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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Jones Content with New Team, Earns First Career Top 10 at PIR

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Starting a new team from the ground up can be difficult in any racing series — even for the highest-budget organizations.

But Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie Erik Jones is finding consistency with the seven-month-old Furniture Row Racing No. 77 team and earned his first career top 10 at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday.

Jones, who won his first NASCAR national series race at PIR in November 2013 in a truck, finished eighth in the Camping World 500. Remove the 39th-place result he had in the Daytona 500, and he’s averaging a finish of 12th to start his first year in the sport’s top level.

He earned four Stage points by running seventh at the conclusion of Stage 2 at the desert oval and sits 18th in the points standings — the highest among five Cup rookies.

“This week was better than I thought it would be,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED. “I know we have ups and downs, but it was my goal and the team’s goal to steadily improve each week, and I think we’ve done that.”

The 20-year-old Michigan native has veteran Martin Truex Jr., who visited Victory Lane last weekend at Las Vegas, as a teammate at FRR, but he hasn’t had to ask for much advice from the No. 78 driver.

“You look at your own data, and it takes a lot of the questions out,” Jones said. “Fortunately, we’ll see he’s doing this or doing this … OK, we’ll figure that out. It helps a lot. I study pretty hard.”

Jones said the team has meshed well together with first-year Cup crew chief Chris Gayle holding the reigns, and a “new camaraderie” has formed among the No. 77 team.

“We’ve been getting everyone to execute well over the last few weeks,” Jones said. “We’re definitely competitive and bringing fast cars to the track. We’re executing well on pit road, and we’re executing on restarts.”

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John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.