NASCAR: GameStop in for 10 races on Erik Jones’ XFINITY ride with Gibbs

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Erik Jones’ part-time drive this year for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series will feature a familiar sponsor.

After supporting Sprint Cup veteran Matt Kenseth over the last two years of NXS competition, GameStop will now back Jones and the No. 20 JGR Toyota Camry in 2015 for 10 events.

Those events include the NXS season opener at Daytona on Feb. 21, the two races at both Texas and Charlotte, and single races at Fontana, Bristol, Richmond, Phoenix, and Homestead-Miami.

Along with his NXS schedule, Jones will also compete full-time this year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He made three NXS starts in the No. 20 Toyota last year with finishes of seventh at Chicago, eighth at Bristol, and sixth at Phoenix.

“As a gamer, I’ve always followed the cars GameStop puts on the track each year,” Jones said in a release. “It’s so cool that they change their paint scheme for every race, and they’ve featured many of my favorite games. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to combine my love for gaming with my career as a NASCAR driver.

“I know we’ll be competitive each week with the GameStop Toyota, and I’m confident we’ll be able to get us a win, or a few, this season.”

Mike Wheeler, former race engineer for Denny Hamlin on JGR’s No. 11 Sprint Cup team, will now take over as Jones’ crew chief on the team’s No. 20 NXS program.

“Erik is a great addition to our program and will be a great representative of GameStop,” team president J.D. Gibbs said in the same release. “We also have Mike Wheeler stepping up to lead the No. 20 Toyota team as crew chief. It will be exciting to watch those two together as they run up front and contend for wins each time Erik is in the No. 20 Camry.”

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.