DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2017) – Erik Jones suffered the consequences of pack racing at Daytona International Speedway when his Furniture Row Racing No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry sustained significant left-front and nose damage as the result of multiple-car contact just past the midway point of Thursday night’s second Can-Am Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500.
The Chris Gayle-led crew was able to fix the damage enough to allow Jones to return to competition and finish 19th, one lap down to eventual winner and Toyota stablemate Denny Hamlin. Jones will start Sunday’s Daytona 500 from the 36th position.
“We just got caught up in a chain-reaction superspeedway wreck,” said Jones. “I was at the end of the line and everybody stacked up in front of me so the 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry was the last car to take the hit. It damaged the left-front fender and hood and, between that and the tire rub, we had to pit. It put us behind the 8-ball but I learned a lot and feel a lot better about going into the Daytona 500.
“It took me a good 30 laps to get comfortable, to feel like I could start to make moves and know where to put myself to advance. Then we got wrecked so we’ll keep working on it over the next two days and be in a good spot for Sunday.”
Despite the damage and the starting position deep in the 40-car field for the Daytona 500, crew chief Gayle remains optimistic for the future, including Sunday.
“Tonight was the first time Erik had the chance to practice racing in a NASCAR Cup Series car at Daytona,” said crew chief Gayle. “It’s hard to expect a lot in that situation. You could tell he was tentative for the first few laps, just kind of learning about the car. Obviously, you don’t know if the car is going to drag the race track, what the steering is going to be like or anything. So once he got over that and knew what he had, he started moving up through the field and I thought, ‘OK, we’ll be in good shape.’
“The wreck just looked like a chain reaction deal that you can’t really help. It punched a hole in the nose and we got a couple laps down because you’re stuck trying to fix the damage quickly on pit road. But I’m still very optimistic. I think Erik’s going to learn a lot very quickly and by the end of the 500 he’ll be in good shape.”
The Daytona 500 will consist of three segments of 60, 60 and 80 laps. In each of the first two segments drivers finishing in the top-10 will receive championship points (10 to 1) with the winner receiving one playoff point. The overall race winner will earn 40 championship points and five playoff points. Playoff points accumulated during the season will carry through the first three of the four playoff rounds.
Rounding out the top 10 were: Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger, Austin Dillon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, and Ty Dillon.
The race had two cautions for eight laps and there were five lead changes among three drivers.
Sunday’s Daytona 500 will air live on the FOX network, noon MT (2 p.m. ET).