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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Impressive Pocono Performance Leads Jones Closer to Victory

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A full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie hasn’t won an event that was not shortened by rain in nearly a decade. Erik Jones is looking to change that this season and another strong showing at Pocono Raceway proved it is an attainable goal.

Jones earned his best career finish of third on Sunday following a strong second half and a gutsy two-tire pit stop call late in the race.

It’s the Furniture Row Racing driver’s second top-10 finish in three races and third of the season after finishing seventh at Charlotte.

However, despite a lack of impressive results often due to misfortune late in the race, he has posted many promising runs through the first 14 races of 2017.

A slow final pit stop cost Jones a top-10 performance at Las Vegas after he ran among the leaders throughout the afternoon.

Similar circumstances played out at Bristol as a top-10 run was erased after contact with a lapped car eventually cut down one of Jones’ tire and sent him into the wall.

He was again racing in the top-10 last weekend at Dover before a flat tire, and unscheduled pit stop robbed him of another strong result.

The No. 77 team’s greatest challenge seems to be putting a full race together. They overcame this obstacle at Pocono, and it ultimately showed Jones’ potential to battle for a win if he finds himself in contention late in another event this season.

With three first-time winners finding Victory Lane in the last two months including Ryan Blaney on Sunday, it raises the question of who will be next to taste the champagne.

While Chase Elliott has been close before and seems most likely to visit the winner’s circle, it could be Jones becoming the second rookie to win in two years after Chris Buescher captured a rain-shortened victory at Pocono last August.

Jones would become the first rookie to win a race that ran the advertised distance since Juan Pablo Montoya claimed the checkered flag at Sonoma in 2007.

Now heading to Jones’ home track of Michigan International Speedway where he has only made two starts but scored top-five’s  in each, a win would make for quite the homecoming.

Combining the 21-year-old’s potential and impressive Furniture Row Racing equipment makes him a favorite to join the competitors who have earned their first career wins in 2017.

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.