Erik Jones wins pole for playoff opener at Las Vegas
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.
|10||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||1||29.017||0.312||0.043||186.098|
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.”
|14||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||1||28.939||0.202||0.003||186.599|
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.
|31||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||1||29.538||0.933||0.227||182.815|
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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