CP MOTORSPORTS - THE SNOWBALL EFFECT: JONES MAKES HISTORY, CLINCHES TRUCK SERIES TITLE
Since the 2012 Snowball Derby, Erik Jones has been among the hottest names in the NASCAR world. Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola witnessed a 16 year old Jones use a late race maneuver around Sprint Cup phenom Kyle Busch en route to a victory.
Since then Busch has held Jones in high regard.
"Erik Jones is just awesome," Busch said. "He did a great job racing against me in the panhandle there in Pensacola, with having the opportunity to race in the Snowball Derby together. We had fun. I never would have expected to get beat by him in that race but the last run of the race he did a great job. We raced clean, we raced hard and he scored the victory.
"I knew he was going to be good that day, and to get him signed up with Kyle Busch Motorsports and to have the opportunity to work with him over the last two seasons on the part-time side and to get him ready for the full-time side, you know, I'm thankful that he's stuck with me and that he believed in what our plan was for him, to give him this shot and to give him this opportunity, and I think he's got a lot of bigger and greater things to have on his plate with years to come."
Fast forward three years and Jones produced for bossman Kyle Busch.
He cruised to a sixth place finish at Miami-Homestead Speedway securing the points championship becoming the youngest champion in Camping World Truck Series history. Kyle Busch Motorsports has now won four championships in the series but this is the team's first driver's championship.
"It's going to take some time to sink in, you know, but just an awesome season," Jones said. "Just a real team effort from the start and some of the adversity we went through early on, putting the team back together to championship form there for the latter part of the season and really going and working for the championship and earning ourselves a cushion coming into Homestead, and honestly still being able to run strong at Homestead all day. Just really proud of everybody. Just can't thank them all enough."
The victory is extra special for Busch.
"It's an honor. It's certainly been a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the years but it's been pretty awesome, too," Busch explained. "I can't say enough about the people, everyone that's been at Kyle Busch Motorsports at the beginning, been there now or future. You know, it certainly has been pretty awesome to work with every one of those individuals, and it takes a lot of that in order to get the job done the way that we have over our existence in the series, and to set the record of winning an owner's championship the first year out was pretty awesome, and then to continue that on with different people on down the line with Eric Phillips and with Rudy and Jerry now, we'll see how that continues to go on down through the years."
Jones was announced to be a full time driver next year for one of Joe Gibbs Racing's Xfinity teams. The young driver has balanced a busy schedule in 2015 but took it all in stride, substituting for every member of JGR's Sprint Cup teams except for Carl Edwards.
"Looking back on it, I think at the beginning of the year, I had obviously the full season here and then I had probably around 11 or 12 races in the XFINITY Series, which put me at 34, 35 races, something like that, which is a normal load of races and then all of a sudden I had a stacked plate every week," Jones explained. "I was kind of all over the place and at first it was a little overwhelming but once we kind of got in the groove of it and got used to it. I think it was definitely a good experience for me just to be in and out, working with different people, different crew chiefs, different teams, driving different cars, and honestly, some of the biggest things that helped me was those Cup races this year, just being in those cars and seeing that level of competition and trying to adjust myself.
"I think all it did was really better myself, especially at this level."