Rookie Report: Can-Am 500

Jones picks up top-five finish at Phoenix

By John Haverlin
November 12, 2017

AVONDALE, Ariz.—Four of the five drivers eligible for the Rookie of the Year title competed in the penultimate event of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday.

Erik Jones was the highest finishing rookie for the second consecutive week. He started 11th and finished fourth to capture his fifth top-five finish of the year.

Jones finished seventh in Stage 1, third in Stage 2, and collected 45 points to pass Clint Bowyer for 18th in the standings.

He was satisfied with the result and was happy to see Matt Kenseth earn his first win of the year. Jones was announced as the next driver for the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota earlier this year.

“We had a good racecar; ran up in the top five all day,” he said to The Racing Experts. “We had two tires and those guys didn’t. I missed a shift on the (final) restart and it kind of cost us a shot at it, Good day, we were in contention all day.

“...We had the speed that we needed, we just didn’t get the track position and didn’t get up there and get a shot at the win.

“It’s good to see (Kenseth) win. I’m glad I get to see Matt go out with a bang like that. He deserves it and had a dominant car all day long and did what it took to win today. Definitely happy for Matt. I respect him as a driver and as a person and I’m really happy for him.”

Daniel Suarez, Kenseth’s teammate, was also glad to see the veteran earn what possibly was the final victory of his career.

“I’m very happy for him, he really deserved it,” Suarez said.

Suarez had a subpar day. He started 10th but was often the last car on the lead lap throughout the race. He ended up 18th and the last driver to complete all 312 laps.

“We were pretty bad,” he said. We didn’t have the speed, we had a lack of communication, it just wasn’t a good day.”

Ty Dillon finished 11th, tying a career-high finish in the No. 13 Chevrolet. He started 29th and ran as high as ninth in the final segment of the race.

“I wish we could have had some more of these throughout the season,” he said. “When you are running good like that you get to learn a lot more.  We had a couple of mistakes that might have kept us from running even better than what we ended up.  

“But, proud of our effort.  I learned a lot about what it takes to race good here in the Monster Energy Cup Series.  I feel like all-in-all it was a great finish, but I feel like I learned more than what this finish is going to show.”

Corey Lajoie started 33rd and finished 31st in BK Racing’s No. 23 Toyota. He fell off the lead lap on lap 32 and ultimately finished nine laps down.

Dominic Aragon/The Racing Experts