Friday night was going to be memorable for Erik Jones regardless of how he fared in the WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.
That’ because the 18-year-old rookie in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series skipped his high school graduation to compete at the track for the first time.
While he wasn’t at the ceremony at Swartz Creek (Mich.) Community Schools, he still got to share in the same kind of pomp and circumstance as his fellow graduates. The track saw to that.
Before driver introductions, Jones walked across the stage in his cap and gown and received his diploma from track president Eddie Gossage. Gossage added to the festivities by giving Jones a racing diploma as well since this was the first 1 ½ mile track for Jones to race on. And just like a traditional high school graduation, Jones had plenty of family on hand. His parents Carol and Dave were there along with his sister and grandparents.
"It kind of started off as a joke," Jones said before the ceremony. "Texas Motor Speedway was gracious to get this all together and actually do a graduation for real. It will be interesting to see what they have planned but I’m looking forward to it. Being able to graduate at a race track, I don’t think I would have had it any other way."
While Jones wasn’t at the head of the TMS class Friday, he did just miss a top-10 finish as the No. 51 Toyota came home 11th. He has already shown advanced skills though on the track, as last year he became the youngest winner in the series history at Phoenix at the ripe old age of 17.