CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Christian Petersen/Getty Images photo – Performing under pressure isn’t a simple task, but 18-year-old NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Erik Jones has made it look effortless so far in his young career.
Hailing from Byron, Michigan, Jones has captured two victories in nine starts over the past two years for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series. The most recent triumph for Jones came in dominant fashion last weekend at Iowa Speedway.
“I was happy that we could finally really put it all together here and pick up a win there at Iowa,” Jones expressed on Tuesday morning. “It was definitely a great win in a lot of ways for everybody over here at KBM and for myself just to get some momentum going. “
With the win, the No. 51 Toyota – piloted by team owner Kyle Busch and Jones – has recorded six victories through nine total races in the Camping World Truck Series this season, five with Busch and Jones’ win at Iowa.
Despite that stat, Jones doesn’t feel any added expectations or pressure — he just continues to be motivated by it.
“I don’t really take it as pressure, I take it kind of as motivation, just that it’s a great race truck and one that can contend for wins every weekend,” Jones stated. “That’s how I’ve always looked at it since I started and got my first opportunity in that truck. I never really saw it as pressure to go out and perform any better.”
“I think any time you put pressure on yourself to try and do better mistakes and not running as well as you should. I try to have fun every time I get in the truck, and I definitely do, so that’s all I try to do is just go out and have a good time and know that it’s a great truck that can go to victory lane every weekend.”
Despite the truck being found too low in post-race technical inspection, Jones feels his team has made huge strides compared to where they were in the beginning of the year.
“We did have some trouble at the beginning of the year, really none of our own doing, but putting it all together; that was a pretty cool deal,” Jones stated. “I know we had that trouble (with the penalty) but I just drive the trucks at the end of the day and sit on top of what they provide me with.”
In the coming weeks though, an aspiring Jones will be presented with different obstacles — beginning this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, where he will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I’m really excited,” Jones said. “It’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m really excited it’s with Joe Gibbs Racing, such a strong team in the Nationwide Series, and I think it’ll be a great opportunity. Really looking forward to what that’s going to bring and seeing how it all works out.”
Chicagoland — a mile-and-a-half — will also be a harder task than usual for Jones due to his limited experience at larger tracks, though he’s hoping his two teammates will offer advice to assist him during the weekend.
“All my background is short track racing,” Jones revealed. “I haven’t had a lot of experience with racing on a mile-and-a-half with how the air works and all that. But definitely my mindset is open to just trying to take advice from my teammates.”
“I’ve got two great teammates there in Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish that will be there, so definitely going to lean on them a lot and hopefully get a lot of information out of them as to what they do on these tracks and how they race and just try to learn from them.”
Aside from his upcoming Nationwide Series starts, Jones will also view something drastically different then his regular atmosphere: the Trucks at Eldora Speedway.
“I think it’s cool just in the sense that we do get to go to a dirt track and especially a place like Eldora that they host a lot of really prestigious dirt track races throughout the year,” Jones expressed. “For us to get a shot to race there and really put our mark down at Eldora is pretty special. I think it would be pretty cool to pick up a win there and definitely think we’ve got a good shot at it.”