2014 Martinsville: Erik Jones NASCAR Truck Race Preview
Four months ago Erik Jones made history at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway, when at the age of 17 years, five months and nine days he became the youngest winner in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series History. While everyone likes to take a little time to cherish their accomplishments, 139 days between starts is a little much and Jones has been chomping at the bit to get back behind the wheel of the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra. The talented youngster will finally get his chance on Saturday, when he makes his 2014 Truck Series debut Saturday in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Since 'clocking' in for his Truck Series debut in last year's spring event at Martinsville, Jones has gone from a relative unknown to one of NASCAR's most promising young talents. The Michigan native made the most of his five starts in NASCAR's third division last season with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), finishing inside the top-10 in each event. Each time behind the wheel, talented wheelman showed more and more confidence and it appeared to be only a matter of time before he collected his first win. He knocked on the door of victory with a runner-up finish in just his third career start at Iowa in July and then in his fifth and final start of the season led 84 laps en route to his first career win at Phoenix in November.
The racing prodigy collected a total of four victories in 2013, adding an ARCA Series victory at Berlin Raceway and wins in two of Super Late Model's biggest races - the Winchester 400 and the Snowball Derby - to his historic Truck Series triumph. That's an impressive collection of trophies, for a driver who only climbed behind the wheel 13 times combined between the three series. To go along with the trophies, Jones added a Truck Series Owner's Championship ring to his mantle, helping the No. 51 team earn KBM's second championship in its four-year existence.
Jones hard work last season paid off, earning him a 12-race Truck Series schedule this season. The high school senior will be sharing the ride with his boss, Kyle Busch, who kicked off the reigning champions 2014 season with a dramatic win in the season-opening race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Busch, who also won the 2013 series finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, gave the team its third consecutive victory dating back to Jones triumph last November at Phoenix.
Now that it's finally time for Jones to 'clock' back in, he will be in pursuit of a second consecutive victory for himself, a fourth consecutive victory for the No. 51 ToyotaCare team and a grandfather clock to add to his ever-growing collection of trophies.
Erik Jones Martinsville Preview
Erik Jones Reflects on Phoenix, Previews Martinsville and Reveals Goals for '14 Season
Erik Jones, Driver of the No. 51 NCWTS Toyota Care Tundra:
Last year you made your first Truck Series start as a 16-year-old in this race. Now with five races of experience and a win under your belt, where is your confidence level entering this race compared to last year?
"I think it's definitely a lot better this year than it was last year. I was confident last year coming into Martinsville, but I didn't have any experience in a truck and I knew that. I didn't have any experience at Martinsville, so it's always hard come into a new series in a new vehicle at a new track and to do it all in one weekend. I definitely struggled at first and it took me a long time to get used to it. Going back this year with that experience under my belt and being able to work with the same guys is really going to be a big help for me. I feel like we are really prepared for Martinsville. We have a really fast new ToyotaCare Tundra that looks really good and I can't wait to get there."
Have you set any goals for this season?
"I have and I know that the team has as well. I'd like to definitely pick up a couple wins this year. I know we can -- I know we have a strong team. We've worked hard on this new Tundra getting it ready for this year and making it fast. I really think we can go out and win a few races and continue our streak. I'm looking forward to getting on the track, it has definitely been awhile. I feel really comfortable about it -- feel like we've got a good truck and I'm well prepared for the year. I can't wait to get it going."
Kyle Busch, Owner of the No. 51 NCWTS ToyotaCare Tundra:
What is your outlook for Erik Jones this season?
"Erik did a tremendous job for us last year picking up wins in both the truck and the Super Late Model while running a very limited schedule. At just 17 years old he shows a lot of poise behind the wheel, provides great feedback to the crew chiefs and he has already proven that he can win on some of the biggest stages. I'm really looking forward to seeing Erik continue to develop as a driver with his increased schedule this season."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 51 NCWTS ToyotaCare Tundra:
What has your team been doing to stay busy since Daytona?
"Having a month off has helped with changing our fleet of Tundras to the 2014 model. We basically had to cut every truck up and completely start over by putting new bodies on every one of them. We are a little better than halfway done with that process -- we still have to finish up with our mile-and-a-half trucks. It has given us an opportunity to work on some things we've wanted to do in past years, but didn't get to it. Through the process, we've been able to make our stuff nicer, cleaner, better and hopefully faster."
Does having a month off kill the momentum of your win at Daytona?
"I think so -- at least a little bit. As racers we all want to be at the race track, but with as much work that has been going on here in building our new Tundras, we've been able to keep occupied. Knowing how hard everyone at KBM worked during the off season to come out of the box with a win, it has everyone's spirits up. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum into Martinsville this week."
Erik Jones' No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra:
KBM-14: The No. 51 ToyotaCare Racing team will roll out KBM-14 for Saturday's Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. The Tundra was built new for the No. 18 team last year and made five starts with Joey Coulter behind the wheel, including a runner-up finish at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in April.
KBM-014 Performance Profile:
Notes of Interest:
Erik Jones @ Martinsville:
As a 16-year-old making his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, qualified 19th and ran as high as fourth before bringing home a ninth-place finish in last year's Kroger 250 (4/6/13)
Ranked 10th in last year's Kroger 250 with 48 Green Flag Passes and tied for 11th with 29 Quality Passes
Erik Jones 2013:
At 17 years, five months and nine days old, became the youngest winner in the history of the NCWTS with his victory in the November event at Phoenix International Raceway (11/8/13)
Became the first 16-year-old to compete in a NCWTS race since KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch in October of 2001, went on to finish ninth in his debut at Martinsville Speedway (4/6/13) and recorded top-10 finishes in all five of his series starts
Collected first ARCA Racing Series victory at Berlin Raceway (8/10/13) and registered two top-five and three top-10 finishes across four starts
Became just the third driver in the 46-year-history of the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway to register back-to-back victories (12/8/13)
With a victory in the Winchester 400 Super Late Model race at Winchester Speedway, became the sixth driver in history to post victories in both that race and the Snowball Derby (10/13/13)
Erik Jones 2012:
Won the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., outdueling KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch in the closing laps to secure the victory (2/2/12)
Became the first 15-year-old driver ever to compete in the ARCA Racing Series, making his debut at the Mobile ARCA 200 at Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway (3/10/12)
Posted four top-five and five top-10 finishes while leading a total of 103 laps across 10 ARCA starts
Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 51 Tundra:
Kyle Busch opened the 2014 season by posting his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and became the first driver to win in four different series (ARCA, NCWTS, Nationwide and Sprint Cup) at the famed track (2/21/14)
In 2013, produced a series-leading six wins (Kyle Busch -5, Erik Jones- 1), 505 laps led and 11 top-five finishes en route to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner's Championship
In 2013, Kyle Busch registered five wins, eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 7.0 across 11 starts
At the age of 17 years, five months and nine days, Erik Jones became the youngest winner in NCWTS history with his win in the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway (11/8/13)
In five starts in 2013, Jones led 84 laps en route to two top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 6.0
KBM NCWTS Program
Has collected two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner's Championships, 26 Truck Series victories and 10 poles across 157 starts since originating in 2010
Six different drivers have won a race for KBM, led by owner-driver Kyle Busch with 20. Denny Hamlin has two victories for his teammates' Truck Series operation, while Erik Jones, Kasey Kahne, Brian Scott and Darrell Wallace Jr. have all collected one win
Has won four of the last five NCWTS races - Darrell Wallace Jr. 10/26/13 @ Martinsville, Erik Jones 11/8/13 @ Phoenix, Kyle Busch 11/15/13 @ Homestead-Miami and Kyle Busch 2/21/14 @ Daytona
KBM NCWTS @ Martinsville
KBM Truck Series drivers have collected three wins, two poles, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 7.8 across 15 starts at Martinsville Speedway. The team has won the last three October events at the .526-mile oval, Darrell Wallace Jr. in 2013 and Denny Hamlin in 2011 and 2012, but has yet to record a win in March. Kyle Busch's runner-up finish in 2011 is the team's best result to date in the spring race.
The Phillips File:
Eric Phillips picked up his 28th career Truck Series victory in the season-opening event at Daytona and moved into a tie with Rick Ren for most wins as a crew chief in Truck Series history. The Illinois native has visited victory lane with eight different Truck Series drivers and 20 different tracks in his 10 seasons atop the pit box. He led KBM to a Truck Series Owner's Championship and series-leading eight wins in its inaugural campaign in 2010 and overall in four seasons at KBM has guided the team to 18 wins with four different drivers.
Phillips' Truck Series drivers have registered one win (Denny Hamlin 1/29/11 ), two poles, five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.2 across 18 starts at Martinsville.