Last year when ARCA lowered their age limit t0 15 years old, Erik Jones became the youngest driver to ever start in an ARCA race.
This year, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series officials lowered the series age limit to 16 for tracks 1.1 mile or smaller and the road courses. Jones once again made history, becoming the youngest driver to run a Truck Series race.
In process of making that history, Jones has impressed as he finished top 10 in both of his starts so far – Martinsville and Rockingham.
“They’ve been good,” he said. “Happy with it so far.
“Going to Martinsville was a new experience for me. Getting used to a new team and a new car, getting used to working with them and a new track, too. So going there was cool.”
At Martinsville, Jones would qualify 19th and worked his way steadily through the field avoiding the wrecks to finish ninth.
“It was a fun track,” he commented. “We had a longer day qualifying 19th – not what we wanted – but actually getting into the top 10 in my truck race was good.”
At Rockingham, he would have problems with the front end of the truck hitting the race track, resulting in a last place qualifying effort. Though he used all 205 laps to his advantage as he would make his way through the field to finish ninth once again.
“We had a little unfortunate qualifying run – truck hit the race track and really slowed our lap down and qualified dead last,” he summarized the day. “So made for a pretty long day and working with our way up through there and going a lap down at one time, getting our lap back but we ended up in the top 10.
“We’ve been solid in our first few races with KBM. We’ve had fast Toyota Tundras the whole time so I need to work on qualifying better and we’ll be in the contention more of the day instead of working at just getting up there.”
A driver as young as Jones embodies the reasons that Kyle Busch had in starting Kyle Busch Motorsports as Busch wanted to bring in young drivers and give them a shot.
“It’s pretty neat to see the young talent and that’s kind of the whole point in having a Kyle Busch Motorsports, having a Late Model program, having a Truck Series program, having a Nationwide Series program,” Busch said in an interview in February. “We’re trying to help bring that younger talent to NASCAR.”
Before the age limit was lowered, Jones had been in talks with KBM about possibly doing some late model races.
“Then when the series changed the minimum age, we wanted to run some trucks for someone,” Jones said. “Luckily, we ran against Kyle and ended up winning against Kyle. So that really opened the door for us to get in touch with KBM and run some truck races for them.”
In the late stages of the race, Jones was able to pass Kyle Busch for the victory in the Snowball Derby at 5 Flags Speedway. Known as one of the crown jewels in short track racing, the win meant a lot to Jones and his team.
“It really a big win for us,” he commented. “2012 was a trying year for us – we had a lot of parts failures, lot of bad luck. Going down to the Derby and it all came together for one of the biggest win of my career and it was really big for me and my team in getting that momentum back on our side at the end of the year like that.
“Being able to win that race was something that I wanted to do ever since I learned how big the Snowball Derby was.”
In working with Kyle Busch, Jones says that the Sprint Cup Series driver and team owner is really helpful.
“I talk to him before every race at a track that I haven’t been to and also tracks that I have been to, to just get his opinion,” Jones said. “He’s more than helpful, more than anything you can ask for help. He’s very open to help.”
Jones also says that it great to have teammates like Joey Coulter and Darrell Wallace Jr. to share information with.
“I can’t share as much information, but I try to share as much as I can during the weekend,” he said. “We talk about what the trucks are doing and whether they did something and fixed it if they’re having the same issue. That’s why it’s very helpful to have teammates to be able to share more and more information.”
Jones’ next start with KBM will come in June at Iowa Speedway, which he says he is looking forward to as it should be a “really good track for us.”
When he’s not behind the wheel of a truck, Jones will return back to the ARCA Series with Venturini Motorsports to race at Pocono Raceway and Kentucky Speedway.
“Getting able to get back in arca car this year is great, espically with Venturini,” he commented. “They are a strong contender pretty much every track that they go to so looking forward to getting in their cars, espically at Pocono and Kenucky. I’ve never been on a big mile and a half- 2 mile track like that so being able to getting on a track like that is a big opportunity for me.
“Hopefully I’m able to get on there and learn a lot of stuff about bigger race tracks. Hopefully we can pick up our first ARCA win.”
Jones started racing at the age of seven in quarter midgets, before moving to Street Stocks when he turned 12.
At the age of 13, he moved up to Late Models and last year, attracted the eyes of Venturini Motorsports, running 10 races for them last year. In those 10 races, the young driver was able to score five top 10 finishes.
With the way his career has gone so far, many are wondering when the Bryon, Michigan native is going to move up to the next levels in NASCAR. Jones says that it’s kind of hard to say.
“When I got into late models, I kind of had a timeline planned out – I would look at that timeline and set goals for myself with where I wanted to be at this time,” he said. “When I was 17,18 years old I wanted to be running trucks. When I was 20 years old I wanted to be running Nationwide.
“In five years, I’d really like to be running Nationwide, maybe even Cup. The ultimate goal is to be racing. If I can be driving racecars, that’s all I can ask for.”