After winning four races in the regular season to clinch the top seed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Chase, Erik Jones was widely considered as one of the championship favorites, but after the first two races of the postseason, Jones has struggled and finds himself on the outside looking in.
In the first race of the Chase at Kentucky, Jones crashed with Ty Dillon to finish 28th, dropping him out of the top-eight in points and leaving his No. 20 team scrambling. Coming into Dover, Jones looked like he would rebound in Sunday morning’s race after winning the pole, but the early race optimism quickly turned to frustration.
Jones was dominant through the first 56 laps of the race, leading 54 of those, but after giving up the lead to his teammate and eventual winner Daniel Suarez at lap 57, things began to take a turn for the worst for Jones. The dominant race car the Jones became ill-handling as the race wore on, dropping him further down in the top-10 as the team tried to diagnose the handling issues.
To make matters worse, Jones began feeling a vibration in the car, which forced him to pit road at lap 101, putting him a lap down to the leaders and off sequence to be able to make it to the end of the race on fuel. Though Jones would rebound into the top-10, he had to pit for the final time with less than 10 laps to go, dropping him two laps down to finish 16th when the checkered flag flew.
“Just kind of an embarrassing day overall, we want to run a lot better than that. It’s pretty embarrassing to not even be in the Chase right now for the next round too. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Have to have a good run at Charlotte for sure. It’s just unfortunate. It’s just something I would have never saw coming. It’s pretty disappointing,” said Jones.
With the two sub-par finishes for Jones and his team, he now finds himself 10th in points, four points behind eighth place heading to next Friday night’s elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. By no means is Jones out of it, but the team certainly cannot afford to have the struggles he has had in the first two weeks to follow him to Charlotte.
“We’ve got a good team, we just have to do it right. We just didn’t do it this weekend. It’s unfortunate. We didn’t have the car and things just didn’t work out. Hopefully we have a better car next week at Charlotte and we’ll be able to go out and hopefully get into the next round. It’ll be a lot of work and a lot of pressure, but, you know, I think we can do it.”