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Erik Jones First-Time Pole Winner at Bristol

by Pete McCole
Friday, August 18, 2017

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Erik Jones
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

After 27 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, rookie Erik Jones capture his first-career Coors Light Pole Award after taking the top spot in Friday's qualifying session for Saturday night's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Jones turned in a lap of 128.082 mph in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry to claim the top spot from last weekend's winner Kyle Larson, who will start second ahead of Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth.

The pole beats his previous career-best start of fifth earlier this season in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and comes just a week coming within a few positions of winning his first-ever Cup Series race at Michigan.

"It's awesome. It's cool any time you get your first pole in a series, but to do it at Bristol, that's pretty cool. I'm just excited," said Jones, who started 14th and finished 17th in his only Bristol start back in April.  "I wasn't sure if that lap was going to hold out, but I knew it was a pretty good lap time for us. I knew it was all I had so just cool to be coming off a good week at Michigan and then coming back here, started off right.

"I was hoping we were going to be able to accomplish a few things this year and this was one of our goals – at least one of my goals for sure. Pretty awesome you know, especially at Bristol. It's a cool place to get your first pole."

Jones helped lead a Toyota rush in the opening two rounds of qualifying, finishing sixth in the opeing round behind Kyle Busch and ending up third behind Hamlin and Kenseth at the end of the second round.

He was one of the last drivers to take to the track in the third and final round before motoring to top of the speed charts.  Among the drivers Jones shuffled down the line after taking the pole was Matt Kenseth, the driver he will be replacing at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018.

Matt Kenseth
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Kenseth, who is still without a ride for 2018, will roll off fifth in his Toyota Camry in his 18th-career start in the Bristol night race, where he's posted two straight DNF's.

"(The lap) was pretty good. The balance wasn't bad," said Kenseth. "We were just a little off on speed there. Everybody is so close together, but it was pretty good."

Kasey Kahne might not have a ride lined up for next season, either, but that doesn't mean he's going to go away quietly.

Already with a victory this season at Indianapolis and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs in his back pocket, Kahne recorded his best Bristol start since 2013 and will looking to rebound after crashing out last weekend at Michigan.

"The (Indianapolis) win was kind of out of nowhere and pretty awesome and ever since I feel like we have been a little bit better," said Kahne, who has one career victory at this track. "We still have some work to do, but you know it's not really time yet. Hopefully, we can get it before those final 10 (races)."

Martin Truex Jr. qualified sixth, followed by Hamlin, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Blaney.

Among the surprising names who failed to advance past the first round were Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., while spring race winner Jimmie Johnson didn't make it through the second round.

Saturday night's race will mark the third Bristol race weekend where the track has applied a traction compound racing surface. The compound, called "PJ1 TrackBite" has also been used at Charlotte and New Hamshire Motor Speedways to varying degrees of success, the idea being the enhanced traction will lead to multiple racing grooves and increased passing.

Over the last few days, the track surface has been subjected to several torrential downpours – including one rain shower prior to qualifying – which means the track official may have to re-apply more of the compound before tomorrow night's race.

"The one thing that has hindered us the last two races here with the top not coming in quick enough is all the rain we've had," said Jamie McMurray, who qualified 11th. "Once the top gets rubbered in that will be the fastest groove"

"They are not putting the ‘sticky stuff' quite as wide around the bottom this time as the spring (race), so that is going to make the pace down there a little bit slower already," said second-place qualifier Kyle Larson. "I think the top is going to be really good.  It's going to be racy as always."

RACE LINEUP

Pos.#DriverMakeSponsorLapBehindSpeed
177Erik JonesToyota5-hour ENERGY 14.981LEADER128.082
242Kyle LarsonChevyHuggies Little Movers14.984-0.003128.057
35Kasey KahneChevyRated Red15.005-0.024127.877
424Chase ElliottChevyNAPA15.031-0.050127.656
520Matt KensethToyotaDeWalt Flexvolt15.042-0.061127.563
678Martin Truex JrToyotaBass Pro Shop15.046-0.065127.529
711Denny HamlinToyotaFedEx Ground15.062-0.081127.393
822Joey LoganoFordShell Pennzoil15.108-0.127127.006
914Clint BowyerFordRush Truck Centers15.117-0.136126.930
1021Ryan BlaneyFordMotorcraft15.1260.145126.854
111Jamie McMurrayChevyMcDonalds/Cessna15.225-0.244126.030
1219Daniel SuarezToyotaIrwin / Lenox15.244-0.263125.872
1331Ryan NewmanChevyCaterpillar15.100-0.119127.073
1417Ricky Stenhouse JrFordFastenal15.108-0.127127.006
1537Chris BuescherChevyBush’s Grillin’ Beans15.120-0.139126.905
163Austin DillonChevyDow Energy & Water15.121-0.140126.896
172Brad KeselowskiFordAutoTrader15.133-0.152126.796
1818Kyle BuschToyotaM&M's Caramel15.143-0.162126.712
1938David RaganFordJuice Battery15.146-0.165126.687
206Trevor BayneFordTim Duerr EcoBoost15.179-0.198126.411
2148Jimmie JohnsonChevyLowe's15.181-0.200126.395
2213Ty DillonChevyGEICO15.230-0.249125.988
2347AJ AllmendingerChevyKroger Click List15.337-0.356125.109
2410Danica PatrickFordOne Cure15.403-0.422124.573
2541Kurt BuschFordMonster Energy15.194-0.213126.287
2695Michael McDowellChevyTBD15.212-0.231126.137
2727Paul MenardChevyKnauf / Menards15.255-0.274125.782
2843Aric AlmirolaFordSmithfield15.255-0.274125.782
294Kevin HarvickFordBusch Outdoors15.259-0.278125.749
307JJ YeleyChevyTBD15.282-0.301125.559
3188Dale Earnhardt JrChevyAxalta-Ducks Unlimited15.287-0.306125.518
3272Cole WhittChevyBad Boy Mowers15.329-0.348125.175
3334Landon CassillFordLove’s Travel Stops15.376-0.395124.792
3432Matt DiBenedettoFordE.J. Wade Construction15.406-0.425124.549
3583Corey LajoieToyotaHMS Motorsport15.453-0.472124.170
3651BJ McLeodChevyNEX Transportation15.503-0.522123.770
3755Gray GauldingToyotaLaColombe Draft Latte15.531-0.550123.546
3833Jeffrey EarnhardtChevyHulu 15.554-0.573123.364
3915Reed SorensonToyotaLow T Centers15.623-0.642122.819
4023Joey GaseToyotaBest Home Furnishings15.777-0.796121.620


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