NASCAR rookie Jones earns podium finish in hometown race
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) When a red flag halted the Michigan 400 on Sunday with just two laps to go, Erik Jones was left with plenty of time to think.
Sitting in second place behind teammate Martin Truex, he pondered what he could do on the restart to get to the lead. He considered how his No. 77 Furniture Row Toyota Camry would respond after sitting still though the five-minute delay.
Mostly, the 21-year-old Jones, a NASCAR Monster Energy Series rookie from nearby Byron, Michigan, thought about what it would be like to earn his first career series win at Michigan International Speedway, his hometown track.
”You definitely ponder on what that would be like,” Jones said. ”When we got that red flag, it gives you a lot of time to at least play through some scenarios on the restart and how you want it to work out.
”It very rarely works out the way you want it to in your head.”
It didn’t this time, either. Kyle Larson burst between Jones and Truex on the restart to win the race, leaving Jones to settle for a third-place finish.
”Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get going,” Jones said. ”I was spinning my tires. The 20 (Matt Kenseth) got to the bottom of me and the 42 (Larson) was to the right of me.
”I saw them both getting runs and kind of had to pick one or the other. I picked wrong and the 42 went up the middle and was able to go by both of us.
”I wish it would have worked out a little better.”
For much of the afternoon, Truex and Jones were running a strong 1-2.
”It was looking like a Furniture Row 1-2 either way,” Jones said. ”It didn’t play out. It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”
Series leader Truex is locked into a spot in the NASCAR playoffs, but never entertained the thought of allowing Jones to get by for the win, which would advance him to the postseason.
”That’s not how we race,” Truex said. ”Nobody out there is going to give up a Cup win. They’re too hard to get.
”We don’t have team orders. Nobody lets each other win.”
Jones leads the rookie of the year standings and has put together seven top-10 finishes. Truex is certain his teammate’s first trip to victory lane is not far off.
”He’s going to win some races,” Truex said. ”His turn will come.”