Hello to anyone taking the time to read this! Thanks to the great people at POPULAR SPEED I have been given the opportunity to give you all a little insight into the 2015 season. This year I will be driving the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), as well as select races in the No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS).
For my “Driver Diary,” I will write something a few times each month giving you a little insight into what is happening in my world. I will hit on a few hot topics in the racing world, and I will also take the time to answer some of the questions you all have for me! You will find out how to ask those questions at the end of this blog. That’s right… I’m going to make you work for it 😉 Enjoy!
To kick this thing off I should probably tell you a little more about myself.
The name is Erik Jones, I’m 18 – birthday is on May 30th (if you want to send a gift I have an address on the contacts page of my website – www.erikjonesracing.com- that would work 😉 ((I’m totally kidding about that)) and I’m from the great village of Byron, Michigan. Yep, I came from a village… population of 565 according to Wikipedia! It sits east of Lansing, almost to Flint.
Outside of racing I like to scuba dive and golf – although I should probably get some golf lessons here soon.
The way I got into racing is kind of a funny story. My grandpa, on my mom’s side, did a little drag racing and he was really into cars, so my mom was always around cars growing up and I guess I showed an interest in cars when I was younger too. One day, while she was flying back home from a nursing conference, she picked up a magazine on the plane and read an article about this thing called Quarter Midget Racing. I guess after that she had it set in her mind that this was something she wanted me to be a part of because after my dad shot down the idea, she told him “We are going racing with or without you!” and so it began!
I really enjoyed those years in quarter midgets. It was something we did as a family. My younger sister, Lindsey, even raced for awhile. I loved having so many friends at the racetrack, friends I still have today! It was always cool to have something that I would look forward to on the weekends as much as I did with racing.
After quarter midgets I started racing at Owosso Speedway, in Owosso, Michigan. I started out in, what was then, the pure stock division, which was just their 4-cylinder class. After one race in that series, my family was politely asked to move up to the next division higher. I then started racing a street stock for the rest of the year and we won one race and ended up as rookie of the year.
The next year I started racing in the ASA Late Model Series, which at the time was a crate late model series. I learned a lot at this level. I started racing longer races, about 100 laps, and had to figure out how to manage tires during a race that was long enough to wear them out. I moved from ASA into the CRA/JEGS All-Star Tour for its inaugural year and ended up winning the championship! I was only 14 at the time. From there I continued to race around in late models, and dabbling into super late models at the end of the 2011 season, won the Governor’s Cup and then in 2012 I continued to race a few late model races and some ARCA races.
If you would have asked me how my 2012 season was before the Snowball Derby in December, I would have said it was my worst season to date. I went from winning races and a championship to winning nothing. It was a tough pill to swallow. However, I suppose all that was worth it because the 2012 Snowball Derby was a game changer!
People ask me a lot, “What was it like to beat Kyle Busch,” and I’ll admit it was pretty awesome. I mean the guy is a beast in anything he jumps into, especially a late model. We share a common love for those types of cars, so winning in them is a lot of fun.
So, because my 2012 season was stale, I had nothing going into 2013 after the derby. I was planning on once again racing late models for my family. After the derby and a series of meetings with a couple of team owners, we met up with Kyle and the people over at KBM. We worked out a deal to run five races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I was pretty excited and really saw it as my break at the time into the top three levels of NASCAR. I also knew I would be in top-tier equipment, so the pressure to perform was high. This would truly show if I had what it took to be successful.
I would describe my first year, and even to this year, my third year in the Trucks, as “Learning.” That’s really been the biggest thing for me over the past couple of seasons, the amount of information I have taken in from Kyle and just seat time has been amazing. I have learned more over the past two seasons than I have my entire career. I got a break and we were able to make something happen out of it.
For up-and-coming drivers I will tell you this, it has a lot to do with just being in the right place at the right time. I think the way that I have done things the last two years has really prepared me to make a solid run for the driver’s championship this season. I have never really just jumped into a full season in anything in NASCAR. I’ve practiced and worked at things to make sure I am ready for when the time comes to win Championships.
Now enough of that boring past information, lets dive into the here and now!
I’m writing this sitting on my couch in North Carolina reflecting over the past weekend and the hot topics that are surrounding us today.
Before this weekend I had never ran a lap around Daytona International Speedway. So Kyle and my crew chief on the truck team, Rudy, sat me down and told me a thing or two.
Kyle made sure to mention to be the best teammate that I could be this year. I have always somewhat struggled with having great relationships with my teammates, as I look at everyone on the racetrack as a competitor, I have had trouble separating that from outside life as well. You can’t always look at someone who is going to be working with you side-by-side as a threat. He also made sure to mention just to be smart, because points racing is a lot of give and take… maybe even when you don’t want to sometimes.
Rudy told me to start the year right and not give us a hole to dig out of. If you wreck at Daytona, it really makes for a long couple of races after that, you will have to play catch up with everyone else, which is exaggerated with our short 23-race schedule.
Kyle and Rudy are two guys I really look up to, so I made sure to keep those words in the back of my mind while on the track.
The truck race was really uneventful for me, thankfully. We were fortunate to start up front and be able to stay up front for most of the night. We tried to fight for a win at the end, but really didn’t have enough trucks left at the end to try and make anything happen. On Tv, it may look like you need to make a move right away, but no one could get the top line going at all during the race. I think if we had been second at the end we could have challenged Tyler Reddick. Yet, all in all it was a solid start to our season and hunt #4thechampionship.
Then the XFINITY race… man was that intense!
We qualified well and stayed towards the front for most of the race. Watching Regan Smith flipping in my mirror was pretty wild, to say the least. It really looks like a video game when you look behind you. I had no idea how close we were to being involved in that wreck and I’m thankful it wasn’t me flying through the air.
Anyways, I slid through my pit stall at one point and fell back to 11th under caution, but we were able to roll right back up to third in about three laps, which really showed me just how strong our GameStop Toyota Camry was. Towards the end of the race, everyone started pushing harder and harder. I felt like I had positioned myself in the best spot that I could have. Unfortunately, with a few laps to go, I got a little free through the tri-oval and after some contact, went around. This triggered a pretty big wreck. It was disappointing for sure, but the superspeedway races are always unpredictable no matter how good of a spot you believe you’re in. I was really concerned for Kyle.
I didn’t know how hard of a hit he had, but I knew he wasn’t in the infield care center with the rest of the drivers. Then all of a sudden I get the word that I’m being summoned back to my car! I guess it wasn’t in as bad as shape as I thought and the field was red so I wasn’t losing any laps. I wish I could have driven the car back up through the field, my adrenaline was pumping and I was ready to go race again, but all the tires were flat after the wreck.
If I take a step back and really looking at where I am today I couldn’t be more pleased. My dream was to get to NASCAR, but it always seemed so far away. Now actually being here, being 18, and running full time in the truck series, is about all I can ask for. I have made some great relationships with a lot of great people, and that has been able to propel me even further in the sport. I am so thankful for all the great people at Toyota and for Kyle and Samantha Busch. Now I know that might sound like a sponsor plug, but it’s not, it’s the truth. They are the ones who have believed in me and have given, and continue to give me a shot at making my dreams come true. I am truly having the time of my life, and really can’t wait to see what the future is going to bring.
Editors note: Erik Jones will drive the No. 54 for Kyle Busch in this weekend’s XFINITY Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Now, that was quite the story! How about for the next one we tell you a little bit about what is happening in my life and I answer some questions from you! Feel free to ask me anything using the @POPULARSPEED #askErikJones. I’ll look back through the questions and pick a few of my favorite and give you a shout out.
Until next time.