Box Score Info:
RACE: EnjoyIllinois.com 300
TRACK: Chicagoland Speedway
DRIVER: Erik Jones
CAR: No. 20 NarcolepsyLink.com Toyota
LAPS LED: 2
- Making his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, Erik Jones and the No. 20 NarcolepsyLink.com team started fourth, ran solidly inside the top 10 throughout the race and brought home a seventh-place finish. The talented youngster was also able to put his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota out front for two laps in his debut in NASCAR’s second division.
- During the early stages of the 200-lap event, Jones communicated to crew chief Kevin Kidd that his Camry was tight as he slowly slid from his fourth starting position back to the eighth spot before making his first pit stop of the night under green-flag conditions on lap 53. The over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop that included a wedge adjustment and returned their driver back to the track in the eighth spot.
- Still experiencing a tight-handling No. 20 NarcolepsyLink.com Camry, the 18-year-old reported that he brushed the outside wall on lap 66, but was able to continue on with just minor cosmetic damage. A debris caution just six laps later allowed the chance for Jones to bring his car down pit road for further evaluation by the team. Once on pit road, the over-the-wall crew was ordered to clear the fenders on the car and filled it with fuel. After feedback from the crew, Kidd elected to put four fresh tires on the car and make another wedge adjustment before returning his young driver back to the track.
- Jones took the lap-73 restart from the 13th position, but 12 laps later had maneuvered his way back inside the top 10.
- The talented youngster was scored in the eighth spot at the halfway mark of the race, but continued to report a tight-handling Toyota. Jones moved up to the second position on lap 112 when the race continued under green flag conditions and other competitors made their regularly scheduled pit stops and inherited the lead for two laps on 115 when Kasey Kahne visited pit road.
- On lap 117, Kidd summoned his young driver to pit road for a four-tire and fuel stop that included another wedge adjustment and the removal of a spring rubber. Jones returned to the track scored in the 12th position, where he remained when debris on the track slowed the field for the third time on lap 124.
- After a few competitors elected to visit pit road, the No. 20 NarcolepsyLink.com Camry took the lap-127 restart from the ninth position. As another long green-flag run ensued, Jones reported that the adjustments had improved the handling of his car and he was able to maneuver his way up to the seventh spot with 50 laps remaining in the race.
- Jones once again moved up the scoring pylon as competitors began to file down pit road for their final stop of the night. On lap 176, the Michigan native surrendered the second position to get four fresh tires and full tank of fuel.
- Upon returning to the track, the No. 20 Toyota was scored in the ninth spot. Posting lap times faster than the top-five drivers, Jones was able to gain two more positions in the closing laps and brought home a solid seventh-place finish in his Nationwide Series debut.
- Rookie Chase Elliott won his third race of the season, followed by Trevor Bayne, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Ty Dillon.
Erik Jones’ Post Race Thoughts:
Did you accomplish the goals that you set for your Nationwide Series debut?
“Coming into the race, my goal was to complete all the laps and hopefully bring home a top-10 finish, so we were able to accomplish that tonight. I feel like I really learned a lot that will help me for the next two starts. I was pretty tight in the early stages of the race and ended up brushing the wall. I hit it pretty good and at that point, I thought that it was going to be a long night from there on. The guys did a good job of fixing it up when we got that caution and Kevin (Kidd, crew chief) made some positive adjustments over the course of the last few stops that brought the car to life. Overall it was a solid night, we finished seventh and brought the NarcolepsyLink.com Camry home in pretty good shape. I feel like we accomplished everything we wanted to and I learned a lot, being that it was just my second mile-and-half race in NASCAR. I can’t thank Joe Gibbs Racing enough for the opportunity and hopefully we can take what we learned tonight and improve upon our finish at Bristol next month.”
Kevin Kidd’s Post Race Thoughts:
What was your evaluation of Erik’s Nationwide Series debut?
“Honestly, Erik did spectacular. To be his first time in the Nationwide Series, it’s a tremendous jump from anything he has done in the past. To do as well as he did tonight, I couldn’t be more proud of him. Arguably, we could’ve finished a couple spots better, but we were forced into a situation at the end of the race where we had to stay out a little longer than I wanted to and I felt like it cost us two or three spots. So, if you look at it that way, his first time out he should’ve had a top-five finish and I’d say that’s a good day.”