The Tales of the Turtles 400 proved to be a learning experience for all the wrong reasons for Erik Jones and the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota team that earned a 33rd-place finish Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Jones is now in 19th place in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 27 races. He is 30 points behind Clint Bowyer for 18th place and 63 ahead of Daniel Suarez in 20th.
“Anything and everything that could have happened to the 5-hour ENERGY Toyota did,” said Jones. “It was just one of those weekends that you have to learn from and move on. Not a whole lot more to say other than we must have done something to make the racing gods mad.”
Jones qualified 24th after spinning in the second round of qualifying on Friday. Because of that, the Furniture Row Racing team was forced to change to fresh tires for the start of Sunday’s 267-lap, 400-mile race on the 1.5-mile oval. By NASCAR Cup Series rule, the No. 77 was required to drop to the back of the field, to 40th, before the green flag waved.
Battling his way back to 20th place by the first green-flag pit stop on Lap 43, Jones was penalized for speeding on exit of pit row. The required return trip down pit road put the team one lap down to the leaders. Jones finished the first stage in the 24th position.
The Furniture Row Racing entry started the second stage in 21st place on Lap 89 but Jones made contact with the outside wall at Turn 4 on Lap 97. The right-rear tire rub that resulted forced another unscheduled pit stop which put the team down a second lap to the leaders. Jones finished Stage 2 in 24th place.
Jones worked his way back to 21st in the running order by Lap 200, though still two laps down. Just 10 laps later, however, the No. 77 spun in Turn 4. Damage from the deflated right-rear tire required repairs during two subsequent pit stops that put Jones in 34th place. He picked up one position before the checkered flag waved at the conclusion of 267 laps.
Jones’ Furniture Row Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. won the race. The balance of the top-10 finishers were: Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray.
The race had four cautions for 21 laps and there were 12 lead changes among seven drivers.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!