By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
JOLIET, Ill.— Erik Jones recorded his second-best finish of the 2018 season, bringing home a sixth-place result in Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. It was the second straight top-10 result for the 22-year-old driver after finishing seventh at Sonoma Raceway last weekend.
With Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combining to win 13 of the first 17 races of the season, many positions in the Playoffs will go to drivers that haven’t visited victory lane this season. After Chicagoland, only nine races remain until the playoff grid is set and points racing week in and week out will be key. Jones entered the weekend 30 points ahead of the 16th and final position and leaves 41 points to the good, gaining a valuable 11 points and sitting 14th in the championship standings.
“Yeah, I think overall the last two weeks have been really good to us, Jones told Motorsports Tribune on pit road at Chicagoland. “Sonoma was a big challenge and I thought today was going to be a big challenge, with the grip level being as low as it was and the track being as hot and slick as it was. We did a good job making good adjustments. Overall, we did what needed to do to get a good run and it turned into a solid top-10.”
A lot of attention was given to the temperatures throughout the weekend, as hot and humid conditions led to heat indexes in the triple digits and in-car temperatures north of 15o degrees.
“It wasn’t too bad from the seat,” the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion said of the heat. “I kind of watched the guys after the XFINITY race and they definitely looked wore out, but I feel good. I don’t think it was too bad and it was a little better today. We had some shade and the sun kind of went away.
“Overall, it was really low on grip from the track. I felt good. But definitely slick and definitely not my kind of race but we managed to get a good run out of it.”
The series now heads to Daytona International Speedway, a track that hasn’t been kind to the Byron, Michigan native. In three Cup starts at the 2.5-mile Florida track, Jones has just one top-10 result and has crashed out of the last two Daytona 500s, recording finishes of 39th and 36th.
“Just hopefully having another solid run,” Jones said of his expectations for the Coke Zero 400. “We did a good job last year in the July race. We need to make it to the end. We haven’t done a good job of that at superspeedway races. Make it to the end and give ourselves a chance.”