Will Erik Jones' breakthrough win lead to more success this year?

Erik Jones scored his first win Saturday night in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway and the 22-year-old might have a few more visits to victory lane before the 2018 season is in the books.

Will Erik Jones' breakthrough win lead to more success this year?
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com, celebrates after winning.
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com, pulls into victory lane.
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com, does a burnout after winning
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com wins
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com, celebrates in victory lane
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com Celebrates his win
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com, Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Interstate Batteries
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry buyatoyota.com, crosses the finish line.
Listen to this article

Confidence is an amazing thing and it isn’t as if Jones, driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, lacked a belief in himself.

But a win erases all doubt. It can turn a decent team into one that’s suddenly contending for wins on a regular basis and before you know it there’s another team angling for parking space in victory lane each week. 

Jones and his group, led by crew chief Chris Gayle, could be just that team.

A surge in performance

Saturday night’s impressive victory capped off a three-race run that saw Jones finish seventh at Sonoma, sixth at Chicago and first at Daytona.

The Daytona victory earns Jones and his team a spot in the upcoming playoffs, but it was the Sonoma result that was mentioned as being the catalyst behind the team’s recent surge.

“I would tell you the last three (races) I’ve really noticed a change in him,” Gayle said following Jones’ popular win at the 2.5-mile DIS. “Sonoma was a turning point for us.”

Jones was terrible on the California road course a year ago, so he and the team worked on improving there. Maybe that’s an odd tactic given that the series runs only two true road courses each season (the Charlotte Roval scheduled for the Playoffs remains an unknown). But it appears to be paying dividends.

Gayle said the team “went into that weekend knowing it was going to be tough and we were going to have to battle and the first 10 laps of that race were pretty tough. It could have gone either way.”

Instead, his driver “dug a little deeper, found something different,” and came away with a hard-earned seventh-place finish.

“And I think that confidence carried over to Chicago,” Gayle said.

Plate racing versus the rest of the season

You could point to Saturday’s win and say well, it’s Daytona and a restrictor-plate race and anything can happen so why read too much into a single victory there? Success at Daytona and Talladega can be difficult to gauge - Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 earlier this year but didn’t pull off another top 10 until Saturday night.

Is a victory there a barometer or aberration?

Gayle believes it’s a barometer.

“I’m expecting bigger things from him,” he said of his young driver. “You get a little confidence in him – we all know we can do it at this level. it just kind of helps you once you … get the first win. The entire team knows that.”

Jones knows it, too. He’s a year older, a year wiser, a year more experienced. He still has plenty to learn and there are others with more seat time and more success. But he’s headed in the right direction. Saturday’s victory is proof enough of that. 

“I think a year in the Cup Series you grow a lot,” Jones said. “You learn so much. I never learned as much in any other series in any other year racing as I did last year … things that I’ll take with me probably for the rest of my career in NASCAR.

“It’s definitely been a journey but Chris has done a good job of helping me out with that. I’m still only 22 … but definitely I would say a slightly calmer 22-year-old than I was (as a) 21-year-old. 

“We're still working to sand the edges a little bit, but we're definitely getting there.”

shares
comments
Kahne ends up short of the win, but "we had a really good shot at it”
Previous article

Kahne ends up short of the win, but "we had a really good shot at it”

Next article

Truex on Daytona wrecks: "A lot of guys just wing it, go for broke”

Truex on Daytona wrecks: "A lot of guys just wing it, go for broke”
The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team Prime

The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team

Saddled with uncompetitive Minardi machinery, Tarso Marques didn't manage to score points in his three partial seasons of Formula 1. But now the Brazilian has the chance to show what he can do in NASCAR, and explains the story of his comeback with new Cup Series entrant Team Stange

NASCAR Cup
Apr 13, 2022
The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car Prime

The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car

NASCAR’s new stock car generation is encouraging an influx of fresh blood into its top tier. But there are concerns that parts are in short supply as the entire paddock tries to build up stocks at the same time

NASCAR Cup
Feb 22, 2022
How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style Prime

How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style

After holding his nerve and hip-checking his teammate on the run to the line, Austin Cindric made a perfect start to life as a full-timer in the NASCAR Cup Series by winning the Daytona 500. Here's how the Penske Ford man emerged first across the line in the first points-scoring race for the much-anticipated Next Generation cars

NASCAR Cup
Feb 21, 2022
Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season Prime

Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season

There are plenty of uncertainties ahead of the 2022 NASCAR Cup season as an all-new fleet of cars take to the track for the first time. Ahead of this weekend's Daytona 500, our experts explain what you need to know

NASCAR Cup
Feb 17, 2022
How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of Next Gen arrival Prime

How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of Next Gen arrival

The NASCAR Cup kicks off with the Daytona 500 this weekend, but a major engine overhaul and a subsequent mountain of work has been required to be ready for the arrival of the Next Gen cars.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2022
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021