NASCAR CUP SERIES: RYAN BLANEY OR ERIK JONES MORE IN NEED OF A WIN?

Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to earn 15 victories in the first 16 races of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season. But one driver on each team has not yet won.

Through 16 races on the 36-race 2019 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott is still the only non-Joe Gibbs Racing/Team Penske driver to win a race this year, as he won the race at Talladega Superspeedway in late April.

Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to win each of the other 15 races that have been contested so far this season, and five of the seven drivers who drive for these two teams have earned multiple victories in 2019.

The other two drivers, however, have not yet been victorious at all.

While Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. sit atop the Cup Series wins list with four victories each and they are followed closely by Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski with three victories as well as Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Team Penske’s Joey Logano with two each, one Joe Gibbs Racing driver and one Team Penske driver are still searching for their first victories of the season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney are winless through the season’s first 16 races. But who is in more need of a win?

The easy answer to this question would be Jones, as there have been ongoing rumors that Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell may replace him behind the wheel of the #20 Toyota in the 2020 season.

Bell recently re-signed with Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2020 season, but the series in which he is slated to compete in 2020 has not yet been determined. Even in the midst of his struggles earlier in the season, Jones stated that he was not worried about a new contract with the team, and his attorney, Alan Miller, believes that a new contract is on its way. However, once again, nothing has been confirmed, leaving purely speculation at this point.

Jones has not performed all that well at Joe Gibbs Racing since replacing Matt Kenseth ahead of the 2018 season, as his only victory in 52 starts is his win in last year’s July race at Daytona International Speedway when he led only the race’s final lap. He was eliminated in the round of 16 in what was his first career playoff appearance last year, and he currently sits below the playoff cut line with 10 races remaining on this year’s regular season schedule.

Blaney, meanwhile, is in a similar situation as far as his performance and his results are concerned. He has also won only one race in his 52 starts since arriving at Team Penske ahead of the 2018 season.

He won last year’s September round of 16 playoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval after the then top two drivers crashed in the final turn on the race’s final lap, allowing him to make the winning pass coming to the checkered flag in his #12 Ford. He was then eliminated in the round of 12.

However, not much attention has been paid to Blaney’s performance and results compared to Jones’s because it does not appear that he is at risk of losing his ride, at least not in the near future.

Additionally, while Jones sits in 18th place in the championship standings, five points below the playoff cut line, Blaney sits all the way up in ninth, 78 points above it.

So is there even a comparison between the two drivers?

Surprisingly, there is, and even more surprisingly, it’s almost an identical comparison.

Blaney has scored 468 points so far this season while Jones has scored 386, marking a significant 82-point difference.

However, 122 of Blaney’s 468 points are stage points, meaning that he has only scored 346 points based solely on his results. Only 42 of Jones’s points are stage points, meaning he has scored 344 points based solely on his results. That leaves only a two-point difference.

Blaney’s average finishing position so far this season is 15.75 while Jones’s is 15.81, which translates to a total of one position over the course of 16 races. Blaney has recorded five top five finishes and six top 10 finishes while Jones has recorded four top five finishes and seven top 10 finishes. The top finishes of both drivers are third place finishes.

Aside of where these two drivers tend to run at the stage breaks and the fact that one drives a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and another drivers a Team Penske Ford, there is hardly any difference to how well they’ve performed.

In terms of which of these two drivers is more in need of a win, the answer is definitely still Jones, although it’s not as clear-cut as it seems. Blaney has a comfortable overall advantage as far as the championship standings are concerned, and unlike Jones, he has had the luxury of not being constantly rumored to be replaced by the hottest prospect within the Joe Gibbs Racing organization, the Toyota organization and NASCAR in general.

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