Erik Jones impresses as Denny Hamlin criticizes NASCAR at Kansas

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 09: Erik Jones, driver of the #18 M&M's Red Nose Day Toyota, leads Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 9, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 09: Erik Jones, driver of the #18 M&M's Red Nose Day Toyota, leads Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 9, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, KS – MAY 09: Erik Jones, driver of the #18 M&M’s Red Nose Day Toyota, leads Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 9, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

An up and down night for Joe Gibbs Racing ended on a down note early Sunday morning at Kansas Speedway.  Early on in the NASCAR Sprint Cup SpongeBob SquarePants 400 all three of the JGR teams were holding their own. Carl Edwards was racing inside the top five; Denny Hamlin was holding his own, while rookie Erik Jones was staging an impressive run.

The 18-year-old Jones was making his official Sprint Cup debut weeks after subbing for Hamlin at Bristol.  Jones was called on to race the No. 18 for the injured Kyle Busch at Kansas and started the weekend strong. He led the final practice and advanced to the final round of qualifying Friday and started the race 12th. Jones avoided trouble and endured a two hour and sixteen minute rain delay and in the second half of the race he suddenly appeared inside the top ten. All the attention focused on Jones as he was racing, and passing veterans such as eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson. It all ended on lap 196 of 267 however.  He got loose exiting turn 4; the nose of his Toyota into the wall. The crew made repairs in the garage and he did return but finished 24 laps down in 40th place. Despite the finish, Jones said he learned a lot from his experience.

“I learned a lot about racing up front and racing with these guys,” Jones said. MORE>>>

About Greg Engle 7420 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 Examiner.com 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.