Race Weekend Central

Erik Jones Earns Podium with Strong Run and Gutsy Strategy

Erik Jones and his No. 43 Legacy Motor Club team are finding the speed to compete at the end of the 2023 season. However, on Sunday (Sept. 10) at Kansas Speedway, he had to fight his way up to the front of the field.

LMC and the No. 43 have certainly improved after showing speed at Darlington Raceway last weekend where Jones finished 10th.

Little did LMC and owners Jimmie Johnson and Maury Gallagher know that the tides would continue to turn favorably for them the following week in Kansas.

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Not everything has been easy for the No. 43 team this year, though. That includes the dip in performance compared to 2022, when the team had an average finish of 16.3 and won the Southern 500, versus this season with a dip in average finish to 19.1 after Kansas.

“We’ve had just an up-and-down year. Just a tough year,” Jones told Frontstretch. “We got eight more races now left to finish well and try to win.”

Jones started the day 19th behind a plethora of fast cars. However, even in the early stages of the race, Jones was able to drive his car into the top 10 by lap 23 and kept his car running up there throughout the race but not with the early leading cars of Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace.

Problems with drivers in front of Jones, which befell Wallace and William Byron, among others, certainly helped Jones’ position on track. He Michigan native was heavily aided by his pit crew as well, though, as they gained the No. 43 Allegiant Chevrolet Camaro plenty of spots on each stop.

Jones used that track position to battle for a top-five finish, running as high as second and battling with one of the fastest cars of the day in Denny Hamlin.

He drifted a few spots back to sixth on the last long green-flag run until, with seven laps to go, playoff driver Chris Buescher changed everything for the field with a blown right-rear tire.

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That’s when crew chief Dave Elenz made the gutsy decision to pit for two tires for the overtime restart.

Jones found himself outside of the front row in second with Daniel Suarez, who stayed out. That caught Jones slightly off guard.

“The [No.] 99 staying out kind of mixed things up for me,” Jones said. “I planned on being the leader. I’ll take the bottom, and then I’d have to just worry about guys on the outside, and we got three-wide, and things kind of went a little haywire after that.”

He battled fiercely with fellow two-tire warrior Joey Logano before the faster four-tire duo of Reddick and Hamlin made the pass on Jones before the finish.

Even if he’d been clear of Logano, Jones still acknowledged that keeping Reddick and Hamlin at bay would have been a very tall task.

“It would have still been hard to win,” Jones said. “[The] Nos. 45 and 11 were coming with a big head of steam, but on the frontstretch there, just being side-by-side, we lost a ton of time, a ton of speed.

“Nothing of Joey’s fault, really. We’re both racing for the win, and we’re both trying to go for it. So it is what it is. It’s just good to be up front and good to be in contention, and we had a shot.”

Regardless, Jones cashed in on an excellent strategy to improve his finish and give LMC another solid result after a woeful beginning to the season. That gives the team something to look forward to, with the end of the season approaching and their transition to Toyota in 2024 getting closer and closer.

About the author

Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

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4 Comments
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jim

Since when does Na$car have podium finishes?
Another thing borrowed from F1….be yourself Na$car

DoninAjax

And Indy Car and MotoGP and Porsche series and a LOT of other series that have real “races” and have more “entertainment”.

DoninAjax

Seeing as how there is a lot of horsepower on the tracks would you settle for Win, Place and Show?

Ronald Thornton

If I just finished anywhere other than first, I don’t want to be anywhere I might get confetti on me that was intended for someone else. I’ll be in the hauler drinking a beer and NOT celebrating second or worse

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