One of the feel good stories from Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono was Erik Jones and his No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team.
After all, Jones and Petty GMS Motorsports are making tremendous strides in their second year together. Prior to Sunday’s race, Jones improved upon his performances with two top fives and six top 10 finishes compared to six top 10 results last year.
Certainly, Jones and crew chief David Elenz are maximizing their results each weekend. Outside of a 22nd at Sonoma, 26th at Road America and 19th at Loudon, the 26-year-old Byron, Michigan native has finished 11th or better.
While Jones had a stellar performance and showing at Fontana (third, 52 points), Sunday’s race at Pocono was a complete performance.
Rolling off the grid from 34th position, Jones marched his way to the front, placing seventh in stage 1. Despite the split agenda with pit strategy among the lead lap contenders, “That Jones Boy” tallied a fifth in stage 2.
By all means, the No. 43 team was genuinely competitive on account of pace and handling. However, stage 3 was a bit of a struggle as Jones placed 11th.
However, once NASCAR announced the disqualifications of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, Jones improved his results by two positions in the first two stages and ultimate race result of ninth.
Jones continues to bolster Petty GMS’ Cup efforts in grand fashion. As the Michigander continues to fight for one of the final Playoffs spots, he understands the tall task ahead with only five races remaining in the regular sesason.
“The mid part of the race we were really good and I was really happy with it,” Jones said per a team press release. “Just got tight at the end of the race. It cooled down a lot and we probably didn’t stay ahead of that enough.
“The FOCUSfactor Chevy was good. Frustrated. We had the speed, kind of all weekend, and then hacked up qualifying a little bit, had to start at the back and found our way back to the front and then just got behind. A good weekend in the fact we did have good speed.”
Although Jones has tallied respectable results in the past month, it was a mixed experience at “The Tricky Triangle.” Still he considered the positives while the team was without its primary crew chief.
“It’s been a minute since we’ve had that kind of speed and I was happy with that,” he said. “It’s frustrating that we came home ninth. You want to come home better than that with a car like that. Just got behind. It was a big day.
“Dave (Elenz) was enjoying his time off today and Danny (Efland) was enjoying his time on the box today so we had a lot of different stuff going on. I don’t think that was any benefit to our situation, but a good day. We’ve got to keep pushing, got to keep going. We’ve got to win at the point so hopefully we can find ourselves in that spot.”
Before Jones can consider a postseason possibility, he and his Cup competitors will take on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix circuit. Surely, his focus is on race 22 of the Cup season, but the following round has his attention.
“I think Michigan is going to be a good one for us,” he shared. “I think similar things that work here will work there car wise. I look at Daytona, obviously, is going to be a shot for us again. Those are probably the two I’ve really got circled coming up.
“The short track stuff has been a bit of a struggle, road courses as well so those aren’t going to be our friend. So, Michigan and Daytona for sure. I hope we have a shot. Would love to get one in Michigan, that would be pretty cool.”