LAS VEGAS, Nev — For the first time in his young career, Erik Jones is a part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
A win in July at Daytona International Speedway locked him in the field of 16, a year after coming up short with Furniture Row Racing.
“Playoffs, you know are a big goal for us in the Cup Series, overall just to make it,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED. “I feel good about it, I’m excited, we’ve been on a good run for the last month and a half, some good consistency, top-10’s, top-five’s, and being in contention for races late. We just got to continue on that path. Definitely excited for the playoffs and, it’s fun to be a part of the championship hunt and have a shot at it.”
While it is Jones’ first time in the playoffs, he may avoid the struggles with inexperience as shown skill in 2018 has legitimized himself with his consistency being an example of the success he is capable of.
Since Michigan in June, the 22-year-old has finished outside the top-10 twice, with his worst being a 16th place finish coming at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Additionally, he has captured five top-five’s in the period, his most recent coming at earlier this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he scored a runner-up to Brad Keselowski.
Could this recent success be enough to soften the tension of chasing a title?
“I think it does ease the pressure a little bit,” Jones said. “Definitely wouldn’t feel as good if we were coming off a bad month and starting the playoffs off right now. But, having a month and a half of solid runs, running in the top-10 pretty consistently and it’s just rolled. Week to week, race to race, we’ve been able to carry that. We’ve done a good job of growing as a team and fixing and improving things that we needed to work on throughout the year and hopefully we can continue that.”
While it may seem like the odds wouldn’t favor this Joe Gibbs Racing driver, the numbers do. If the consistency can keep going, the No. 20 will be in the hunt for a spot in final four and a championship.
Jones will start his playoff run as the 10th seed, with a two-point advantage over the first-round cutoff. Though, a repeat performance this weekend of his spring run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he qualified ninth and finished eighth, could provide him with some more cushion.
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