[media-credit name=”Venturini Motorsports” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]For the 2012 racing season, ARCA Racing Series officials made the decision to lower the age limit from 16 to 15. The new rules would allow drivers that were 15 years old and older to run short tracks, while waiting till they turned 18 to run the bigger tracks.
Last month at Mobile International Speedway, 15-year-old Erik Jones took advantage of that as he drove the No. 55 Paragon Corvette Reproductions Chevrolet for Venturini Motorsports.
“To be able to go and take advantage of the lower age limit, definitely was a cool experience to be able to be the first one to do that,” Jones says, adding that it’s great to be able to start young and do well.
The day didn’t work out as Jones would’ve planned as mechanical issues would result in a 29th place finish.
“It was a great learning experience to get used to working with Venturini Motorsports,” Jones, who qualified third for the event, says. “We learned a lot. I personally learned a lot about what I want personally in a racecar and this is a new style of racecar that I haven’t driven before. Just a lot of good experience, had a good run going before we broke. Definitely thought we were going to finish in the top three.”
Jones is hoping to take what he learned at Mobile and apply it to Salem at the end of the month.
“Salem is going to be a good race,” he says. “Venturini has always done well there so I’m hoping to go there and continue their tradition of doing well at Salem. I’ve never been to Salem personally; I’ve heard a lot about it. It sounds like it’s got a lot of character so I always like going to a new race track and we’re really looking forward to it.”
In years past, ARCA left the age limit at 16 as many felt letting drivers younger race was a bad idea. However, Jones says it works due to how they set it up.
“There are definitely some drivers out there at (age) 15 that aren’t going to be ready to move into an ARCA car,” he explains. ”But they’ve got specific qualifications on that so I think they did a good job on lowering the age limit, but not allowing just any 15 year old to hop in these rides.”
Jones started racing at the age of seven in quarter midgets, before moving to Street Stocks when he turned 12.
Getting him started in racing was his grandfather as Jones says his grandpa, “built a lot of motors, drag raced himself, and he is kind of a gearhead. My mom and dad helped get me into quarter midgets and still help me to this day. They’ve been a big part, too, in getting me started.”
At the age of 13, he moved up to Late Models and continues to race at that level well racing in ARCA.
“Late Models definitely teaches you a lot,” the 2011 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Champion says. “It teaches you to race with a higher horsepower car, and definitely a lot more experienced drivers. Racing with those guys, you learn a lot about how you need to race people, how to be aggressive and how to save your stuff when you don’t need to be aggressive. There are so many things you learn in Late Models that I don’t think you could learn in other places.”
It seems only fitting that it would be Venturini Motorsports being the first team to take advantage of the new rule based on their driver development program that has helped develop many drivers. Jones is well aware of the team’s history as Venturini Motorsports enters its 30th year of competition.
“It’s cool to drive for a team that has as much as success and been around as long as Venturini Motorsports,” Jones says. “It’s definitely an honor to say the least.”
Jones adds that working with Venturini Motorsports is a good learning experience as he gets to learn about working within a big organization and having teammates.
“To come into a program like that and be able to learn so much, so quick, it’s very beneficial to my racing career,” he adds.
Going down the road in the future, Jones hopes to be at the Sprint Cup level.
“I think every driver would say that they’d like to see themselves in a Sprint Cup racecar racing for somebody,” he says. “Obviously I would like to see myself there. I believe we’ve put ourselves in the right situation to have a good shot at that. Hopefully we can get myself up to the Cup Series and be able to race for a living.
Outside of racing, Jones enjoys listening to music, scuba diving and playing guitar.