20-year old Joe Gibbs driver Erik Jones may be finally finding his stride in the Xfinity series this season. Although he won the 2015 Camping World Truck Championship. He began the year with a disappointing 31st-place finish in the season opener at Daytona However, he quickly found new momentum, jumping from 22nd in points standings to 7th after managing to podium in 3rd place in his last 2-races.
He will now set his sights on trying to capture the 1st berth in the 12-driver, four-round NASCAR Xfinity Series Chase this Saturday in the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter 200 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.
“This week is definitely a race I circled on the calendar,” he stated. “Phoenix is one of my favorite tracks we compete on and has proved to be a track I run well on and have seen success at in the Truck Series with getting my first NASCAR win back in 2013 and another win in 2014.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota Camry driver has been successful in Xfinity action at the 1-mile track as well, improving each race with finishes of sixth, fifth and third in 3 starts there.
“On the Xfinity side, we’ve run well and had good finishes at Phoenix, but I’m ready to get that 1st win at the track and of the season, and I think Phoenix could be the place,” Jones said. “I know we’ll unload with a great Camry at Phoenix and if we can minimize the mistakes made at Atlanta and Las Vegas, there is no reason we can’t be there at the end and in contention for the win.”
The Michigan native began racing quarter-midgets at the age of 7, graduating to stockcars at age 13. He then began competing in the ASA Late Model Series in 2010, becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Oktoberfest race at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway before moving to the Champion Racing Association’s CRA All-Star Tour in 2011. He won the series championship in his rookie year; and was also the winner of that year’s Governor’s Cup 200 late model race at New Smyrna Speedway, leading every lap of the event; he was the first driver not born in Florida to achieve that feat in over 3 decades. Erik moved to the ARCA Racing Series for the 2012 season, becoming the 1st-ever driver to compete in the series at the age of 15; running 10 of the series’ 19 races (he was not eligible at tracks longer than one mile). His best finish of 3rd came at Speedway and Berlin Raceway. That December Jones held off NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch to win the prestigious Snowball Derby. He was also named winner of the 2013 Snowball Derby after the original winner, Chase Elliott, was disqualified after post-race inspections revealed a piece of tungsten in his car.
In March 2013, Kyle Busch Motorsports announced that it had signed Jones to drive in five age-eligible Camping World Truck Series races in the team’s No. 51 Toyota Tundra, driving at Martinsville Speedway, Rockingham Speedway and Iowa Speedway, as NASCAR relaxed the “Kyle Busch Rule” in that series where the minimum age was reduced from 18 to 16 at ovals shorter than 2,000 meters and road courses. Jones finished second in his 3rd career start in the series at Iowa.
On November 8, 2013, Jones became the youngest driver ever to win in the history of NASCAR’s top-level competition to that time, winning the Lucas at Phoenix International Raceway over Ross Chastain at the age of 17 years, 5-months and 8-days.
Jones returned to KBM in the Truck Series for 2014, competing in all age-eligible events and selected longer track events after he turned 18, before being named by the team to run the full 2015 season, as well as part-time in the Xfinity series for Joe Gibbs. Although he was originally slated to drive several races with Joe Gibbs Racing’s 5th car this year, his Cup plans were cut short due to the charter system, which limits an owner to just four cars without any exception for rookie drivers.