Erik Jones and Furniture Row Racing’s No. 77 SiriusXM Toyota Camry team bounced back from the misfortunes of Daytona to post a solid 14th-place finish in the 58th annual Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The Denver, Colo.-based team started 23rd and moved into the top 15 by lap 76, running for a good stretch of time in the top 10 during the second half of the race until the car’s handling went too tight after the final pit stop on lap 312 of 325.
“I thought the SiriusXM Toyota Camry was a seventh- to ninth-place car most of the day,” said Jones. “It seems like were ran around there, maybe a little farther back, all day. We came in for the last pit stop, put tires on and just got super tight. I’m not sure why that happened but it’s unfortunate. I wish we could have went up there further up in the running order and finished where we deserved, where our car was capable of. It was a good day overall, though. I learned a lot and definitely have good momentum for next week.
“It’s nice just to get settled in. When you go to Daytona and Talladega, they’re kind of their own animals and you come here and you really get to see what you’ve got for the year, so I felt like we weren’t quite where we needed to be.”
Jones picked up three regular season points for finishing eighth in the second stage and picked up eight positions in the point standings, from 37th to 29th. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate is five points out of the top 25 and 10 points out of the top 20.
“It was a good day,” said crew chief Chris Gayle. “Starting 23rd, I felt like I put Erik behind by not giving him enough race-trim practice on Friday. But he did a great job in getting up through the field. We really should have run in the top 10 all day until that last stint. Going into the day, I felt like if we got a top-15 or top-20 finish I was going to be happy with the day. It was Erik’s first time in a Cup car here and he did exceptional. We just didn’t end it as strong as we thought we were.”
Brad Keselowski led the final seven laps to win the Folds of Honor Quicktrip 500 after a late penalty for speeding pit road ended Kevin Harvick’s chances for winning after dominating the event. The rest of the top 10 finishers were Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Truex, Harvick and Jamie McMurray. There were nine lead changes among five drivers and six cautions for 32 laps.
The third race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season is the March 12 Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!