Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones believes his first NASCAR Cup series win lifts the pressure he felt from replacing one-time champion Matt Kenseth for 2018.
Jones took his first Cup win at the 57th attempt in his second full-time season at Daytona last weekend, coming in his first year with JGR after switching from Furniture Row Racing.
Kenseth was forced out of the Cup series due to a lack of competitive options before his part-time return with Roush Fenway Racing.
JGR’s Kyle Busch has since leaned on the alliance with Furniture Row and Toyota’s Martin Truex Jr to make up the experience deficit.
“You feel the pressure [in replacing Kenseth], and coming into the year taking over and working with almost the same group that was with Matt last year, you feel that,” he said.
“You want to go out and perform and run really well and I definitely feel like this race, this win, has lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders.
“Coach [Joe Gibbs] has been very committed to me and very supportive of everything that we’ve done this year, and over the last few years that I’ve been with Joe Gibbs Racing [Jones also drove for JGR in the Xfinity series].
“But you still feel that pressure. You still want to win. And myself as a competitor, regardless of who I’m replacing or where I’m driving, you want to win races, and you want to be a winner.
“You don’t want to be riding around. It’s good to get top 10s and top fives but at the end of the day you want to win races and you want to be competitive, and you want to be a contender.”
Jones denied that there was any extra pressure in being a young driver searching for a win.
One of the Daytona weekend’s main talking points was a rare admittance from NASCAR luminaries regarding falling attendance, with young drivers pinpointed as a key cause.
When the 22-year-old was asked if he felt any pressure from those comments, Jones said: “Not really. It’s just a matter of time.
“It’s great to get our first win knocked out, and I hope and I’m sure we’re going to have opportunities to win some of these next nine before the playoffs, and hopefully have a nice little championship run here coming up.
“You know, all of these young guys, myself, Chase [Elliott], Ryan [Blaney], Daniel [Suarez], are going to all win races. It just takes time to learn and grow.
“We’re racing guys that are 10, 15-year veterans of the sport, and they’re pretty good at it.
“It takes time to catch up, but I feel like we’ve all done a pretty good job, and we’re getting closer every week.”