Erik Jones salved a 17th-place finish in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on a day that began by going from bad to worse.
The right-rear shock mount of the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota broke within the first 50 laps. Multiples stops to fix the issue under caution and then the start of a green-flag run put Jones down two laps to the leaders. He successfully battled throughout the rest of the race to get his laps back but the early issues hampered the team’s overall performance.
“It was just a frustrating day because, even after we fixed the car, we were so far back in the field that there wasn’t anything we could do to move forward for such a big part of the race,” said Jones. “The guys got the 5-hour ENERY Toyota running well but then it was just a battle to get back on the lead lap. I’m proud of all their effort because we never gave up. It’s been a tough couple of weeks but I know we all learned something today that will help down the road.”
The broken shock mount and multiple stops to remedy the situation left Jones with a 34th-place finish in Stage 1. During the pit stop under caution between stages, a heat shield was installed in the floor board under Jones’ feet after he radioed in to crew chief Chris Gayle how hot his feet were getting.
The second stage found Jones’ lap times competitive with the leaders but mired that deep in the field, he was able to pick up one lap on the leaders but only advance to 29th place by the end of the stage on Lap 190.
In the final stage, the lap times remained fast while the handling went from loose to tight. Gayle’s pit strategy during cautions as well as green-flag stops put the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota back on the lead lap with less than 60 laps remaining. Jones was 19th with 50 laps remaining and moved to 18th with 26 laps to go.
A caution with nine laps remaining allowed Jones to get fresh tires for the dash to the checkered. A subsequent caution put the race into overtime with the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing entry lined up on the outside of Row 7 for the green-white-checkered finish. Unfortunately, Jones was shuffled back to 17th by the time the checkered flag waved.
Jones remained 19th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 30 races. However, he closed the gap to 12 points to Clint Bowyer in 17th place.
Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. earned his sixth victory of the season. The balance of the top-10 finishers were: Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson.
The race had 10 cautions for 44 laps and 14 lead changes among eight drivers.
The next race is Oct. 15 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!