Friday January 18th, 2019 9:36PM

Erik Jones thinks victory is a possibility this season

By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
  Contact Editor

BROOKLYN, Mich. – When will NASCAR’s young guns start firing on all cylinders?

There’s little doubt that the critical mass of young talent in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is as potent as it’s been since the turn of the century. Only one problem: the veterans in the series are decidedly reluctant to give up the spotlight.

Three drivers in particularly have hogged the trophies and severely limited the winning chances available to the younger competitors. Between them, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. have won 11 of 14 races this season, 19 of 24 events dating back to the start of last year’s Playoff and 24 of 36 races over the past year.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the 20-somethings in the series have despaired of visiting victory lane. Far from it, says Joe Gibbs Racing driver and Cup series sophomore Erik Jones.

“I feel like it’ll come in time,” said Jones, whose best result to date was a closely contested second to Busch at Bristol last year. “There’s no reason to stress or worry about it. I just know that we’re doing all we can to put ourselves in that position to do it and hoping that we do the right things to make it happen.

“So do I think all the young guys will start to kind of roll in and start winning some races? It’s definitely possible. We’re all with very good teams. Ryan (Blaney) has been very fast this year, as well as Kyle (Larson) and Chase (Elliott) as well, so I could definitely see us all winning some races here in the coming months before the Playoffs or even in the Playoffs.

“So it’ll just be interesting to see what happens. There’s a lot of teams that are working on stuff and getting cars better, and it’s going to be interesting to see really who rises to the top here in the next couple months.”

Kyle Busch Still Looking For Speed At Michigan

In the first round of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying on Friday, Kyle Busch got a nasty surprise.

His No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, which had been second on the speed chart in opening Cup practice, was inexplicably slow in the opening round of time trials. Busch was 23rd fastest in the session, barely transferring to the second round.

From that point on, the improvement was dramatic. Busch was second in Round 2 and third in the final round.

“The first round was a bit of a scare,” Busch acknowledged, “But the rest of it was OK. Just didn’t quite get it, but we got everything out of it there the third round. That was all she had, so I wish that we were a little bit faster.

We’re certainly missing just a little bit. It seems like it’s harder to hit it. Just looking at the 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.) and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the 20 (Erik Jones) and those guys, we’re not all as fast as we would like to be, so we’ve got to keep working on it.”

That attitude extended to Saturday’s rain-abbreviated practice session, in which Busch posted the seventh fastest speed (and second fastest 10-consecutive-lap average behind Kevin Harvick). But the 2015 series champion was looking for more.

“The car will be good in race trim, and if we keep the downforce in it, hopefully that’ll pay off better for us on race day—hopefully hot and sunny,” Busch said after rain ended the session.

Short Strokes

-Kyle Larson struggled with a tight handling condition during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying on Friday but appeared to have the issues resolved during Saturday morning’s practice. Larson was second in the session at 200.083 mph, behind only Kevin Harvick (200.719 mph). “That last run on tires – I thought we were as good as anybody except the 4 (Harvick),” Larson radioed to crew chief Chad Johnston. Seeking his fourth straight Cup victory at Michigan International Speedway, Larson will have to overcome a 26th-place starting position to get the job done…

-Rain played havoc with Saturday’s track activity at Michigan. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, scheduled for 9:05 a.m. ET, started late and ended early, though Stewart-Haas Racing driver Aric Almirola managed to squeeze in a session-high 31 laps around the 2-mile track.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Michigan International Speedway – Brooklyn, MI
FireKeepers Casino 400 – June 10, 2018

Sunday’s Starting Lineup

1. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 203.361 mph.
2. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 203.166 mph.
3. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 203.120 mph.
4. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 202.954 mph.
5. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 202.168 mph.
6. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 201.607 mph.
7. (17) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 201.263 mph.
8. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 201.140 mph.
9. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.792 mph.
10. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.401 mph.
11. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 200.061 mph.
12. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 199.784 mph.
13. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.535 mph.
14. (24) William Byron #, Chevrolet, 200.490 mph.
15. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 200.328 mph.
16. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.323 mph.
17. (78) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 200.228 mph.
18. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 200.083 mph.
19. (6) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 199.806 mph.
20. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 199.784 mph.
21. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 199.700 mph.
22. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 199.645 mph.
23. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 199.358 mph.
24. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 199.302 mph.
25. (47) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 199.049 mph.
26. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 198.999 mph.
27. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 198.741 mph.
28. (43) Darrell Wallace, Jr., Chevrolet, 198.555 mph.
29. (95) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 197.954 mph.
30. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 197.704 mph.
31. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 196.915 mph.
32. (72) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 194.437 mph.
33. (15) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 194.170 mph.
34. (23) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 192.647 mph.
35. (51) B.J. McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 192.082 mph.
36. (00) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 191.449 mph.
37. (7) D.J. Kennington, Chevrolet, 187.896 mph.
38. (66) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 186.446 mph.
39. (99) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 186.442 mph.

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