158_Anthem Annual 2016 Feb Edition.p1

2016 Anthem Annual Feb Web PDF

Record-BreakerPHOTOS GETTY IMAGES Winning Erik Jones is On the Rise a championship and breaking a record was all in a day’s work for Erik Jones. The 19-year-old became the youngest NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion in series history — the record was previously held by Austin Dillon, who won the championship in 2011 at the age of 21. Jones, who needed to fi nish 15th or better, fi nished sixth in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, beating out back-to-back champion Matt Crafton. “It was just so, so special for everybody here to close off this run like this,” Jones said. “I’ve had a great three years with these guys. I can’t think of a better way to repay these guys.” Looking back at Jones’ 2015 season, it is no surprise that he was a major contender for the championship. He ended the season with three victories, 11 top-fi ve fi nishes, and 20 top 10s. But, rather than basking in the spotlight, Jones was occupied with learning an important lesson — you can’t win ‘em all. Jones, who has struggled with losing in the past, is learning to deal with disappointment. “At the end of a day, I can’t think of a single person in the world that wants to fi nish second at something,” he said. While some people may see this as a sign of immaturity given his age, others, such as his mentor and team owner Kyle Busch, can relate to Jones’s struggle. “You see him just like me after races when you get upset because when you lose in a close fi nish, that’s just our mentality,” Busch said. “I totally understand and respect that. It’s frustrating when you’re the best guy all day and all the sudden at the end of the race you get beat. That hurts. So, I sympathize with that. A lot of people don’t like that, but they’re not under the scrutiny and pressure that we are either.” In fact, nobody appears to be harder on Jones than he is on himself. And, his attitude after losing a race has less to do with his age and more to do with his drive for perfection. It wasn’t until Gateway Motorsports Park, where he started fi rst and fi nished 23rd due to an electrical failure, that there was a shift in Jones’ frame of mind. “We had an electrical failure at Gateway, and that was one where I had to look at it as, ‘Okay, you’re really not going to win every week even if you do have the fastest truck.’” Jones said. “That was probably the turning point for me, to just kind of sit back and see how to handle that better and how to be a better leader on and off the racetrack to everybody and just have a little more humility after the race, especially when it didn’t go particularly the way you wanted it to.” Indeed, it was a turning point for Jones because he captured his fi rst victory of the year the next week at Iowa Speedway. From there, the transition from rookie driver to championship contender was evident. He managed to fi nish in the top 10 in the remaining 14 races, claiming two more victories in the process. Securing the championship title was the “icing on the cake” for Jones. As for the future, Jones has proved that he is ready for a bigger challenge. Jones ran 23 races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2015, and has plans to run full-time in the series for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2016. “We look at Erik as a big part of our future,” Gibbs told The Morning Drive on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We’ve got a plan laid out and it’s not something we’ve talked about in public, but we all kind of know inside of our racing organization, and with his parents and his agent — is just great. So, we’ve talked over a plan, and basically the plan next year would be a full XFINITY season and try and run for a championship there and also to, in all likelihood, have him in some Cup races so that would be the goal for next year.” Jones has certainly proved that he is ready to take on the XFINITY Series full-time. In 2015, he started 23 out of 33 races, claiming two victories, 13 top fi ves, and 17 top 10s. Jones will be the second youngest driver in the XFINITY Series, but do not let his age fool you. He is as talented a driver as some of the more well-known veterans in the series. Jones has a bright future in NASCAR and is defi nitely a driver worth watching. 158 ANTHEM MOTORSPORTS ANNUAL


2016 Anthem Annual Feb Web PDF
To see the actual publication please follow the link above