SPARTA, Ky. and ATLANTA, Ga. — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Audio by Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America photo —
If Brandon Jones needed an exclamation point to put on his signing to Richard Childress Racing’s full-time NASCAR XFINITY Series program in 2016, Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway was exactly that.
Jones made up for a lackluster ARCA Racing Series event, in which he was involved in an opening lap crash, by posting his career-best NXS finish and first-career top-five, coming home fifth after a chaotic green-white-checkered finish that saw Ryan Blaney drive to victory.
For a stage in the middle stint of the event, it appeared as though Jones might have unlocked the strategy to head all the way to victory lane, but faded late despite leading 16 laps.
“Through practice [all weekend], we were great,” Jones expressed after the race. “I feel like we were a top three car. Got away from it a little bit in qualifying but the crew got me back going in the race. I just had to keep up with the car, and I needed track position. That was the biggest thing. Once I finally got out front I could see how the car picked up speed with the clean air, so in the end, I feel like that was the biggest factor all night was trying to stay up there.”
“Tonight was a lot of fun, though. I’m so proud of this Barrett Jackson Premium Auto Care/Menards team. I mean, to be able to lead laps in my first intermediate track race in the XFINITY Series is awesome. Danny (Stockman, crew chief) made some great calls and put us up front, and that really gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
The run not only cemented Jones’ status among the contenders for the remainder of 2015, it was a “pretty big eye-opener” for the 18-year-old who had never led a lap in XFINITY competition before Saturday night.
“For this to be our first mile-and-a-half and to be able to run with Erik [Jones] and Ty [Dillon], (teammate) Brian Scott and all those regulars that run up front every week, it was huge,” Jones admitted. “I think we’re starting to make pretty big gains on them and we’ll see what we can do with them next time.
That ‘next time’ is going to be coming a lot more frequently for the Atlanta, Ga. teenager in 2016, because while his team and crew chief have not been assigned, he at least knows he will have a shot at every track on the series circuit — and he’ll have a leg up on some of them due to his 11 Truck starts so far this season.
“I think there’s going to be five or so tracks I haven’t been to [because of prior experience in the Trucks], but that won’t be bad at all,” Jones said. “I’m pretty excited being able to go back to some of these tracks in an XFINITY car. It’s going to be awesome. I’ve been looking forward to that for awhile.”
Jones admitted that the deal to run full-time in the XFINITY Series was one that he had been looking at extensively before the final pieces fell into place.
“We’ve been trying to kind of get a deal together for awhile now,” Jones said. “I’ve been talking to a couple different programs and seeing what our best option was and it all just came together over here at RCR. I’m really proud of everybody that has worked on that so hard and got us going.”
“It doesn’t hurt to be able to tell the boss man that we’re coming off [a career-best], though,” Jones added. “It’s just great to have the car up front and I know it gives Mr. Childress confidence going into next year.”
The rising star is confident of one thing though: Regardless of the results, 2016 is going to be a stunning ride.
“It’s gonna be awesome, that’s for sure. It’s always been my dream to sit in one of these cars on a full-time basis for a big team like Richard Childress Racing. Being able to sit in the 33 has been special too. It’s a big number in their [XFINITY] Series [program], so there’s a lot of good stats behind it and I’m hoping to add a few more.”
“For right now, though, I don’t want to overlook what we’ve got going for the rest of 2015. I want to make sure I finish this year strong, but there’s still gonna be that part of me peeking ahead until we do get to Daytona in February. I can’t wait for that moment.”
Jones returns to NASCAR national series competition in the Camping World Truck Series Rhino Liners 350 on Oct. 3, driving for GMS Racing.
Listen in to post-race audio with Jones following Saturday night’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Kentucky:
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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