Promising debut goes awry quickly for Kyle Busch sub Erik Jones
Young Erik Jones was impressive in his first official NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start, but it all went away on Lap 195 of 267 at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night.
Jones was racing with former Sprint Cup Series champions Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson for the fifth spot when his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota snapped loose off Turn 4 and hit the outside wall.
"Sorry guys, I just lost it," he said over the team radio.
With significant right-side damage, Jones took the car directly to the garage.
Filling in for injured Kyle Busch, Jones and JGR indicated this was a one-race deal as Busch continues to recover from injuries suffered at Daytona International Speedway in February.
Starting 12th in his first official Sprint Cup Series race, the 18-year-old driver raced as if he had been running in NASCAR's premier series for years.
Jones ran inside the top 15 for much of the race, leading one lap. The team was able to make repairs to the No. 18 Toyota and get him back on the track. When the race ended, Jones was 40th, 25 laps down to race winner Jimmie Johnson.
"I learned a lot about racing up front and racing with these guys," Jones said as his crew made repairs in the garage. "It's definitely nice to be as fast as we were and we had a great M&M's Camry, but I just got loose off (Turn) four and lost it. All my fault, guess I have to go back and figure it out. You know, we had a good night before that. Something to take from it. I'm ready to do another one -- I hope I get another shot."
Jones and JGR have contended this was a one-race deal for the 18-year-old driver as Busch continues to recover. There are rumblings in the garage that Busch could return as early as next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, although nothing official has come from Busch or the JGR camp.
Although Saturday night's SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas was his first official Sprint Cup start, Jones stepped in for Denny Hamlin early in the race at Bristol Motor Speedway last month after the JGR driver began suffering from neck spasms.