For the first time in his brief Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones returns to Daytona International Speedway as a defending race winner. The driver of the No. 20 JGR Toyota earned the win in only his fifth Cup start at the track.
And while the 2.5-mile Daytona high banks have typically proven tough for many competitors, the 23-year old Jones seems to have taken to the style of fast, tight competition rather well. He has three top-10 and a pair of top-five finishes in five starts, including a third place in this season’s Daytona 500 as an impressive follow-up to last year’s summer victory.
He has only two Coke Zero Sugar 400 Cup starts, but his 5.00 average finish in the race is still tops statistically.
Jones has been strong especially as of late. He has three top-10 finishes in the last four races and five in the last seven. He’s scored a season-best third place, three times – at Daytona, Texas and Pocono. He comes to Daytona ranked 17th in the championship hunt, only 15 points behind 16th place Clint Bowyer in the Playoff cutoff position.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Daytona,’’ Jones said. “It’s always cool coming back to a track where you are the defending race winner. Looking forward to the race and defending our win from last year.
“It’s always fun to get down there on the 4th of July. It’s usually a great crowd, a great turnout and great atmosphere for the race. Looking forward to getting out there and hopefully we’ll be able to get another win to lock ourselves in the Playoffs and have a lot fun at the same time.”