Erik Jones Driven for First Cup Win

Arguably, Erik Jones looks forward to competing for a playoff spot. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Arguably, Erik Jones looks forward to competing for a playoff spot. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Presently, Erik Jones and his No. 77 team face an uphill battle for a playoff spot.  As a matter of fact, the 21-year-old Byron, MI native ranks 18th heading into Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.

Even so, the rookie racer realizes that he cannot make the playoff field by points racing. A victory remains his surefire route with chasing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

All things considered, Erik Jones remains confident about his chances with scoring his first MENCS win. No doubt, a victory this weekend would be special as the circuit returns to Michigan International Speedway.

Furthermore, Jones can take heart that he and his Toyota comrades have been stout since the start of the summer. In fact, a Toyota racer has won four of the past five races.

Jones likes his chances with scoring his first MENCS win. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Jones likes his chances with scoring his first MENCS win. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

“Well, number one, I am encouraged,” Jones said.  “Toyota has really come around here this part of the season I feel like.  We’ve been really strong now for about the last month.  We’ve had some really fast race cars and had an opportunity to win as a whole a number of races.

Being in fast race cars is always a welcome opportunity, obviously. At the start of the year, we had fast race cars, but they just weren’t — I wouldn’t say they were near as good as they are now.

We’re getting better and better, and it’s definitely my hopes are high for sure to go out and grab my first win.”

In addition, Jones points out that he and his team, led by crew chief Chris Gayle, can race more aggressively. For this reason, the sky appears to be the limit for this freshman racer.

“We feel like we’ve been pretty aggressive on strategy pretty much every week and trying to give ourselves the best shot to win, and we’ve done a good job of that,” Jones observed.  “We’ve still gotten some good finishes out of it. But, I definitely feel like we’re more aggressive on strategy than we were the first part of the year.

I think when you look at the schedule, we feel like we’ve got some good tracks coming up.  Michigan will be a good one for us, and especially I think we’ve all got Bristol circled as a team.

We ran really well there in the spring.  We didn’t get the finish we wanted. But, we had a really fast race car.  We’re not looking for top 10’s.  We’re looking to try to go out there and snag a win.”

Of course, the setbacks at Daytona, Richmond, Talladega, Dover, and Loudon put the No. 77 team in a bit of a hole. However, Jones looked towards the glass being half full, not half empty.

On the other hand, Jones understands the unique position that he and his No. 77 team are in this summer. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

On the other hand, Jones understands the unique position that he and his No. 77 team are in this summer. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

“Obviously, I wish we wouldn’t have had some of the mishaps we’ve had through the year,” he said.  “I think we’ve gotten caught up in just really some unfortunate situations and haven’t gotten some finishes we wanted, got some DNFs that weren’t really our fault.  If we could really have those back, I think we’d be in a lot better position for the playoffs right now.”

Above all, Jones and his Furniture Row Racing comrades are in the playoff hunt until the checkered flag at Richmond next month. With six top-10’s in the past 11 races, beyond the Toyota horsepower and all around talent, it could be time to credit his magical mullet.

Coincidence or not, Jones’ strong finishes coincided with the growth of his retro look since May. Ironically, the Michigander resembles someone born in 1986 versus 1996.

“The mullet started, I guess, around my birthday in May,” he said with a chuckle.  “Everybody was complaining my hair was just really long everywhere, and I was kind of joking that I was going to cut it into a mullet.

Sure enough, my cousin was at my birthday party, and she cuts hair and gave me a haircut. Then, Sport Clips took it on. I’ve been going there getting trimmed up, and it’s kind of taken on a life of its own.”

In any case, Jones' future looks bright as his paint scheme. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

In any case, Jones’ future looks bright as his paint scheme. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Ultimately, Jones’ future in NASCAR’s premier division looks bright and promising. Despite how he fares for the rest of 2017, his quick rise up the stock ladder is quite impressive.

As for the how long Jones intends to keep his epic hairdo, it may depend on how he can tolerate it in the grueling, hot conditions of his No. 77 car.

“That’s a good question,” he said, laughing at the matter.  “I don’t know.  It’s awfully long now.  It’s definitely been getting hot in the car a few times, so I’ll see how much longer I can stand it.”

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it’s about anything with an engine and four wheels, you’ll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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