Erik Jones ran one NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race last year, in a substitute role for Noah Gragson at Kyle Busch Motorsports.
As it turned out, that experience informed his opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session at Pocono Raceway, where Jones started 31st in the No. 18 truck last year because of the driver change and charged to a runner-up finish.
“I never really would have thought this, but I drove that truck here last year filling in, and it actually helped me a lot making my first few laps (in Friday’s Cup practice), because I kind of knew it would be similar to that,” Jones said Friday during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Tricky Triangle, venue ahead of Sunday’s Pocono 400 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“So I tried to copy that a little bit, and it was pretty close. You lift probably a little more in (Turn) 1 than I thought, I guess if I really have to pin it down, but you’re carrying a lot of speed. You’re not off the throttle much, compared to what we had here the last couple years.”
The higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package introduced this year will yield significant differences in the way drivers turn a lap at the 2.5-mile, three-cornered track. For one thing, a new gear rule effectively eliminates shifting gears down the frontstretch. For another, off-throttle time is lessened, though Jones found in practice that he was using more brake than he expected.
“Probably more than I thought,” acknowledged Jones, who was fourth on the speed chart in the final practice. “Going into the weekend, yeah, I didn’t think we’d be needing much of any (brake) in any of the corners, really.
“I’m using a little bit into (Turn) 1 — I mean a really small amount. None really into (Turns) 2 or 3. Not any significant amount. I didn’t know that we’d be using any brake, so it’s a little bit more than I thought. As far as throttle traces and how I thought it was going to drive, it feels pretty close.”
WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY SUPPORTING WALLACE, VICTORY JUNCTION
Bubba Wallace has a new sponsor livery on the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet at Pocono Raceway this weekend, and it speaks to creative financing that will benefit not only Wallace but also children attending the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
World Wide Technology founder and chairman David Steward and his family made a leadership gift to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, in support of the camp’s mission to enrich the lives of children with chronic medical conditions and serious illnesses.
Victory Junction, in turn, will appear with World Wide Technology on Wallace’s car for 16 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this season, starting this weekend at the Tricky Triangle. The sponsorship, which operates with the mantra “Feel Your Heart Race,” is fully funded by the Steward Family Foundation through the donation designed to promote the camp and its work with children.
To team owner Richard Petty, it’s an important breakthrough for an organization that has been operating on a smaller budget than many of its rivals in the Cup series.
“It’s always important to have good backing for your race car,” Petty said on Friday during the announcement at Pocono Raceway. “We’ve got a pretty good driver — we’ve just got to get him a better car. As everybody knows, it takes money to make a better car …
“It’s a perfect storm for us from a racing standpoint and a perfect storm for Victory Junction to get the name out there. A lot of people’s heard tell of it but don’t know what it is. This is going to give everybody a chance to see what Victory Junction really does.”
Wallace found out on Tuesday that the partnership had been finalized.
“I was kind of speechless at first,” Wallace acknowledged. .”.. We’ve got an opportunity to set the world on fire. To speak on Victory Junction, I’ve been able to visit twice, three times maybe, and there’s no cooler special place to see. The kids light up and let themselves be kids again.”
Daniel Suarez sustained his ascendance in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice — at least for one session. After leading both Saturday sessions for last week’s Coca-Cola 600, Suarez was fastest in Friday’s opening session at Pocono Raceway, turning a lap at 171.217 mph. “I feel like we need to be a little bit better in the longer runs,” said the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, who was 17th-fastest in Happy Hour …
Kurt Busch jumped to the top of the speed chart late in the final practice, posting a speed of 172.712 mph on his fastest lap. Brad Keselowski was second quickest at 171.798 mph, followed by Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch …
John Hunter Nemechek lost control of his No. 23 Chevrolet and backed it into the Turn 1 wall early in Friday’s opening NASCAR Xfinity Series practice. Because of extensive damage to the rear and driver’s side of the car, Nemechek’s GMS Racing team opted to go to a backup car and spent the rest of first practice and beyond preparing the backup for the second session. Nemechek was 14th-fastest in Xfinity Happy Hour, but trailed leader Cole Custer (169.383 mph) by more than three miles per hour.
–By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media