Monday, Sep 26

Erik Jones Back to His Day Job

While the spotlight will shine extra bright on Erik Jones this weekend because he will be making his first official NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start Saturday, the talented youngster continues to remain focused on the primary goal he set at the beginning of the 2015 season; winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver's championship. After a hiatus of over a month, Jones resumes his pursuit of the coveted championship when he returns to the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Friday night's Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.


During his month-long sabbatical from Truck Series action, the teenager was able to showcase his abilities in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and continued to prove that he is a rising star in the sport. At Texas Motor Speedway, Jones started the day off by collecting his second of what would be three consecutive series pole awards and ended the day with his first trip to the winner's circle. After rolling off from the top spot, he led a race-high 79 laps and outmuscled Sprint Cup Series stars Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr., on a late-race restart to earn the monumental win. The XFINITY Series victory, combined with his four career Truck Series victories allowed him to break Chase Elliott's record for most NASCAR National Series wins before the age of 19 - a record which Jones still has five-scheduled races to add to his total before he turns 19 on May 30.


What did Jones do for an encore the following week? How about starting the afternoon on his couch in Cornelius, N.C., and ending the night in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. After Denny Hamlin experienced a neck strain early in the race at the high-banked track, Jones was summoned to the airport during a lengthy rain delay. He hopped on a plane in North Carolina, landed at the closest airport to Bristol, helicoptered from there to the track and arrived just in time to climb into a Cup car for the first time when the red flag was lifted. Despite being thrown into the fire, he slowly but surely got a feel for things and began posting impressive lap times. When it was all said and done, the teenager ended the day admirably in the 26th position.


Meanwhile with three of 23 races completed on the Truck Series schedule, the NASCAR Next Alum sits third in the championship standings and has a sizeable lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year rankings. While he has yet to reach victory lane in his No. 4 Tundra this season, the racing prodigy leads the series in several statistical categories, including Driver Rating (118.1), Average Running Place (3.489), Average Start (4.3), Green Flag Speed (2.667 Average Rank), Percent of Quality Passes (96.7), Laps in the Top 15 (488), Fastest Early in Run (3.333 Average Rank) and Fastest on Restarts (4.667 Average Rank).


As Jones gets "back to his day job," a win in Friday night's Toyota Tundra 250 would be an extra special one for some of his biggest supporters. Toyota's logo has adorned the hood of his Tundra for the majority of his Truck Series races the last three seasons, so getting the manufacturer to victory lane in the race with their name on it would be a nice "thank you" gesture. Additionally, Jones' mother, Carol, was the one who pushed his father, Dave, to let Erik fulfill his affinity for racing at the age of seven with the purchase of his first quarter-midget car. There's no doubt that mom would happily accept a trophy in place of flowers this weekend as a Mother's Day present. 



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