Typically, rookies don’t fare well at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway. It’s a daunting place that chews up and spits out the best of the drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. But, after all three practice sessions so far this weekend at the high banked .533-mile Tennessee short track, a rookie is shining.
Erik Jones was fastest in the lone practice session of the day on Friday afternoon, then he backed that up with even more speed and was second fastest in the first of two practice sessions on Saturday morning.
In final practice, Jones put on a sticker set of tires on his final run and moved up to sixth on the speed chart.
Being first, second and sixth respectively through three practices this weekend bodes well for the youngster to take his No. 77 Toyota to victory lane for the first time of his Cup career in Sunday’s Food City 500 (2 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN).
Jones, 20, will be making just his ninth career Cup start this weekend, but if he can win already, it would be astounding. Also, if he can win, both Furniture Row Racing drivers would have reached victory lane in 2017 before any of the four Joe Gibbs Racing teams.
That too would be remarkable.
Jones, has been quick all season long, with finishes of 39th, 14th, 15th, eighth, 12th, 12th and 22nd respectively.
He’s won at Bristol before too, taking the win the last two years now in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race in the spring. He also finished fourth in the spring race there in 2015, to give him three top fives in four career XFINITY Bristol starts.
He also finished sixth in his lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Bristol in 2015, to give him four top six finishes in five career Bristol starts.
That’s why a good result this weekend wouldn’t be too shocking despite his rookie stature.