Byron, MI Native Erik Jones Wins NASCAR Rookie of the Year Award

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It seems Erik Jones has been a rookie forever. At 13 years of age, Erik won his first Pro-Stock 25 Lap Feature race at Owosso Speedway. That was way back on August 29, 2009. In 2012, at the age of 16, Erik out-battled NASCAR Cup Driver Kyle Busch to win the Snowball Derby Super Late Model race. Held annually at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, the Snowball Derby is a prestigious short-track race run during the NASCAR offseason. Erik liked the track so well he came back the following year and won again. Only the third person to accomplish that feat in the 45+ year history of the track.

Kyle Busch was so impressed with the young man’s skills he hired Erik to drive for his race team. From there the accolades just kept coming.

Erik’s Accomplishments

Driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), Erik followed in Kyle’s footsteps driving in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at the age of 16. In his first start at Martinsville Speedway, he finished ninth. Running 5 races for KBM during the 2013 NCWTS season he never finished outside the top 10.

Erik’s victory at Phoenix International Raceway in November made him the youngest winner in NCWTS history. 17 years, five months, and nine days old. The following year Erik posted 3 wins in 12 Truck Series races. Also in 2014, Erik began driving in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series) for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).

In 2015 Erik was crowned the Champion of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Scoring three wins combined with 11 top-five finishes. He also earned Rookie of the Year honors in his first full season in the NCWTS. The youngest ever Truck Series Champion at 19 years, 5 months and 21 days. He also made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) start filling in for the injured Kyle Busch again with JGR.

During the 2016 season, Erik won four times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and finished fourth in the standings. Daniel Suarez won the Series Championship winning the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Moving to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Erik’s meteoric rise to the top levels of the sport continued in 2017. He signed to drive for Furniture Row Racing in the 77 car. Teammate to Martin Truex Jr. for the Denver based two-car team.

Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo

Suarez also moved to the Cup series taking over for the retiring Carl Edwards at Joe Gibbs Racing. The Jones / Suarez contest for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in NASCAR’s premier division made for great press coverage. The on-track competition lived up to the hype.

Jones won his first career Cup Series pole at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. He led multiple times over the course of the evening including late in the race. While it looked like Erik might earn his first Cup Series win, his benefactor Kyle Busch took the lead with 50 laps to go and pulled away to take the checkered flag.

Suarez ran consistently all year long and going into the Championship Weekend it was still up in the air as to who would claim the Rookie Award. Jones finished in 21st place, two laps down. Suarez suffered brake problems and took his car to the garage after 225 laps. Suarez’s 34th place finish clinched the Rookie of the Year Award for Erik Jones.

Moving Forward in 2018

Furniture Row Racing won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship with Martin Truex Jr. behind the wheel of the 78 car. However, they are shutting down their second car operation despite Jones winning the Rookie of the Year Award. Jones, on loan to Furniture Row, returns to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2018. Erik will pilot the 20 car driven this year by Matt Kenseth. The announcement was made mid-year to allow Kenseth plenty of time to secure a ride for 2018. Unfortunately, that has not happened yet.

Jones will take the car that qualified for the playoffs this year and attempt to duplicate the feat in his second full year on the circuit. The Lasco Press will follow Erik’s career as he looks for that first Cup Win and we’ll report on his progress through the upcoming season. Look for a feature piece on the Byron native prior to the 2018 Daytona 500.

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