He did almost everything right. Furniture Row Racing driver, and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie, Erik Jones came up one spot short of his first win Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
A day after winning his first career pole Jones grabbed the lead early and held off some serious competition. Prior to Saturday he had led 50 laps in 23 race this season; he led a race high 260 at Bristol.
Just over 60 laps from the end however, Jones lost the lead and eventually the race, coming up short of catching race winner Kyle Busch.
“You know, you don’t want to sound like you’re whining or being a sore loser by saying it sucks to run second, but it’s a bummer,” Jones said. “It hurts. You know, you want to win every race you’re in. This was the first shot that I really had to come really close to it in the Cup Series. Bristol is a really good racetrack for myself. Thought we had a shot at it all night, led a ton of laps.”
The driver who beat Jones is the driver who helped put Jones into the upper levels of NASCAR. It was Busch who noticed Jones’ talent at the Snowball Derby, a late model race held in Pensacola Florida each winter. Jones beat Busch there in 2012. Busch helped pave the way for Jones.
Unlike 2012 however, Saturday Jones didn’t beat Busch.
“That good of a car, it’s Kyle Busch,” Jones said. “He won all three races here this weekend. So I feel like I’m close to him here, just trying to find that last little bit.”
Despite the runner up finish, Jones was able to at least do one thing: have fun
“It takes you back to, you know, late model racing really more than anything,” he said of the racing at Bristol. “You’re just on the gas. You’re not saving tires. You’re just hammer down and getting everything you can, which is a lot of fun. It’s hard on you as a driver, it wears you out, but you definitely have a lot of fun.
“If I had to rank it, this is probably the most fun I’ve had in a Cup race, for sure.”