SPARTA, KY – Erik Jones had the best night that he could have hoped for if the wasn’t going to be the one celebrating in victory lane for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway.
Jones, brought his No. 20 Toyota home third for his third straight top seven finish in as many tries on the 1.5-mile track. This has quickly become one of Jones’ best tracks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
“A lot early,” said Jones on what he had to overcome on Saturday night. “We just didn’t have the track position. We qualified not where we wanted to and had to work back from that. Right from the start I knew that the Craftsman Camry was pretty good. I felt comfortable in practice in race trim. Just had to work back from it and it took until the second stage to get up there and we were finally in position and got some good restarts and some good pit stops and got up in contention on the last restart. You can’t ask for much more. You want to be there and want to have a shot. We did that. We just didn’t have quite enough car and didn’t have quite the right circumstances, but good day overall.”
Also, it was his third top eight finish in his last four starts on the season and sixth top 10 in his last nine starts on the year overall. That has brought him back to the good side of the playoff standings as he entered Saturday night’s race 13 points down.
“Well, it’s good that we’re ahead of it now and we just need to keep it going,” Jones said on his playoff chances. “We built ourselves a big deficit through some misfortunes and bad luck and we’re digging out of it now but we’re doing a good job at it and doing the best we can. Getting back on the good side of it’s a good start, we just need to keep it rolling and hopefully get a win here soon.”
Jones scored nine stage points compared to none for Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez, the two drivers in front of him in the playoff standings. It was also three more points scored than Clint Bowyer who was 15th in the standings too.
Suarez, tried to short pit in the second stage but was caught speeding on pit road. In the first stage, he took four tires and took himself out of stage points. He’d rebound to finish eighth in his No. 41 Ford.
Newman’s car failed inspection before the race and had to start 35th. He’d only finish 20th and 13th in the two stages and ninth in the race itself.
With who won tonight and them not being a threat to Jones’ playoff hopes, this was a good night for him.
This was what he was needing.