Friday, May 8, 2015

Kansas Practice Notes & Driver Ratings: Erik Jones wows during Friday's practices

Erik Jones was given odds of 75/1 to win this week at Kansas
Erik Jones, making his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut this week, laid down the fastest lap during the final practice session at Kansas Speedway in preparation for Saturday night’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400. Jones’ speed at 191.306 mph came on his final of 26 laps attempted while in qualifying trim as Kyle Busch’s latest replacement in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Toyota.

In all my years of following every practice speed, I have never seen a driver make his debut on 1.5-mile track and lead the final practice session, but all indications from those in the know are that this 18-year old is a special talent and we'll be seeing his name atop speeds charts over the next decade.

So what does that mean to his odds, which the Westgate SuperBook had set at 75-to-1? The odds will drop just as a precautionary for sure, maybe 40-to-1. While being fast in qualifying trim is one thing, we also have to consider that he had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average in the first practice among the 11 drivers that ran as many. He had the ninth fastest lap (186.806) during that session.

If those speeds were attached to just about any driver other than a kid making his debut, he would be given strong consideration to be a winner this week. One other factor to consider is that Jones won his first Xfinity Series race last month at Texas, which was the last 1.5-mile track run on this season and the Xfinity Series cars are more similar to Cup cars in 2015 than ever before because of the new rules package.

The transition for Jones shouldn’t be as tough as it would have been in years past. It’s obvious he’s got talent and the JGR power looks better than ever on 1.5s this season, which was validated by Carl Edwards also having strong speeds.

Look for a strong run out of Jones, which is a major upgrade from what I initially thought where I felt he might just try to stay out of trouble and use all 400-miles as a learning curve before he gets his full-time ride. But he’s got some speed, and that should be respected.

The biggest reason for suggesting he won’t win Saturday night is just because of the beastly No. 4 driven by Kevin Harvick. In the first practice session, he had the fastest lap (190.772) and during the final session he had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average. He’s also using the same chassis that led 142 laps and dominated at Las Vegas, a track that is probably the most applicable to Kansas among the 1.5-mile tracks ran at this year.

If Harvick has trouble, then Jones will have to slay Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jimmie Johnson who all practiced well Friday and all have been dominant on 1.5s this season as well.

Logano has led 150 laps between the three 1.5s, Junior has finished fourth or better on them and Johnson has won twice among the three. Johnson is also using his winning Texas chassis from last month.

That’s a stiff road to climb for Jones even if his car was the best on the track. However, Jones’ Friday performance just made Saturday night’s race all the more interesting to watch. He will be the story of the race, or at least at the beginning.

Read More here.............Final Driver Ratings

No comments: