Following what he thought was a fourth place finish last Saturday night in Richmond, Erik Jones’ prospects of making it to the Round of 12 looked good. He entered the weekend 26 points out but thought he was leaving just four points behind.
Then the penalty came.
Jones’ car failed post race inspection so instead of Joe Gibbs Racing finishing 1-2-3-4 and Jones being right in the thick of things to make the second round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, he was credited now with a last place finish in each stage and a last place finish for the race itself.
That leaves Jones as the only driver facing a must win in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBC/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He’s now 45 points behind the cutoff spot, meaning it’s win or go home for the Michigan native.
The good news is, if anyone of the bubble drivers can win, it’s Jones.
Kurt Busch in front of him has just one top five finish in his last 13 races on the season and only two in his last 20. Clint Bowyer is ahead of Busch but he has scored just one top five result in his last 14 races. Alex Bowman is in front of him but Bowman has just two top 10 finishes in his last 11 races overall and one top five in his last 16.
William Byron is holding the final cutoff spot but he has three career top five finishes. Aric Almirola is 11th in the standings but the Stewart-Haas Racing driver hasn’t had a top 10 since Daytona in July nor a top five since Phoenix in March.
Think any of them can win?
Jones has actually been strong on road courses lately. He’s scored a top 10 finish in five of his last six road course starts including being eighth in Sonoma and fourth at Watkins Glen this year alone.
Plus, JGR is at their best believe it or not on road courses. They went 1-2-5-8 in Sonoma and 2-3-4-11 in Watkins Glen. They also have won 15 of the 27 races run this year including four out of the last five.
Jones, can certainly win on Sunday and make it to the next round by virtue of that.