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Erik Jones: Ready to Pick Up Where He Left Off

Erik Jones: Ready to Pick Up Where He Left Off

by March 27, 2014 0 comments

Jennifer Stewart/NASCAR via Getty Images

After blowing the NASCAR world away last November with a victory in the Camping World Truck Series at Phoenix at the age of 17 years, five months, and eight days, Erik Jones is back in 2014 to run another part-time schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series.

The Fourth Turn was able to secure an interview with Jones before he heads to Martinsville Speedway for this Saturday’s Kroger 250, his first race of the season. In the interview, Jones talks about his preparation heading into a new season where he’ll take on the challenge of racing larger tracks with a new crew chief making the strategy calls for him. Jones also opens up on team owner Kyle Busch’s week-to-week involvement with the race team and his plans for his career in the near-future.

TheFourthTurn: AFTER YOUR WIN LATE LAST YEAR IN PHOENIX AND WITH WINS IN THE WINCHESTER 400 AND SNOWBALL DERBY, HOW ANXIOUS ARE YOU TO GET BACK INTO THE SWING OF THINGS ON SATURDAY?

I’m pretty excited, it’s been a long time since we’ve been to the race track and definitely a lot of momentum in the Truck Series from Phoenix. We’ve been working hard and I’m getting the new Tundras together here for this year and we’ve got a really good package to take Martinsville this coming weekend.

TheFourthTurn: YOUR FIRST EVER RACE IN THE TRUCK SERIES WAS AT MARTINSVILLE LAST YEAR, WHERE YOU FINISHED NINTH. ARE YOU GOING TO BE APPROACHING THE RACE ANY DIFFERENTLY THIS YEAR?

Yeah, I think a little bit differently. Last year was my first truck race and I had never been at the track before. Having experienced the track now and also some experience in the trucks I feel like I can go to the track a little more confidently and knowing a little more what I need to be doing to run up in the top-five and contending for a win this time.

TheFourthTurn: LAST YEAR, RYAN FUGLE WAS YOUR CREW CHIEF THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE YEAR. THIS YEAR YOU HAVE A NEW CREW CHIEF IN ERIC PHILLIPS, HAVE THERE BEEN ANY DIFFICULTIES IN TRANSITIONING TO WORKING WITH A NEW CREW CHIEF?

No, not really so far. Eric’s a really successful crew chief in the Truck Series and he’s won a lot of races and I’m really looking forward to working with him, he definitely knows what he’s doing. [Fugle] is still on the team as an engineer now and he’s still heavily involved with the setup side of things so I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a change and I’m really looking forward to getting to work with Eric, especially with his success in the Truck Series.

TheFourthTurn: HOW HANDS-ON IS KYLE BUSCH AS A TEAM OWNER?

He’s very hands-on, he comes to the shop a couple of days a week and he really wants to know what’s going on within the shop and what we’re doing on the performance side of things. He’s been a big help to me too also with going to places that I haven’t been before and kind of helping me out on what to expect from the trucks and what they need to do. He really wants to see his program succeed and he’s pretty involved in making it happen.

TheFourthTurn: IS IT THE SAME ON RACE DAY WHERE HE’LL BE ON TOP OF THE PIT BOX AND BE AVAILABLE ON THE RADIO?

Yeah, definitely. He likes to get up and watch the races and be involved as much as he can and give any information he thinks is going to help. That’s really cool to have, I got to like that as your team owner that’s been doing this now for so long and has really a lot of experience in all three series of NASCAR. Having that experience around you is a really big benefit.

TheFourthTurn: GIVEN THAT A DRIVER IS NOT ELIGIBLE (IN THE TRUCK SERIES) TO RUN ON OVALS A MILE OR GREATER IN LENGTH UNTIL THEY’RE 18, WE’RE NOT GOING TO SEE YOU IN KANSAS OR CHARLOTTE. WILL WE SEE YOU IN THE TRUCK AT TRACKS LIKE TEXAS OR KENTUCKY THOUGH?

Yeah, actually my first race will be at Texas on a mile-and-a-half track once I turn 18. I’m looking forward to that and I really don’t have a lot of experience on the big tracks but I can’t wait to get there in a truck and really try to go out and run good and see what it all brings on a new track like that and it’s really going to be a new experience for me.

TheFourthTurn: YOU’VE HAD GREAT RUNS AT KENTUCKY AND POCONO IN AN ARCA CAR, DO YOU THINK YOU CAN TRANSFER THAT EXPERIENCE OVER TO THE TRUCK?

I believe you can transfer some things over, especially from the aerodynamic side of what that’s going to bring with it. That’s the biggest thing is just having a comfortability level at a track that size and I think having those starts at Pocono and Kentucky in the ARCA car is really going to be a big benefit for me and it’s going to give me a little bit of a boost of confidence coming in to those track and already having a little experience on a bigger surface.

TheFourthTurn: SPEAKING OF THE ARCA SERIES, ARE YOU GOING TO BE DOING ANY ARCA RACES THIS YEAR?

No, not right now. We’re definitely looking to try to get to run some and it comes down to funding at the end of the day. If we can get something together to go run some ARCA races or late model races or even Nationwide races that’d be great but we don’t have any on the schedule right now.

TheFourthTurn: LAST YEAR YOU RAN FIVE RACES IN THE TRUCK, THIS YEAR YOU’RE RUNNING TWELVE, WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING TO TAKE YOUR CAREER IN 2015? A FULL TRUCK SEASON? MAYBE MOVING UP TO THE NATIONWIDE SERIES?

I don’t know right now, definitely looking at a full truck season next year as a great possibility and I’d really like to do that with getting a full series in one of NASCAR’s top-three series. Something that would be really cool for me running for points, you know, I don’t know what it’s going to bring right now. It definitely is heavily dependent on how we run this year in these twelve races, we need to go out and perform and do what we need to do on our side to get things set up for next year.

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Catch Jones and the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra in action this Saturday in the Kroger 250 – airing live on FOX Sports 1 with coverage beginning at 2:00p.m ET.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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