February 19, 2014 — Audio and story by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Photos courtesy Brandon Jones — ATLANTA, GA — In motorsports, it’s all too easy to go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a split second.
For Brandon Jones during the first two races of the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (KNPSE) on Sunday and Tuesday nights, the roller coaster was certainly in effect.
Jones started off his Speedweeks with a bang at New Smyrna Speedway on Sunday, qualifying in the top ten on the grid and powering to a strong third-place finish, leading his first-ever laps in KNPSE competition before being overtaken by a dominant Daniel Suarez close to halfway.
For the Georgia native, who competed in seven K&N East events last year for Turner Scott Motorsports, the race was an auspicious full-time debut after four top-tens in 2013.
“We had a good car Sunday night, just didn’t quite have the kind of run through the corners that Daniel did there as the race wore on. Still a great way to start the season though, I think we showed a lot.”
However, for as strong as the No. 33 team ran on Sunday night at Smyrna, Tuesday at the UNOH Battle at the Beach at Daytona was every bit as much a day to forget for the 33 camp. Brake issues in qualifying prevented Jones’ TSM entry from posting a fast enough qualifying speed to make it into the 26-car starting grid, and the team had to make a last minute agreement with the No. 18 Toyota team of Sam Hunt to ensure their driver had a starting spot in the 150-lap main event.
Once the race started though, the hill was a steep one to climb. Jones started last due to the driver change and fought and clawed to get his race car any better than what it was at the drop of the flag, never giving up until the end and ultimately soldiering home to a 24th place effort and maintaining a spot in the top fifteen in the points standings headed to the K&N East race at Bristol.
“Tuesday was tough on us, I’ll admit,” the Georgian said of his Daytona experience. “But I think it showed just how much fight we have in us, to not give up and not back down even when we’re backed into a corner. We went out, had to start last, in a car that I had never sat in before, finished all the laps and made the best we could out of a bad day. I think there’s something to be said for that.”
Jones moved to the K&N Pro Series East full-time in 2014 after four prior years of motorsports experience largely led under the watchful eyes of the Gale family. The now 18-year-old logged thousands of practice laps under the mentorship of former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA driver Cale Gale and Cale’s father, Bubba, often times going over three and four days a week after school as a freshman in high school to strap behind the wheel.
“I owe my racing career and the success I’ve had to this point largely to the Gales,” Jones said of his racing teachers. “Cale and his dad were huge in teaching me a lot of the finesse, the little things behind the wheel that really got me to a point where I could perform at a high level. Anyone can drive in circles, but they taught me how to do it right,” the young man chuckled.
Jones competed largely in Late Models his during his first two full seasons (2011-12), running events with both the UARA and PASS sanctions as well as competing on a local level. Jones racked up track points championships at both Gresham Motorsports Park and the now-closed Lanier National Speedway and scored a podium result (third) in his first-ever appearance at the prestigious World Crown 300. Jones also notched six Late Model wins during that two-year time frame, including a UARA-STARS Late Model Series triumph at the Concord Motorsports Park in 2012.
The rising star began to explore deeper waters in 2013, making the jump to selected starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in addition to his Late Model ventures. While he never found victory lane in 2013, Jones had a season-best effort of fourth twice in UARA competition and scored two top-ten finishes in KNPSE action, at Iowa and Dover. Jones struggled somewhat in the Camping World Truck starts he made, however he did lead his first-ever laps in the series at Iowa Speedway and improved his finishing position in every race he entered.
“Overall, I’d call our 2013 season pretty good,” Jones said of his most recent campaign. “Yeah, we were never able to break through and get a win like we had hoped, but I feel like we had a lot of consistent runs, we just didn’t always have the results to show for them.”
“I was really surprised at how our NASCAR runs went last year for sure,” the young talent added. “Not to say I didn’t think we could run solidly, because I knew we could, but especially at Dover; that’s a track that eats up a lot of drivers their first time there, and for us to go in and notch a top ten in our very first start, I think that shows a lot about what this team is capable of. Yeah, we didn’t have great numbers in the Truck races, but we got better and better every time out, and that’s the important thing.”
Now, Jones will look to rebound from his struggles at Daytona and try to get back to the kind of speed he had at New Smyrna when the K&N Pro Series East visits Bristol Motor Speedway for their next event next month. Jones qualified 11th for the Bristol event a year ago, his K&N East debut, but was sidelined by electrical issues halfway through the event and was scored 31st at the finish.
“I like Bristol, it’s a fun track if you can call it that and I felt like we got a decent handle on the place a year ago. Just had some problems that were out of our control. I feel like we can go back and be a threat this time around if we can keep the car under us.”
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East rolls on with their third event of the season, the PittLite 125, at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15th, a precursor to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 that same weekend. Information on television coverage of the event will be updated as it is announced.
Listen in as we caught up with Brandon just before the activities of the JEGS 150 at New Smyrna Speedway on Sunday and he talked about his outlook on 2014, his experience with Turner Scott Motorsports and much more: