Erik Jones Scores First NASCAR Cup Series Top 10 Finish

Erik Jones, seen here from an earlier test session, scored his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series top ten finish on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Erik Jones’ No. 77 Furniture Row Racing team did everything right in Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway—except for predicting how many cars would take two tires versus four on the final pit stop before overtime.

Jones was running fifth when a melted bead caused Joey Logano’s right front tire to explode and sent the No. 22 Ford of the polesitter into the turn 1 wall on lap 307 of a scheduled 312. Jones took four tires under the ensuing caution and restarted 14th.

He was able to regain six positions in the two-lap overtime that took the race to lap 314, but for the third straight week, Jones finished lower than where he had run for much of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. The eighth-place finish nevertheless was the first top-10 of Jones’ fledgling Monster Energy Series career.

“When you feel like you have a fifth-place car, you want to run fifth, but it just didn’t work out at the end,” Jones said. “We had a lot of guys take two (tires). A lot more than I thought would. A lot more, obviously, than (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) thought would.

“We had a great restart and were able to get back up to eighth. Not too much gain, not too much loss. A solid day for us. Definitely the best day overall for the 5-Hour Energy Camry. Just well put together. We got better all day, had good pit stops, good on pit road, executed well and did everything we needed to do to run in the top 10.”

Jones was one of two Sunoco rookies to get a maiden top 10 on Sunday. Fellow Toyota driver Daniel Suarez finished seventh, gaining five positions after the final restart.

Strategy Pays Off For Stenhouse, Too

Though Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. didn’t win Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix by staying out on old tires—as Ryan Newman did—the driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford did hold onto fourth place during a two-lap overtime.

That Stenhouse was able to score his eighth career top five is emblematic of improved performance at Roush Fenway Racing, but Stenhouse says there’s still work to do.

“I have definitely seen a difference in the quality (of the RFR cars),” Stenhouse said. “We still have a long way to go, but we’ve made a big improvement from last year, especially the end of last year. In Atlanta, we had a really good car and got the right front fender tore off on the last restart. I thought we would finish fifth to 10th there. I thought we had a 15th place car in Vegas and had an issue with the axle at the end.

“Today, I thought we had a 10th-place car on the long run and took a gamble, and were able to get a better finish there at the end. I think our cars and the attitude at the shop is really good. (Teammate) Trevor (Bayne) has some solid finishes here in the first few races, and that’s something encouraging and something to build off of. I feel like we have had speed, just haven’t gotten the finishes for the speed we have. It’s better to have speed and have to figure out how to get the finishes.”

After A Strong Start, Logano’s Day Ends At Turn 1 Wall

Joey Logano started Sunday’s Camping World 500 from the pole and led 82 laps, but his race ended suddenly and dramatically when his right front tire blew as the No. 22 Ford approached Turn 1 on Lap 307 of a scheduled 312.

Logano’s misfortune stalled a promising run by Kyle Busch—his adversary from a week ago at Las Vegas—and gave Ryan Newman’s crew chief, Luke Lambert, the opportunity to make the strategic call that won the race.

“We just blew a right front,” Logano said after exiting the infield care center. “Probably just overheated the bead (an analysis Goodyear subsequently confirmed). I’m sure that is what it was. There’s not much you can do when the right front blows out.

“We had a good car in the beginning of the race and then just fell off and got a pit road speeding penalty, and it was hard to get back up there. We were getting closer but our long run speed was off. We have to figure out how to get faster here on the long run.”


About Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service