For most NASCAR rookies, competing at a track for the first time can be quite daunting. But then again, Erik Jones wasn’t like most rookies when he headed west in November 2013 to compete in his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
Jones was making just his fifth Truck Series start as an 18-year old rookie for Kyle Busch Motorsports and, despite his youth, Jones felt right at home on the one-mile, desert oval. He led three times for a race-high 84 laps en route to his first Truck Series victory and first national NASCAR series win. To show it was no fluke, Jones came back to Phoenix the following year and won again, this time from the pole in a dominating drive where he led all but 36 of the race’s 150 laps.
Now in his fourth full year in the NASCAR Cup Series and third as the driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Jones heads back to the “Diamond in the Desert” with his sights set on another victory.
Phoenix has proven to be outrageously dependable for Jones, who will appropriately represent JGR’s founding sponsor and longtime partner, Interstate Batteries, in Sunday’s FanShield 500k. It will mark Jones’ second straight NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix carrying the Interstate Batteries colors, as he drove the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry to a solid seventh-place finish last November.
Jones would like nothing more than to get his third NASCAR Cup Series win – and first at Phoenix – in the new green-lighting Interstate Batteries paint scheme. In seven NASCAR Cup Series starts at Phoenix, the 23-year-old from Byron, Michigan, has a best finish of fourth in November 2017, along with three other top-10s. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Jones posted top-10 results in all seven of his appearances at Phoenix, including five top-fives.
And with a top-10 in his most recent NASCAR Cup Series race last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Jones comes into Phoenix getting hot along the weather, as temperatures are predicted to hit the mid-80s. The sunny weather is a welcome reprieve from the typically harsh environs of Jones’ home state of Michigan, where snow is possible on Friday before swinging to 60-degree weather on Sunday. And as a bona fide car guy, Jones knows full well how those temperature swings can affect a car’s battery, making him an ideal spokesman for Interstate Batteries. As such, he and Interstate Batteries are encouraging consumers to take advantage of Interstate All Battery Centers® and its nationwide offer of free battery tests.
Jones passed his first test at Phoenix with flying colors, and as he returns for his 115th career NASCAR Cup Series start and eighth at Phoenix, he eyes a return to victory lane.