Erik Jones knew that he had a prime opportunity this weekend at the Pocono Raceway to solidify his playoff chances. He entered the doubleheader at the Tricky Triangle one point behind the cutoff line.
Now, he exits 14 points to the good.
“We needed a good run,” Jones said of his Sunday finish. “We needed a good rebound. It’s great that we finished third. In a way it’s kind of frustrating. I think our primary car was quite a bit better than what our backup car was today. Obviously third is a good run. Nice to rebound.
“Hopefully just keep the momentum going next week at Indy, keep running strong like we talked about. I feel like we’ve had good speed. We either get run over every week or we have a penalty, something else happens to us. It’s nice to have a normal race. I think on a normal weekend we can run top five pretty easily. I think we showed that today.”
But, it could have been better, which is why he’s frustrated too. See, this is Jones’ best track. Prior to 2020, he had five top eight finishes in six Pocono tries including a top three in both races a year ago and fifth in the second race for three straight top five finishes in 2018.
A win would have been nice. Toyota had five straight Pocono wins entering 2020 and a Jones win either Saturday or Sunday would automatically place him into the postseason.
So, to not win, well that would be frustrating, but to come back from a 38th place finish on Saturday, well it’s satisfying.
Jones, brought his No. 20 Toyota home third on Sunday for his fourth top five finish in his last five Pocono starts. Combine that with Tyler Reddick finishing 30th and 35th this weekend and you get Jones making up several points in the standings.
“I think we’ve been pretty fast every week,” Jones said of the season so far. “I can’t think of a race other than Martinsville where we didn’t have good speed. It’s unfortunate we haven’t finished as good as we’ve ran at some races. I think that’s going to come around. You can’t have things go wrong every single week.
“It was a good day today. The Camry was pretty quick. Good to get a good finish. I don’t know. I wish we could get some more finishes. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Speaking of a direction, Jones says it’s going in the right way in hopes of another contract extension to remain with Joe Gibbs Racing for 2021.
“I’ve had a good, I guess what it is, third, fourth year at JGR now, something like that,” Jones said of his contract talks. “We started talking to them about next year, what we’re going to do moving forward.
“I feel like right now that’s kind of the plan, is working with them. We’ll see what happens. But I feel good about it right now moving forward.”
Part of his hopes is to certainly make the playoffs. Right now, he’s 16th but he feels he’s better than that.
“I think our cars are way faster than a 16th-place team,” Jones said. “Hopefully we can keep up the good runs. Three, four more races just running strong like we need to, get some stage points, we’ll be up in the top 12 pretty quickly.
“Three weeks ago we were fighting for 12 in points, trying to get into the better draw. All of a sudden we had multiple bad races. It happens. It was some things that were in our control, some things that weren’t. Hopefully if we can run like this more and more, I think the points come along right with that.”
Now, NASCAR heads to Indy, a weekend that will see them share the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NTT IndyCar Series. With a good look at Indy Car, Jones says that he would one day be interested in hopping in one.
“Yeah, I mean, I think any driver would love to drive any kind of form of racecar. I’ve had some opportunities to drive some other forms of racecars. It’s been pretty neat. An INDYCAR would be really neat, really different from anything I’ve ever raced.
“Yeah, I think the Indy 500 is on most racers’ bucket list at some point in their career. I definitely would take the opportunity to drive an INDYCAR, whether it just be a test or something. That would be pretty cool.”