After 15 races in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Cup Series, Erik Jones barely gives his No. 20 team a passing grade.
“I’d say our team as a whole is probably a C,” Jones told media Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway while promoting the July 7 Cup race at the track.
“I think we’ve had good race cars and had fast race cars, we just haven’t been able to finish really where we’ve ran,” Jones said. “We haven’t done a good job of that. Making sure we’re closing these races out is going to be the big thing for us. We’re bringing top 10 cars to the track every week in speed and just not taking and getting the finishes out of that.”
Following Sunday’s race at Michigan, where Jones placed 15th, the No. 20 team has one top five and five top 10s. He has one top 10 in the last eight races (Kansas, seventh)
In the last three races, Jones has failed to finish better than 15th.
Jones has started in the top 10 in four of the last seven races. In each race, he finished 13th or worse.
“Making sure we’re taking full advantage and executing on pit road and on the race track, not losing track position is going to be the big thing for us coming up,” Jones said. “Staying on that track is what we need to do.”
The next three races take Jones and the series to Sonoma Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway and Daytona. Jones made his first Sonoma start last year and placed 25th after starting 30th. His first Chicago start saw him finish 33rd after a late spin.
In three Daytona starts, he’s managed not to crash out in one, when he placed ninth in last July’s race.
Being one of the four drivers competing for JGR, Jones was asked what’s made the difference in Kyle Busch‘s dominating ways and his struggles in getting to Victory Lane for the first time.
“Obviously, we do have the same resources and equipment at our disposal, it’s just a matter of the way every team is using them,” Jones said. “You look at Kyle, he’s a very talented driver, No. 1. He’s very good at what he does. He and (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) have a good thing going on and they’re able to use the resources very well and take full advantage of them. Me and (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) are still trying to get in our groove of figuring out exactly what we need to get our cars to do to be successful week in and week out.”
Gayle and Jones were paired together during Jones’ rookie season with Furniture Row Racing.
“We’ve done a good job of putting together cars with good speed,” Jones said. “We just need to put together the rest of the package. That’s what Kyle’s done a very good job of this year. He’s qualified really well, he’s stayed up front, he’s had good pit stops and not ever put himself back in the pack and put himself in opportunities to have to gain a lot of track position. I think that’s really important this year … more than the last few years at least. They’ve done a really good job of just staying ahead of the game on that.”