Chicagoland Speedway is not the home track for Michigan native Erik Jones but his confidence leading into Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 is as if it were.
The Furniture Row Racing rookie driver and his No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota team earned their sixth straight and 11th overall top-10 NASCAR Cup Series finish this season with last week’s sixth-place result at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. Jones’ brief yet very successful history at Chicagoland Speedway boosts his confidence even further.
The Byron, Mich., rookie has two victories and two other top-10 finishes in just four starts at Chicagoland Speedway. Jones finished seventh in his track debut in the July 2014 XFINITY Series race. In June 2015 he earned his first victory there in the XFINITY Series and finished sixth that September in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Last September the now 21-year-old captured his second Chicagoland victory in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
“Any time you can go back to a track where you’ve been successful, whichever series you’re racing, you’re always going to have a little more confidence,” said Jones. “Chicagoland Speedway is one of my favorite tracks on the schedule because we’ve won there twice in the XFINITY Series so I’m excited to see what we can do there in the 5-hour ENERGY Toyota.
“I like the fact that you can move around at Chicagoland, run the bottom, middle and the top lane. The asphalt is worn out, a little bit slick. I think all that combined feeds into my driving style so, again, I have a lot of confidence there.”
Jones is 18th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after 26 races and the top 16 playoff points reset. He is 10 points behind Clint Bowyer for 17th. Jones leads the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 245 points, 14 ahead of Daniel Suarez (231) and 67 ahead of Ty Dillon (178).
“One of the goals we set at the beginning of the year was to get a win so the primary focus for these final 10 races is to get one and close the year out strong,” said Jones. “We may take an extra risk here or there but they’re relative to what’s going on at a specific time in the race. This 5-hour ENERGY team has really come together strong for the past couple of months now so we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing, minimize our mistakes and, hopefully, that creates the opportunity to win one of these things.”
The 267-lap, 400-mile Tales of the Turtles 400 will consist of three stages of 80/80/107 laps (laps 80/160/267). Sunday’s race will air live beginning at 1 p.m. MT (3 p.m. ET) on NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and MRN. Qualifying (multi-car, three rounds) is scheduled for Friday at 4:45 p.m. MT (6:45 p.m. ET) on NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and MRN.