For Erik Jones, “all there’s left to do” for him in 2019 is to finally win a race.
“We’ve done everything we can but win a race here the last month,” Jones said Sunday after his second-place finish at Pocono Raceway.
Jones finished between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., earning his third consecutive finish in the top three. It is the second time JGR has finished 1-2-3 this year, the first coming in the Daytona 500.
What kept Jones from visiting victory lane for the first time this season?
The decision by the No. 20 team to save as much fuel as possible while Jones led, which resulted in him losing the lead to Hamlin with 17 laps to go in the scheduled distance.
“When it was still green, I was hoping they would all run out (of gas), that was my only opportunity with having to save as much as I was,” Jones said. “The caution came out (with eight laps to go), looking back on it, man, I wish we would have just ran hard. Because if we ran hard we wouldn’t have given up the lead and we would have been in the lead on the restart and probably wouldn’t have given up the lead there.”
Playing a factor in the decision to conserve fuel was Jones’ position in the points (14th entering Pocono) and how well he’s run recently.
“If we have a day where we run out of fuel because we were trying to push and get a win and we don’t make it, that’s a pretty bad day if we finish 25th coming down to get fuel and lose all these points we’ve gained here in the last month,” Jones said. “We’re in a spot now where we’re almost a race up on the cutoff line, which is a good feeling. It took a long time to get there and we don’t really want to give it up all at once.”
The runner-up result is Jones’ best finish of the year. He has eight top 10s in the last 11 races.
“Man, it’s a bummer,” Jones said. “We’re close every week. … We’re right there.
“We’re doing great building points, but it would be great to knock a win out. We’re just so close, it stings a little bit more when you get close to it.”
Meanwhile, Truex lost his opportunity at a win thanks to a bout of indecision and lapped traffic.
The indecision came when Truex was running second to Jones with Hamlin right behind him.
“I mean, had I been able to keep him behind me, (Jones) was starting to back up and save more,” Truex told NBCSN, adding he kept asking himself “Should I pass him yet? Should I pass him yet?”
But he never got the chance.
A lapped car slowed Truex on the frontstretch, allowing Hamlin to overtake him. Truex said the lapped car was a “game changer.”
“Once the caution came out, (Hamlin) had the restart on the outside,” Truex said. “You can’t do anything about it. Inside on the front row is just sitting ducks.”
Truex’s third-place finish is his first top five since he won at Sonoma on June 23rd and follows a sixth-place finish at New Hampshire.