Erik Jones scored his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win to highlight his 2018 season.
After spending a year at Furniture Row Racing, Jones returned to Joe Gibbs Racing for his sophomore season to drive the No. 20 Toyota and raced his way into the playoffs for the first time in his career.
"We accomplished a lot of our goals, things that we wanted to get better and things that we wanted to work on," Jones said. "We still have some minor stuff that we want to continue to improve, but for the most part it was a good season."
Overall, Jones put some impressive numbers on the board in 2018. He posted nine top fives and 18 top 10s – a career most in a season – and attributed much of his success to the tutelage and guidance of crew chief Chris Gayle.
"We have grown so much from the start of the year," Jones said. "I have grown a lot as a driver and I feel Chris has gown a lot as a crew chief. Just to see how far we have come since the start has been rewarding."
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The highlight of the year came in the Daytona July race when Jones scored a dramatic win. Jones outran Martin Truex Jr. in a two-lap overtime shootout to take his first career Cup Series checkered flag.
"Oh boy, how ’bout that race boys and girls?" Jones asked the crowd while being interviewed at the start-finish line by NBC. "That was something else, man. I thought we were out of it and all of a sudden we were right back in it, take the lead and ran away. Wow, what an awesome race. … My first Cup win, my first win at Daytona, my first superspeedway win. What an awesome day, man."
Jones looks back at the win as a learning process as well and believes it gave the team something to build on going forward specifically with confidence.
"The win definitely helped in that aspect, plus we started running pretty good after that…we ran top 10, top five pretty consistently, which has probably been the best stretch of my Cup career," he explained.
Although he was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Jones was also reflective on how the experience can be beneficial in the future.
"Bonus points is big," he explained. "Unfortunately the first round of the playoffs we got caught up in a wreck and didn’t have any bonus points and that was the end of our run. Having some more bonus points next year is going to be really key."
Jones and the entire No. 20 team is set to return in 2019. As for the remainder of the off-season and the holidays, Jones plans to spend it in his native state.
"I’ll be back home in Michigan where I grew up celebrating with family and friends," he said. "We have a good party planned for New Years. I’m Looking forward to it. It’s always fun."
Previous 2018 Season Reviews