Tired of waiting: Erik Jones more than ready for Truck Series return
Erik Jones rocked the NASCAR world in November at Phoenix International Raceway by becoming the youngest winner in Camping World Truck Series history at 17 years, five months and nine days old.
Since that memorable night, Jones has had plenty of time to reflect on his achievement. That’s because he hasn’t competed in a Truck Series race since.
Jones, whose part-time deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports for 2013 consisted of only five races, didn’t run the next weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and also wasn’t on the grid for last month’s 2014 truck opener at Daytona International Speedway.
"It definitely seems like a really long time," Jones said. "For a race car driver, I think four months is a lifetime being out of a race car."
This season’s plans call for Jones to be in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota for 12 races, starting with Saturday’s Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Jones, who is once again sharing the seat with team owner Kyle Busch, watched the Daytona race where Busch edged Timothy Peters with a thrilling last-lap pass for the win.
While Jones was certainly happy to see his boss succeed, the competitor in him was less than satisfied.
"It was pretty cool to see Kyle pick up the win, in such a finish, but at the same time, you wish you were out there running and doing the same thing," said Jones, who won’t celebrate his 18th birthday until May 30. "I’ve got my chance this weekend, and I’m really going to go and try to make the most of it."
Jones recorded top-10 finishes in each of his five starts last season for KBM, including a ninth-place result at Martinsville where he made his series debut one year ago this weekend.
In addition to his history-making truck win in 2013, the Byron, Mich., native also collected an ARCA Racing Series triumph at Berlin Raceway and wins in two of Super Late Model’s biggest races — the Winchester 400 and the Snowball Derby.
"I’m hoping to kind of pick up where we left off last year," Jones said. “The 51 team was strong at Daytona, obviously, picking up the win there. Hopefully, we can go out and be just as strong at Martinsville. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to."
While Jones is still a relative newcomer to the big leagues, he is no stranger to competitive stock-car racing. He has four years of experience in Late Models, having started driving at age 13.
"I felt pretty confident getting in the Truck Series, and didn’t really feel like we rushed it at all," Jones said. "Obviously, running in the top 10 in all the races and picking up that win really got my confidence boosted well for this year."
And his boss also has confidence that he is up to the task.
"At just 17 years old, he shows a lot of poise behind the wheel, provides great feedback to the crew chiefs and he has already proven that he can win on some of the biggest stages," Busch said. "I’m really looking forward to seeing Erik continue to develop as a driver with his increased schedule this season."