Erik Jones Finishes 11th at Atlanta Motor Speedway
February 27, 2018
- For round two of the 2018 season, NASCAR headed to the first 1.5-mile track of the season, Atlanta Motor Speedway. Teams qualified on Friday evening with all four Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teams securing starting positions in the top 12 with Erik Jones and the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota Camry team qualifying 10th for the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500.
- Following a rain delay Sunday morning, NASCAR was able to dry the track and start the race around 3:30 p.m. ET under cloudy skies. With a competition caution scheduled for lap 30 due to the heavy rain washing the track Sunday morning, the race got underway and teams quickly settled in for the first stint of the 325-lap event.
- From the wave of the green flag, Jones reported that the No. 20 DEWALT Camry wasn’t handling to his liking and by lap 30 when the caution flag waved, the No. 20 team was scored 18th. Pitting under the caution, crew chief Chris Gayle made the call for four fresh Goodyear tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to improve the handling of the DEWALT Camry. The race restarted on lap 35 with Jones in the 18th position.
- Jones slipped to 23rd following the restart and as the race continued under green-flag conditions, Jones began to pick off one car at a time to return to 18th before the caution flag waved on lap 85 to end stage one. Continuing to struggle with the handling, Jones hit pit road for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Unfortunately, an extended stay on pit road and a penalty for running over the air hose forced the 20 team to restart the race at the tail end of the longest line as the last car on the lead lap in the 18th position on lap 93.
- With the race continuing under a long-green flag run, teams started making green-flag stops on lap 125 with Jones hitting pit road on lap 128 for four tires, fuel and adjustments. Once the field cycled through stops, Jones was back in 19th, but reported that the car was handling better after the latest round of adjustments.
- Closing in on the end of stage two, the caution flag waved on lap 158 for the 48 car spinning on the frontstretch. Jones pitted from the 16th position for four tires and fuel. The race restarted on lap 163 with seven laps remaining in the stage. Unable to advance his position, Jones remained in the 16th positon when the caution flag waved on lap 170 to end the stage. The DEWALT team again pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments. With a solid stop, the team gained spots on pit road to restart the race on lap 177 from the 12th position.
- Slipping a few positions following the restart, Jones reported that the DEWALT Camry was a handful. Teams made another round of green-flag pit stops with Gayle calling Jones to pit road on lap 212 for four tires, fuel and adjustments. Returning to the track, Jones remained in the top 15 moving up to 13th before making another green-flag stop on lap 251. Continuing to improve on the DEWALT Camry as the field made a third consecutive round of green-flag stops, Jones was running 14th when the caution waved on lap 297 for a single-car incident. Making the call to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap, the race restarted for the final time on lap 304 with Jones 13th.
- Over the closing laps, Jones was able to gain two positions to bring the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota Camry home in the 11th position.
- Kevin Harvick won the race in dominating fashion followed by Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. to round out the top five.
- Teams now head west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for round three of the 2018 season on Sunday, March 4, 2018.