By Matt Weaver — Erik Jones says his short track background and age has not completely prepared him for his debut drive in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. With that said, he expects that his teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing should put him in position to contend on Saturday night in the standalone event at Chicagoland Speedway.
Jones will make his tour debut this weekend in the No. 20 JGR Toyota and hopes to log all the laps above everything else, especially given his overall lack of experience in a Nationwide car. Prior to his practice laps on Friday, Jones had only tested a Nationwide car once — on the short track at Memphis, Tenn.
“At first I’m just going to be looking to make laps and get to the end of the race and hopefully be running up in the top-10,” Jones said. “At the end of the day we’re all race car drivers and we all want to go for the win. I think we’ll be challenging hard to do all we can to run up front and contend and at the end of the day I hope we’ll be up there.”
Jones will make two other starts in the Nationwide Series this year in addition to his slate of Truck Series rides. He will also race at Bristol and Phoenix in the No. 20 Nationwide Series entry with teammates like Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish Jr. during that span.
He believes that will give him an edge that few other prospects have when rising up the NASCAR ladder system.
“My background is short track racing,” Jones said. “I haven’t had a lot of experience with racing on a mile-and-a-half with how the air works and all of that. But definitely my mindset is to just take advice from my teammates. I’ve got two great teammates there in Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish, so definitely going to lean on them a lot and hopefully get a lot of information out of them as to what they do on these tracks and how they race.
“They’ve obviously done it a lot longer than I have and just hopefully I can learn a lot from them and go into the race and learn a lot and come out a better driver than I was.”
In fact, Jones said that outside of his parents, Busch has been the most instrumental person in his career starting with the moment that they went head-to-head in the 2012 Snowball Derby — a race that launched his career to where it is today.
“I think he’s been the biggest person in my career, especially since I’ve been up at the Late Model level and above,” Jones said. (He) has been able to really show me the right way to go and what is definitely his opinion on what he thinks I should do next.”
So far, so good with that direction launching Jones of the verge of making his first career start in the Nationwide Series.