By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Erik Jones came out to play in Sunday’s Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway, finishing a hard fought third after leading six times for 18 of 200 laps.
Thanks to two runner-up outings in the opening two stages, it was also a massive points day for Jones, who racked up 52 points. He equaled race winner Kyle Larson with the most points scored after the grueling 200-lap contest concluded.
As several of the top contenders afternoon went south in Stage 3, notably Tyler Reddick who Jones lost to in those two stages, the No. 43 FOCUSFactor Chevrolet avoided the madness. It ultimately rewarded Jones a shot at the win when the race came down to four laps.
From there, it was an all-out war. Jones’ greatest shot at victory was there, but had to deal with Larson, Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon — all equally determined to leave SoCal victorious.
Ultimately, Jones was unable to catch Larson, who drove all the way to the bottom to take the top spot from Suarez. As Larson took the white flag, Jones got a huge run on Suarez for third, doing a similar maneuver like Larson did the lap before.
With that move, Jones was able to finish third, hoping there’ll be a lot more going forward.
“You guys keep bringing cars like that, we’re gonna win,” Jones telling his team after taking the checkered flag.
Since joining what’s now known as Petty GMS Motorsports last year, Jones hasn’t had the same results he had during his years with Furniture Row Racing (2017) and Joe Gibbs Racing (2018-2020). In fact, Jones entered Fontana with 77 races without a top-five finish. Sunday’s performance marked the official end of the veteran’s drought.
“It’s awesome, but it’s frustrating too. You’re that close and you have a car that you feel like can do it. The No. 43 FOCUSFactor Chevrolet definitely had it today,” said Jones after ending his top-five drought.
“It was a matter of getting up front and taking advantage of clean air, and we did that a couple of times. A couple restarts just didn’t go our way. I probably could have done a better job here and there, and it just didn’t add up. I just haven’t raced up front a lot in the last year and a half. There are some things I need to be better at.
“Hopefully I have a lot of time to work on that. We want to keep running upfront and if we keep doing that, we’re going to win some races,” Jones continued.
“I’m really proud of this whole group. It’s been a big off season with the merger and everything we’ve done, so this is a very satisfying run for everybody and I just hope we can keep going.”
Jones will enter next Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX) sixth in points.