LOUDON, N.H. – The most critical aspect of Erik Jones’ third-place run in Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the mistake he thought he had made—but didn’t.
Under the ninth and final caution for Kyle Larson’s spin in turn two on lap 265, Jones made a feint toward pit road but opted to stay on the track. But his right tires crossed the orange commitment box separating pit road from the racing surface.
At first, Jones thought he had drawn a penalty, but since only his left-side tires crossed the box, and he stayed on the track, he was OK under NASCAR rules. Jones lined up second next to race winner Kevin Harvick for the final restart on lap 273, quickly fell to third behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin (who had fresh right-side tires) but held third the rest of the way.
The third-place run came at the end of a roller-coaster day. Jones collided with Alex Bowman on pit road during an early stop and later drew a pit road speeding penalty that sent him to the rear of the field for a lap 144 restart. But astute pit calls by crew chief Chris Gayle helped him recover the lost track position.
“It was kind of a sloppy day in my opinion, but it was a good day,” Jones said in analyzing his race. “Got good stage points in the first stage (running second) and finished well at the end. But the Stanley Camry was good. All day I felt like we were close. We just needed to get up front and never quite did it and never quite got the lead, but we were there.
“Again, up in the top-five, you can’t complain, and especially with the points we gained today, it’s good. We can definitely get more aggressive with that gap. We’re getting close there to having almost a race on them (those chasing Jones for a Playoff spot).
“If we can have a couple more good weeks, we’ll be there. We’ll keep doing it, but today was definitely a testament, I think, to our speed and this team. We keep fighting through it. We never gave up. We did what we needed to do, fixed the damage when we needed to and got a good finish out of it.”
Jones ended the day 14th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, 28 points above 17th place.