Jones looks to repeat Truck success in NNS debut
July 15, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live
The first five times he climbed behind the wheel of a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry, Erik Jones climbed out with a top-10 finish, including one trip to Victory Lane.
Few folks in the stock-car racing world have enjoyed such an impressive beginning, including his truck team owner Kyle Busch.
The 18-year-old from Byron, Michigan, will be hoping for similar results this weekend, when Jones makes his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut for Joe Gibbs Racing at Chicagoland Speedway.
Jones, who earned his second Truck Series win this past week at Iowa Speedway, will take over the reins of the No. 20 JGR Toyota for the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 (Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
He currently shares the seat of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota in the Truck Series with Busch. Saturday's race will be his first of three scheduled Nationwide Series starts; Bristol and Phoenix are also on this year's schedule for Jones.
While not as successful as the Truck Series team, which has been in the winner's circle six times this year, the No. 20 Nationwide outfit carries legitimate credentials. Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth has made 11 starts this year for the team, with nine top-10 finishes; Sam Hornish Jr. scored a runner-up in the car at Michigan; Darrell Wallace Jr. was seventh at Daytona earlier this month.
Jones will be the team's seventh different driver this year.
"There's definitely an expectation every time you step into a race car that's successful … especially with the 51 truck this year," Jones said Tuesday. "Kyle has been extremely dominant, and every time I get into it, it makes me feel more confident just knowing that the truck can win and we have a shot to win every weekend."
Likewise, he said, there are expectations that come with the opportunity in the No. 20 entry -- a little different because it's his first start in the series, but there just the same.
"At the same time, I'm wanting to go out and show them that I can do it and run well in the … series and hopefully show that we an go out and be competitive," he said.
Logging laps is job one, and "hopefully running in the top 10 by the end of the race,” he said.
"We're all race car drivers and we all want to go for the win. I think we'll be challenging hard to do all we can to run up front and contend, and at the end of the day, I hope we'll be up there. I know we've got great equipment and a great team. I'm pretty excited to see what it's all going to bring."
A recent test with the team at Memphis was as much about getting acquainted with the team as it was getting comfortable in the car. For more track specific information, he expects to bend the ears of teammates Elliott Sadler and Hornish Jr.
"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," Jones said. "They've obviously done it a lot longer than I have, and just hopefully I can learn a lot from them and go into the race and learn a lot and come out a better driver than I was."