Erik Jones’ first top five of the season is a sure sign of progress

FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 08: Erik Jones, driver of the #20 Reser's Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH, Texas – A fourth-place finish for Erik Jones in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway didn’t have the impact of a breakthrough victory, but it marked substantial progress nevertheless for the second-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver.

Jones led twice for a total of 64 laps and posted his best finish since joining Joe Gibbs racing at the start of the season. More than anything, Sunday’s result gave him a jolt of confidence.

“We’ve been kind of inching there each week, getting closer and closer,” Jones said. Martinsville (where he finished 17th two weeks ago) is kind of its own animal, but each week at the 1.5-mile and two-miles, we’ve been getting better. To get the Reser’s Camry up front and just in the top five is a big moment for us.

“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do here with this group, and we did a good job of it this weekend. Texas is a place I like. I’ve got to say thanks to the pit crew. They worked really hard. We’ve had a rough start to the year on pit road, but they knocked them out. We picked up a lot of spots on pit road today, and that was huge for us. Just a good day overall and a lot to build on for Bristol.”

In fact, Jones gained three spots each on two consecutive pit stops, the second of which handed him the lead for a restart on Lap 178.

That Jones would excel at Texas, however, is no surprise. In 2015, as a 19-year-old, he claimed his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at the 1.5-mile track and went on to win twice more there in the series.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.