Erik Jones wins pole for playoff opener at Las Vegas

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Erik Jones wins pole for playoff opener at Las Vegas
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Sep 15, 2018, 12:37 AM

Erik Jones says he may have been flying under the radar this season but not now.

Jones, 22, sent a statement that his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing has the speed to compete for this season’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, rocketing to the pole for Sunday’s playoff opener.

Jones used an average lap speed of 188.121 mph to top Joey Logano (188.101 mph) and lay claim to the top starting position in Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The pole is the first of the season for Jones and second of his career (the other was at Bristol, Tenn., last season).

“I knew we had a good car in practice but I didn’t know if we’d get the pole,” Jones said. “The track kind of came to us and I thought I knew what we needed to do adjustment-wise. We got the (car) where it needed to be and put together a really good lap.

“You can’t start them off any better than that. We have a long ways to go this weekend but we got the speed to do it.”

Jones said knowing that his team has the speed to compete, they just need to “keep it rolling.”

“I feel like we’ve been kind of under the radar. We’ve been running really well and we just got to put it together for one really good race,” he said. “I think we can do that. We’re one to watch.”

Denny Hamlin qualified third, Kyle Busch was fourth and Kevin Harvick completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 12 starting positions are Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray.

la # Driver 4506 Laps Time Gap Interval Mph
1 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 1 28.705     188.121
2 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 1 28.708 0.003 0.003 188.101
3 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 1 28.781 0.076 0.073 187.624
4 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 1 28.815 0.110 0.034 187.402
5 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 1 28.816 0.111 0.001 187.396
6 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 1 28.864 0.159 0.048 187.084
7 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 1 28.918 0.213 0.054 186.735
8 41 United States Kurt Busch  Ford 1 28.957 0.252 0.039 186.483
9 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 1 28.974 0.269 0.017 186.374
10 78 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 1 29.017 0.312 0.043 186.098
11 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 2 29.040 0.335 0.023 185.950
12 1 United States Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 1 29.488 0.783 0.448 183.125

Round 2

Jones ended up rising to the occasion in the second round, turning in the fastest average lap speed (187.911 mph).

Harvick was second (187.833 mph) and Logano third (187.820 mph). Hamlin and Larson completed the top-five.

Also advancing to the final round were Elliott, Truex, Kyle Busch, Blaney, Bowman, McMurray and Kurt Busch.

Both Truex and Kyle Busch were sitting outside the Top 12 when both made a last-minute second qualifying attempt. They each took the green-flag just before the 10-minute session officially ended.

They ended up posting the seventh and eighth-fastest speeds, respectively.

Among those who failed to advance were Brad Keselowski, who won the last two races, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon.

Keselowski said he still felt good about trying to make it three-in-a row.

“I feel good about this year’s playoffs, we just need to avoid the breakdowns and wrecks and those things,” Keselowski said. “I think we can do that.”

13 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 1 28.936 0.199 0.001 186.619
14 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 1 28.939 0.202 0.003 186.599
15 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 3 28.942 0.205 0.003 186.580
16 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 1 28.947 0.210 0.005 186.548
17 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 3 28.953 0.216 0.006 186.509
18 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 3 28.957 0.220 0.004 186.483
19 19 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 3 28.962 0.225 0.005 186.451
20 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 1 28.965 0.228 0.003 186.432
21 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 3 28.970 0.233 0.005 186.400
22 31 United States Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 1 29.054 0.317 0.084 185.861
23 6 United States Trevor Bayne  Ford 1 29.088 0.351 0.034 185.644
24 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 1 29.203 0.466 0.115 184.913

Round 1

Harvick, the spring race winner at Las Vegas, led the way in the first round with an average lap speed of 188.778 mph.

Logano was second (188.699 mph) and Bowman was third (188.258 mph). Larson and Bowyer completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Almirola, Blaney, Jones, Johnson and Keselowski.

Kyle Busch just made it into the second round, posting the 24th-fastest speed in Round 1. Busch had been complaining of his No. 18 car’s handling during the day in practice.

Among those also failing to advance were Regan Smith, David Ragan, A.J. Allmendinger, Ty Dillon and Darrell Wallace Jr.

Reed Sorensen in the No. 7 Chevrolet failed pre-qualifying inspection twice and elected not to make a third attempt, instead making no qualifying attempt.

5 95 United States Regan Smith  Chevrolet 3 29.160 0.555 0.005 185.185
26 32 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 1 29.199 0.594 0.039 184.938
27 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 3 29.233 0.628 0.034 184.723
28 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 3 29.243 0.638 0.010 184.660
29 47 United States A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 3 29.252 0.647 0.009 184.603
30 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 3 29.311 0.706 0.059 184.231
31 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 1 29.538 0.933 0.227 182.815
32 72 United States Corey Lajoie  Chevrolet 1 29.890 1.285 0.352 180.662
33 99 United States Kyle Weatherman  Chevrolet 1 29.903 1.298 0.013 180.584
34 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 1 29.944 1.339 0.041 180.337
35 96 United States Jeffrey Earnhardt  Toyota 3 30.004 1.399 0.060 179.976
36 23 United States J.J. Yeley  Toyota 1 30.095 1.490 0.091 179.432
37 00 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 3 30.289 1.684 0.194 178.283
38 51 United States B.J. McLeod  Ford 3 30.416 1.811 0.127 177.538
39 66 United States Timmy Hill  Toyota 1 30.667 2.062 0.251 176.085
40 7 United States Reed Sorenson  Chevrolet      

Take a virtual lap around Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the No. 78 Toyota Camry of Martin Truex Jr., courtesy of NASCAR Heat 3, which you can order now:

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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Las Vegas II
Drivers Erik Jones
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Author Jim Utter
Article type Qualifying report