Jones places fifth in first Darlington race

Photo by Allan Marler/Harold Hinson Photography

By Kristen Schneider, Staff Writer

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Erik Jones didn’t trade his rookie stripe of a Darlington Stripe on Sunday night, which was a shock to the Furniture Row Racing driver.

The young gun earned fifth-place finish after an up-and-down night at Darlington Raceway; in what Jones would call “a big learning day,” he started in 10th and worked with his crew to improve. Crew chief Chris Gale provided the change the No. 77 needed.

“I think we were kinda out of it there for a while, and Chris gave us a good strategy to get us back in it. I didn’t really think we’d have a top-five day unless we did everything right and ended up alright.”

Part of Gale’s idea was splitting the last 100 laps into thirds for pit strategy. The long green flag run at the end made it work, something Jones plans to keep in mind for the next visit.

“I feel like I’m a lot better off for the next time I come back,” Jones said, adding, “It’s a tough track, and it takes a lot of knowledge to get around it correctly. I feel like I’m one-step closer to that after tonight.”

Jones sits 14th in points, but the playoff system pushes him outside of the top-16. With a chance at the championship coming down to one race, Jones is confident his team is prepared for the battle at Richmond Raceway.

“They’re working really hard and bring good cars to the racetrack, knowing we’ve needed to win now for the last month or so. We’ve been doing all we can, and we’ve been getting good finishes. We just haven’t gotten the job done,” he said.

He noted prior success at Richmond, saying, “We’re going to bring another fast race car there, and we were really good there in the Spring but got caught up in a wreck early. Hopefully, we can just be fast all weekend.”

With another impressive finish in his pocket, Jones hopes to avoid chaos at Richmond that could break his streak.

“I’m sure it’s going to be exciting, and hopefully we’re not part of too much of the excitement,” he said. “I’d be fine with just being in victory lane.”

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