Sparta, KY – For the fourth time this season, Erik Jones was able to guide his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry to a third-place finish in Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. After a rough stretch, the 23-year-old now has top-ten finishes in four of the last six races.
With all the rumors circulating about how he and Christopher Bell fit into the picture at JGR, Jones has done a good job of quieting the noise.
Qualifying 21st with a time of 29.821 seconds, Jones was able to move up to second-place by the end of Stage 2.
Things really got interesting when Bubba Wallace brought out the final caution of the night on lap 261. Utilizing the green-white-checkered finish, Jones dove to the bottom of the track and briefly took the lead.
In perhaps the most exciting finish of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season, the Busch brothers were able to pass Jones up high in turn 3.
“I had two choices there going into 3 and 4,” Jones recalled. “I knew they were probably going to slide up, so I was going to try to run to the bottom and make a run on them, but they didn’t slide up enough, and I was tight and couldn’t quite get the run I needed to.”
While he would have liked the ending to play out differently, Saturday still produced 43 points for the Byron, Michigan native. Currently holding a two-point lead over Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot, each point is critical for the No. 20 team.
“We built ourselves a big deficit through some misfortune and bad luck, and we’re digging out of it now,” Jones said about his team’s standing.
“Getting back on the good side of it (the playoff cutline) is a good start, we just need to keep it rolling and hopefully get a win here soon.”
If Jones is going to win a race to secure his spot in the postseason, he will have to do it at a track he has never won at before. His only Cup Series win came in the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The next opportunity for Jones will come on Sunday as NASCAR heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301.
In three career starts at Loudon, Jones has one top-10 finish.
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