Jones Set for Nationwide Debut

Erik Jones

Jones will be the seventh different driver to make a start behind the wheel of the No. 20 Camry in 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)

Erik Jones will make his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series start in Saturday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Jones won his second career Camping World Truck Series race last Friday night at Iowa Speedway. The 18-year-old led a race-high 131 laps to score victory number two in just nine career starts.

Now Jones sets his sights on NASCAR’s number two division with a chance to drive the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Camry in Saturday night’s first of two visits this season at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland oval.

“Yeah, I'm really excited,” Jones said. “It's a great opportunity for me, and I'm really excited it's with Joe Gibbs Racing, such a strong team in the Nationwide Series, and I think it'll be a great opportunity. Really looking forward to what that's going to bring and seeing how it all works out.”

To say Jones is stepping into uncharted waters is an understatement. The only time he’s been in a Nationwide car came during a test at Memphis.

However, Jones was pleased with how his test day in Tennessee went.

“That's the only time I've been in a Nationwide car and felt like we learned quite a bit and I definitely got acquainted with the team,” he said.”

Jones will be the seventh different driver to start a race in the JGR No. 20 entry. Matt Kenseth has 11 starts with Darrell Wallace Jr., Kenny Habul, Sam Hornish Jr., Michael McDowell and Daniel Suarez also part of the rotisserie so far this season.

The team has been solid and produced six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes and ranks seventh in the Nationwide Series owner point standings.

But despite his limited experience, Jones is not worried about "keeping up with the Joneses" so to speak.

“I think there's definitely an expectation every time you step into a race car that's successful and always runs well, especially with the 51 truck this year,” said Jones, who shares the truck ride with team owner Kyle Busch. “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.

“I'm really looking forward to the start I get in the 20 car. I know it's a great team, and there are some expectations there, but at the same time they're obviously a little different for me just making my first couple starts in the Nationwide Series, but at the same time I'm wanting to go out and show them that I can do it and run well in the Nationwide Series and hopefully show that we can go out and be competitive.”

Jones will continue to share the truck with Busch the rest of this season and will also make two other Nationwide Series starts in the 20 ride in 2014.

He’s grateful for the opportunities that have come his way and plans to relish every shot he gets in the progression of a career that has a long road ahead.

“It's a really big step for me getting into a Nationwide car, and especially at a place like Chicagoland,” said Jones. “At first I'm just going to be looking to make laps and get to the end of the race and hopefully running up in the top 10. At the end of the day we're all racecar 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.”

Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of the Nationwide Series from Chicagoland Speedway. Air time for Saturday’s EnjoyIllinois.com 300 is 8 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.

Race Center

Lilly Diabetes 250

@ Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Radio Start:
IMS Network
TV Start:
ESPN, 4 p.m. (ET)

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