Erik Jones knew Saturday night was the closest he has come to winning a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. He also knows there’s an old saying about a driver having to lose one to win one.
Bristol Motor Speedway was that loss for Jones.
“We lost one tonight. We did,” Jones said after finishing second to Toyota Racing teammate Kyle Busch. “We led the most laps and didn’t win the race, so we lost this one.
“Hopefully that gives myself a lesson and everyone a lesson of what it really takes to win these races. Obviously, they’re not easy to win. Especially this Bristol race. Five hundred laps is pretty tough.”
In addition to the 260 of 500 laps Jones led, the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota also started from the pole (pictured above). But for as good as Jones was in navigating traffic, getting on and off pit road, playing the bump-and-run game, he said it was just a matter of not being able to work on the car one last time to challenge Busch.
Throughout the evening many in the field chose to run the high lane, which seemed to have more speed. However, Jones was one of the few to make the bottom lane work and it’s where his car performed the best. When Jones finally grabbed the second position for last time, he quickly made up ground on Busch but ended up only being able to chase him to the finish line. Jones said his tires just got too hot the closer he got.
“That part hurts but I definitely feel like (tonight) boosted up my own confidence as well as the team’s confidence,” Jones said. “I think the team is really pumped up. We had great pit stops tonight, I don’t think we ever lost a spot. That’s a huge day for us.
“There’s a lot of positives we can take out tonight; the only negative is we ran second.”
The run was Jones’ career-best finish in 27 starts. Now working on four consecutive top-10 finishes and two straight top three runs, Jones has moved to 15th in points in his rookie season.
Bristol also continues to be kind to Jones. Last year, Jones earned his first Xfinity Series victory at the bullring and Saturday night Jones led more laps in one race than he had in all of his previous 23 races (50).
“You don’t want to sound like your whining or being a sore loser by saying it sucks to run second, but it’s bummer. It hurts,” Jones admitted. “You want to win every race you’re in and this was the first shot that I’ve really had to come close to it in the Cup Series.
“Bristol’s a really good racetrack for myself and felt like we had a really good shot all night, led a ton of laps. So, yeah, it hurts when you’re that close and feel like you have that good of a car, it’s just … it’s Kyle Busch. He won all three races this weekend. I feel like I’m close to him here, just trying to find that last little bit.”