of the race was the best it had been all day. The entire day taught us you just can’t give up.”
Jones is 19th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after 32 races. He trails Joey Logano for 17th place by 53 points and is ahead of Daniel Suarez in 20th place by 48 points. Jones leads the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 257 points, six ahead of Suarez (251) and 69 ahead of Ty Dillon (188).
The 500-lap, 263-mile First Data 500 will consist of three stages of 130/130/240 laps (130/260/500). Sunday’s race will air live beginning at 1 p.m. MT (3 p.m. ET) on NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and MRN. Qualifying (multi-car, three rounds) is scheduled for Sunday at 10:05 a.m. MT (12:05 p.m. ET) on NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and MRN.