By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
*Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into next month’s 61st running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: Two
Career Wins: One
Biggest Accomplishment: 2015 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Champion
The progression for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones continues in 2019. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned his first career victory in 2018, making the playoffs for the first time.
Jones’ maiden victory came in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. He took the lead in his No. 20 buyatoyota.com Toyota Camry on the final lap, after two overtime attempts from his Martin Truex, Jr. The victory came after Jones survived multiple incidents, receiving light damage in a seven-car accident that ended fellow JGR driver, Kyle Busch’s night on lap 66.
Overall, 2018 saw Jones earned a career-high nine top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. In the playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he also earned his second career pole position.
Jones, and his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, were both eliminated from the first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs after the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. At season’s end, he was 15th in the final points standings.
For 2019, Jones will see Truex, his 2017 teammate at Furniture Row Racing, become his teammate once again as he replaces Daniel Suarez in the No. 19 Toyota Camry. He will also make his 100th career Premier Series start at Darlington Raceway, just prior to the end of the 2019 regular season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Perhaps the biggest unknown entering the 2019 season for Jones will be the new aero package. The Byron, MI native has just two starts in similar aero packages, one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017, and one in the 2018 Monster Energy All-Star Open. Jones fared better in the All-Star open, which had less horsepower than the 2019 package, starting and finishing second.