Last Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park, newly turned 18-year-old Erik Jones was leading in a Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota before a bump from German Quiroga abruptly ended his night with seven laps left.
Jones, who last November at Phoenix International Raceway became the youngest winner in Truck Series history, was visibly upset after wrecking hard with a potential second victory in sight.
The youngster had a reason to smile again late Thursday, however, as Joe Gibbs Racing announced that the Michigan native will pilot the No. 20 JGR Toyota in three Nationwide Series races later this season.
Jones, who is sharing the No. 51 Toyota truck this season with team owner Kyle Busch, will make his Nationwide debut with JGR on July 19 at Chicagoland Speedway and return to the seat at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 22 and Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 8.
"I’m really excited about the opportunity to run some Nationwide races this year with Joe Gibbs Racing," Jones said. "Since I wasn’t able to run a full season this year, adding to my Truck Series schedule was something I’ve been working hard on. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be partnering with a team like JGR and have the chance to get behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota Camry.
"They are always a threat in the Nationwide Series. I was able to test with the team and Kevin Kidd (crew chief) a few weeks ago in Memphis and felt really comfortable. I have high expectations for all three races."
Jones made his NASCAR national series debut last year in a KBM truck, recording five top-10 finishes in as many starts. His history-making win at Phoenix came at just 17 years, five months and nine days of age.
The recent high school graduate has qualified in the top five for each of his three truck races this season and has a season-best finish of 11th, recorded earlier this month at Texas Motor Speedway.
In addition to his Truck Series debut in 2013, Jones won an ARCA Racing Series race at Berlin Raceway in his home state of Michigan, and scored victories in two of Super Late Model’s biggest races — the Winchester 400 and the Snowball Derby.
"We have a long history of working with talented young drivers and we think very highly of Erik," JGR team president J.D. Gibbs said. "He has certainly been impressive in Kyle’s equipment in the Truck Series, and I think we’re all anxious to see him perform in the Nationwide Series now."