By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
SPARTA, Ky. – By virtue of his win at Daytona International Speedway, Erik Jones is now locked into the 2018 Playoffs. However, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver will still have to contend with “the big three”: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and defending champion Martin Truex, Jr., all of whom have dominated the season so far.
Jones and his No. 20 Freightliner Toyota Camry team have only earned 39 Stage Points this season. He is 16thamong drivers that have earned Stage Points, with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate dominating the count with 206 Stage Points. Harvick is third with 177 and Truex seventh with 128. The stark difference shows the dominance of ‘the big three’ this season.
With the Series at Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400, Jones appears to have another opportunity to play catch-up. In seven starts, the Byron, MI native has four top five and six top-10 finishes. His best finish, second, came in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015.
“For me, it’s going to be stage points and playoff points,” Jones said of the remainder of the regular season. “Just trying to earn as many as we can and, just need to work on getting a little bit of a buffer for the first round of the Playoffs and, obviously we’re really excited to be in the Playoffs at this point.”
“But, we also want to do really well in the them and we want to succeed through the first and second rounds and make sure we can make a run at this thing and just focus on what we’ve got to do compete with them – (Martin) Truex (Jr.) and Kyle (Busch) and (Kevin) Harvick – and what we’ve got to do to go up and contend with them and, hopefully getting some stage points and some Playoff points as well.”
In Playoff points, Busch, Harvick, and Truex have each earned nearly a full-race advantage with eight races until the start of the Playoffs. This same gap last season put Truex in position to practically walk into Homestead after the second round of the Playoffs.