Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Beating Kyle Busch opened doors for the high schooler who will compete in Saturday's truck race.
Courtesy Erik Jones Racing
Erik Jones wasn’t old enough to start his Truck Series career at Daytona this year.
Courtesy Erik Jones Racing
Erik Jones got a pat on the back from Kyle Busch after beating the NASCAR Sprint Cup stalwart in the Snowball Derby. Better yet, he got a job.
Friday, April 5, 2013
MARTINSVILLE — Most NASCAR fans don’t know the name Erik Jones yet.
So listen up, gearheads: Here’s your introduction to arguably the luckiest 16-year-old in the world these days.
First, Jones has the luxury of performing the vast majority of work toward his degree at Swords Creek (Mich.) High School online via his laptop computer.
Jones’ Utopian-like deal doesn’t stop there, however. While most of his high school pals toil in the classroom today, Jones will be gearing up at Martinsville Speedway for his first NASCAR Truck Series start in Saturday’s Kroger 250.
Think this kid isn’t blessed?
“Oh, life is great now,” Jones said. “Just do that school online and get to go racing all the time!”
While he has been doing his schoolwork online for the past 18 months as he gallivanted across the country for his family-owned Super Late Model racing team, Jones earned his trip to Martinsville by outrunning Sprint Cup stalwart Kyle Busch to win December’s prestigious Snowball Derby Late Model race in Pensacola, Fla.
Busch was so impressed by Jones’ performance on the half-mile short track that he soon invited the kid to come drive part time for his NASCAR Truck Series team that includes drivers Darrell Wallace Jr. and Joey Coulter.
“I don’t think I’m here if not for that,” Jones said of his triumph at Five Flags Speedway. “I had known Kyle for about a year from some Late Model races we’ve run together. Plus, I tested his car at Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds for him when he was running Talladega that weekend, too, just to help him keep up with the racetrack.
“The Derby was a big part, getting to race him like that. Kyle is a hard-nosed racer, he’s aggressive. Especially in the Derby ... you’ve got to get aggressive to win that thing. But it wasn’t too bad. We raced pretty clean there. A little bumping but nothing crazy, nothing out of the ordinary.”
After the stunning victory, Jones said Busch came over gave him a big pat on the back.
“We just talked after the race about how it went and I thanked him for racing me clean … and he just said he races everybody the way they race him. We had a good clean fight to the finish, though, we really did. It was definitely fun racing with him.
“And now with him being my boss is kind of cool. He’s a guy I look up to and respect.”
Obviously, the feeling was mutual. Busch originally wanted Jones to run in the Truck Series season opener at Daytona in February. Big problem, though. Jones wasn’t old enough. Soon after Daytona, NASCAR lowered the driver age limit from 17 to 16 for Truck Series events on tracks of under a mile in length.
“I probably would have started Daytona just to run the full season if I was old enough old,” Jones said. “But to start at Martinsville is definitely better for me. I’ve raced short tracks. I like the contact, just getting in there and getting rough. It’s kind of a lot of the driver, that’s why I like it. You get on those big tracks and it’s a lot about how your truck or car is handling, a lot of aero comes into play.
“But I’ll be right at home here.”
The current plan calls for Jones to run five races this year — two at Martinsville and Iowa, plus another at Rockingham. Still, it’s pretty strong stuff for a kid who didn’t get his driver’s license until 10 months ago.
“Being 16, I didn’t even expect to be this far with my career right now,” said Jones, who couldn’t stop grinning during his team’s media appearance in Martinsville last week.
“Looking back, when I was 12, 13 years old running Street Stocks I didn’t really think that I’d be here right now, especially. Being this far already in my career 10 years down the road ... all I honestly want to do is make a career racing. You never race for the money but being able to make a living doing something you love is pretty awesome.”
So is not having to physically show up in the high school classroom five days a week nine months a year. Talk about another dream deal there.
“The classes are through a website online,” Jones said. “Technically, I’m a full-time student at Swords Creek. But I mean not really.
“You do have to come and check in every once in a while, though. I mean there’s other kids in the [online] class. They’ve got tutors in there if you need help with any math or stuff like that.”
When asked how much he banked for winning the prestigious Snowball Derby, the teenager broke into laughter.
“I think it paid $20,000 or something,” he replied.
And his cut?
“My cut? I don’t get nothing! Like I said, it’s a family owned team,” added Jones, noting he saved his spare change for eight years to buy his first street ride, a 1995 Pontiac Trans Am, in which he has yet to receive a speeding ticket.
No big deal. The boy had the winning ticket in the Snowball Super Lotto.
“Exactly,” Jones said. “That’s how I look at it.”
Truck practices are scheduled at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. today. Qualifying is scheduled for 5 p.m. … Saturday’s race will be the first for the Truck Series since the Feb. 22 season opener at Daytona, won by Johnny Sauter. Darrell Wallace Jr., who finished 12th at Daytona, said of the long time gap between races: “A huge break … I’m not even sure if I remember how to drive,” he cracked. … Other former Martinsville winners in the field include Danville’s Timothy Peters, Ron Hornaday Jr., Kevin Harvick, David Starr, Scott Riggs and Sauter. … Defending champion Harvick has won the 250-lap race three times in the past four years. …
Practice for Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 Sprint Cup race will start at noon, with qualifying set for 3:40 p.m.
Weather Journal70 Thursday to ice Sunday?