To the drivers, a win is a win. Erik Jones’ victory at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400 locked him into the playoffs and insured he would be part of the conversation for the remainder of the year. That win came in the middle of a four-race, top-10 streak – but in light of his overall restrictor-plate, superspeedway record, it was unlikely that he was on very many rosters. Jones’ average finish at Daytona is fourth-worst at 24.3 even with his victory; his Talladega average of 29.0 makes that his worst track.
Four consecutive top-10s were the most he was able to amass during the season. That is also the longest he went without scoring a top-10. Jones was incredibly strong, but uneven during 2018.
Of course that is what one expects from a sophomore driver. The best of them have little difficulty in managing to go fast, but car control is another issue. Jones was sidelined or slowed by crash damage six times in 36 races – including one that was not of his making in the playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that kept him from going very far into playoffs.
The good news is that Jones finished in the top 10 in exactly half of the races contested in 2018, so he earned well in season long contests.
One more year of experience should improve not only Jones’ performance, but make him more predictable from a fantasy handicapping perspective. Heading to track for the fifth and sixth times in his career is going to allow him to roll off the hauler faster, so his practice speeds will be more representative of his race performance.
Early indications are that Jones will be at his best on similarly-configured, 1.5- and two-mile tracks. With a few notable exceptions on courses where he has crashed in the past, these are the courses on which he has the best average finishes – notably Kentucky Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway.
But Jones has also performed well at Darlington Raceway, the road course of Watkins Glen International and the flat Pocono Raceway. If he can avoid trouble for an extended period of time, he is capable of stringing six or seven top-10s together. That will make him a great value in keeper leagues or as a utility driver when he is rightly-priced in salary cap games.
Three Best Tracks
Darlington (6.5 in 2 attempts)
Kentucky (6.5 in 2)
Watkins Glen (7.5 in 2)
Three Worst Tracks
Talladega (29.0 in 4)
Homestead (24.0 in 2)
Kansas (21.6 in 5)
Victories: Coke Zero 400, Daytona
Top-fives: 9 (.250)
Top-10s: 18 (.500)
Top-15s: 23 (.639)
2018 Finishes at or above their rank? = 20 (55.6%)