After a one-year stint with Furniture Row Racing, Erik Jones will be taking over Matt Kenseth’s #20 Toyota in 2018 for the organization he’ll probably spend a very long time with: Joe Gibbs Racing. This move should give Jones a little more stability both with his equipment and crew, as well as get rid of the somewhat-“lame duck” status he had over at Furniture Row. Additionally, crew chief Chris Gayle is coming over to the team with Jones, so the chemistry should be pretty good from the start. Now hopefully Erik can avoid the dreaded sophomore slump that hits so many drivers.
Cup Series History
The 2017 season was the rookie campaign for Erik Jones, and he definitely went through some growing/learning pains. He completed just 90% of the laps ran last year, and when you hear that number, it’s not all that surprising that Erik posted eight DNFs in his first full-time season in NASCAR’s top series. Being boom-or-bust was kind of an issues Jones had in the Xfinity Series, too, though–and for fantasy owners, that can be extremely frustrating. Overall, the 2017 saw Erik Jones get some great experience, and his average finish of 15.3 in the second half of the year (compared to 17.1 in the first half) is a great sign for the upcoming sophomore year.
Predictions for the Upcoming Season
In order to make it to the next “level” in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Erik Jones is going to have to get the boom-or-bust thing under control. With that being said, there were quite a few races in 2017 that we saw him legitimately compete up front–particularly at Bristol in August when he led 260 laps and ended up finishing 2nd to Kyle Busch. That time period was particularly good for Jones, too, as he had four straight races of finishes of 6th or better.
Overall Expectations: It’s easy to overlook Erik Jones as a part of the “young guns” in NASCAR when you have guys like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney (among others) stealing the spotlight, but Jones is one driver that could have a breakout year in 2018. During his rookie campaign, Erik was able to post 14 top 10 finishes despite only completing 90% of the laps and having 8 DNFs. That’s actually pretty damn impressive. If Jones can avoid the sophomore slump (no easy feat), there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to get that top 10 finish number closer to 20.
Can Erik Jones win a Cup Series race in 2018? A lot of people were actually surprised that Jones didn’t win a race in his rookie year, although I personally would’ve been surprised if he did. With that being said, Erik almost won at Michigan and probably should have won at Bristol in August last year, and he should be a tick better with JGR equipment this year. I could definitely see Erik Jones in victory lane once or twice in 2018, probably at one of the flat tracks (or Bristol).
Erik Jones as a Fantasy Option in 2018
DraftKings: In 2017, it was few and far between when it came to the races where Erik Jones was a good option in DraftKings. Part of this was because he rarely got any dominator points (outside of Bristol anyway), as well as the fact that he had an average place differential of negative 2.5 over the course of the 2017 season. If Jones can avoid the sophomore slump, though, I think we’ll be talking about him quite a lot in DraftKings discussions during 2018.
Season-Long Salary Cap Games: Obviously your main concern here is consistency. If Erik Jones has the same DNF problem in 2018 that he did last season, you probably won’t see him on many of the top season-long salary cap Fantasy NASCAR rosters. There’s plenty of upside in taking a chance with Jones in these types of games, though, as he has legitimate potential to finish inside the top 10 each and every week. Not to mention, he should be moderately priced in most games after his 19th-place points finish last year.