Erik Jones matches season-best finish, gains ground in standings at Pocono

LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 02: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Hazelnut Toyota, and Erik Jones, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, lead a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 02, 2019 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Erik Jones was realistic.

He was well aware that the chances of overtaking Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch late in Sunday’s Pocono 400 were remote, too say the least.

To compound the challenge, Busch had fresher rubber, having taken four tires during his last pit stop on Lap 94 at Pocono Raceway. Jones, on the other hand, had taken right-side tires only on his pit stop a lap later—a strategic choice to gain track position.

Even though a late caution for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s contact with the outside wall in the Tunnel Turn stacked up the field for a restart on Lap 152, Jones knew the odds against taking down his teammate were long indeed.

But one can always hope.

“Well, yeah, you always want to think that way, but I think Kyle and I on four tires… if we were both on four tires, it would have been pretty even, but he had an advantage on tires there at the end,” Jones said. “We needed some track position, so we had to take two, and had it stayed green, we were going to run second, and we ended up third. You know, a good day overall.

“It would have really had to be a perfect scenario for us to win today, but we had a good car. The DeWalt Camry was fast, and it was fast all weekend. We’ve been doing it every week. We’ve just got to have things go our way and have a little luck on our side. Had some good luck today and some things play out the way we needed them, so hopefully that trend keeps rolling here the next couple months.”

Jones restarted next to Busch on Lap 152 but surrendered the second position to Brad Keselowski. Nevertheless, his third-place finish matched his best of the season.

More important, Jones moved from 17th to 15th in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings, now inside the Playoff cut line and one point ahead of both Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson.