By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
It had been a sub-par past five races by Erik Jones’ standards.
In the five Xfinity Series events heading into Friday night’s Virginia529 College Savings 250 at Richmond, Jones had recorded just two top-10 finishes and he had also finished outside the top-20 twice during that span. After three wins earlier in the season, many wondered if perhaps things were beginning to come unraveled for Jones and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team.
After an impressive second place finish at the 3/4-mile track in Virginia, all questions about whether Jones is ready for the Chase should cease immediately.
Jones started the night from the fourth position, and in the early going he struggled with a car that didn’t have enough drive off of the corner. As a result, Jones slipped to the back half of the top-10.
After adjustments were made under an early round of pit stops at around lap 50, Jones’ car came to life and he roared back up through the running order. By lap 89, Jones was up to second, where he would stay virtually the rest of the night.
Over green flag pit stop runs Jones would lead two laps on the night, but in the end, Jones had too tight of a race car to reel in his teammate Kyle Busch for the win. Adding to the frustration was the fact that Busch had the same exact car setup as Jones.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Jones. “We want to win, and I feel like we had a car that could do it, just not against Kyle [Busch] and the 18.”
On the bright side, a second place finish after Jones’ recent struggles probably feels almost as sweet as a victory. After climbing from his car, Jones was just excited to finally find some comfort behind the wheel at Richmond.
“Overall the Dewalt Flex Volt Camry was good and that’s a big stride for me at this race track. It’s never been one of my strong suits the few times I’ve been here,” Jones admitted. “I feel like I made a lot of gains personally and figured out a lot of things about this track hopefully it’ll help next year some. Nice to get back on track and get a little bit of momentum one week before we get to the Chase.”
Jones will look to continue gaining traction as we head toward the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series Chase for the Championship, which begins after next week’s event at Chicagoland Speedway.