Erik Jones misses out on first Cup win at home track

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On the biggest restart of his Cup Series career so far, Erik Jones had a choice to make.

He chose … poorly.

The rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing was in second place on the overtime restart of the Pure Michigan 400. To his right was teammate Martin Truex Jr. In the row behind him and representing the choices he had were Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson.

Both Jones and Truex spun their tires, which allowed Larson and Kenseth to pounce.

“The 20 (Kenseth) got to the bottom of me and the 42 (Larson) was to the right of me,” Jones said. “I saw them both getting runs and kind of had to pick one or the other and picked wrong.”

Larson charged by Truex, bouncing off the No. 78 in the process as Jones failed to keep Kenseth behind him. The two made contact, which would result in Kenseth cutting a tire and finishing 24th. But for a brief moment all four cars were four-wide.

“I was pointed at the infield for half of (Turns ) 1 and 2,” Jones said. “For me it was an easy choice. It really doesn’t matter if we crashed. The only thing that was going to benefit us was a win, so we were in the middle and I just kept going and hoped that I would get enough air to keep moving along. So I think everybody was kind of on the same page, and it just worked out.”

By the time the field reached Turn 2, Jones was still in one piece but in fifth.

But in Turn 3, Trevor Bayne got loose driving through oil dry and washed up the track. This slowed Ryan Newman, which allowed Jones to get by both of them coming to the white flag.

“Just didn’t work out,” Jones said. “Wish it would have worked out a little bit better. It was looking like a Furniture Row one‑two (finish), kind of either way it was going to play out, so just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”

Jones led five laps over the course of the race. It was his fifth race to lead laps this season.

The finish ties Jones’ best so far in 26 Cup starts. He placed third at Pocono in June. It was his third top 10 in as many weeks.

A red flag prior to the overtime finish gave the 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion more than enough time to think about the significance of winning his first Cup race at his home track.

“It gives you a lot of time to at least play through different scenarios on the restart and how you want it to work out,” Jones said. “It’s very rare it actually works out the way you picture in your head, but yeah, you definitely ponder what that would be like. … I knew we had a shot right on the restart. We were just as quick I felt like right off the bat, and it would have been nice to be able to seal the deal for sure.”

With three races left in the regular season, Jones is 16th in the points standings. The Cup Series now heads to Bristol Motor Speedway, where Jones finished 17th in April.

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