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Jones learning, growing in time for playoffs – NASCAR

Jones learning, growing in time for playoffs – NASCAR
14 Sep
7:23

LAS VEGAS — Erik Jones has been on a hot streak heading into the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, but it’s turning down the heat that has been the key to his success.

Jones spent his third full year in the Cup Series intensely focusing on what he and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team needs to compete against the sport’s elite, including the improvement of decisions he makes on the track – his top priority.

“I would say my natural tendency is to do too much,” Jones said during Thursday’s NASCAR Playoffs Media Day. “Try to drive too hard. I still do it, right? Look at Bristol (Motor Speedway) – we were still racing for the win, racing for the lead and there were still 80 laps to go and I made a mistake, got into the wall. You have to refocus.”

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Apart from finishes of 18th or worse at Bristol, Michigan International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jones has finished fourth or better in five of the last eight races, including his second career victory in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

It’s that triumph during NASCAR’s throwback weekend that showcased how Jones has been able to fast-forward his ever-evolving learning process.

“There’s situations in the race where it’s not time to push and where it’s not time to be aggressive,” Jones said. “That’s the biggest thing I had to focus on was when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive. Darlington was a perfect race for us. Just be aggressive when it mattered, giving stuff up when it didn’t matter.”

While Jones doesn’t possess the experience of JGR teammates Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. – all major threats for the 2019 Monster Energy Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway – he has performed with more veteran-like prowess on a consistent basis recently.

RELATED: Printable playoff grid | Las Vegas schedule

Jones needed time to figure out the new aerodynamic rules earlier in the year, but he has simultaneously achieved better finishes while learning when to push the envelope and when to not give the car more than it can handle.

It’s that advancement that could make Jones a significant sleeper for a deep title run as the NASCAR Playoffs kick off with Sunday’s South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“This was a new learning experience with what to focus on and what you need to be fast,” Jones said. “All those things kind of combined is what I’ve been trying to work on this year. As a driver you’re always growing and learning. That was the biggest thing for me this year to try to work on and be better at.”

Source: https://www.nascar.com/news-media/2019/09/13/erik-jones-recent-success-playoffs-las-vegas-2019/

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