Editor's Note: Over the next several weeks leading up to The Clash at Daytona, we will feature keys to success for a different driver each day.
After such a phenomenal rookie class in 2016 and the success in the XFINITY Series, Erik Jones will be expected to fly out of the gate in the No. 77 5-hour Energy Toyota in 2017.
Most rookies don’t step into a completely new team and car but that’s exactly what Jones is doing. The success of Martin Truex Jr. at Furniture Row Racing in 2016 also raises the expectations for Jones and the entire organization.
Check out Erik Jones’ keys to success for his rookie season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series:
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Don’t abuse your tools
A common theme among young drivers in the Cup Series is abusing their equipment and using it up well before the conclusion of a 500-mile event. With the addition of races broken into segments, it will push these rookies to handle their equipment even better throughout the entirety of a race.
Jones has the ability to drive among the best in the sport, but pushing for a stage win at lap 85 might be costly for the young driver if he uses his equipment up with hundreds of miles still to race.
Rely on your teammate
Furniture Row Racing is the only major NASCAR team that doesn’t have their shop within the Mecca of NASCAR in close proximity to Charlotte, N.C. When Jones raced in the XFINITY Series, he was with Joe Gibbs Racing at the heart of the NASCAR world. It’ll be a bit of a transition competing for a team out of Denver, Colo.
Fortunately for Jones, he has a guy who was extremely successful since joining the team and experiencing how that setup works. Martin Truex Jr. has a plethora of racing knowledge and knows what possible difficulties come with being in a different home base than Charlotte.
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Be realistic with expectations
After being a front-runner in the XFINITY Series in 2016 and the success of last year’s rookie class – Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Chris Buescher – Jones will be expected to not only battle Daniel Suarez for Rookie of the Year honors, but compete for a spot in the playoffs. He needs to be realistic that a top 20 points finish will be a solid introduction to the Cup Series for himself and the No. 77 team.
Embrace the rookie rivalry
The two premier rookies in 2017 – Jones and Suarez – spent the 2016 XFINITY Series season battling each other as teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. Suarez got the best of Jones and won the XFINITY Series championship, but Jones arguably had the more impressive regular season.
Both should be in similar equipment with Suarez having a slight edge because of inheriting Carl Edwards’ veteran team around him that nearly won the championship last season. Jones needs to use the Rookie of the Year competition to fuel his performance against Suarez and other rookie driver, Ty Dillon.
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Strategize your way to victory
You don’t always have to bring the best car to the track to win a race. Jones has a strong team around him and good equipment so he doesn’t need to rely on a rain-shortened race or pit strategy to get a win. There’s nothing wrong with winning that way, though. When there are 20 drivers who have the ability to win every single weekend, making the right moves at the right time can pay huge dividends when it comes time for the playoffs.