By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
After being announced as the replacement driver for a suspended Matt Kenseth, rookie Erik Jones finished 12th at Texas, but eyes the ultimate upset with a win in the desert as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Phoenix.
Jones, currently the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship leader, has sat on the front row in both NCWTS starts (second in 2013, pole in 2014) and grabbed victory in each. Phoenix was the site of his first Truck Series victory and it came in just his fifth career start.
The 19-year-old prepares for his third career Sprint Cup Series start, his second consecutive in relief for former series champion Kenseth, who was suspended following a collision at Martinsville with Chase contender Joey Logano.
Jones ran among the top 10 for much of the race at Texas, but a tire issue late pushed the Byron, Michigan native down in the running order with little time to battle back. It was a busy weekend for Jones, who ran all three of NASCAR’s divisions at the 1.5-mile track, winning the Truck Series race and finishing fourth to go alongside his Sprint Cup result.
Even with a lack of Cup experience, Jones likes his chances as the series heads to the desert.
“I’d like to think so,” said Jones, on if he thinks he can win at Phoenix. “My fortune has been very good at Phoenix, it’s a track I really like and actually JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) was there testing a month or two ago. I feel pretty good about it and feel going there we have a good package.
“I feel confident in my ability and think that’s definitely a place where we can go up and run top 10. You never know, if the weekend is going well we could probably be up front and challenge for it.”