What were YOU doing at nineteen years old?
Odds are, you weren’t going 170+ MPH in a truck, racing for a living, and winning a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. But that’s exactly what Erik Jones did Friday evening, as he finished sixth in a fairly uneventful race for the No. 4 team en route to hoisting the trophy and being crowned the 2015 NCWTS champion.
“I can’t think of a better way to repay these guys,” Jones said in victory lane. ”I can’t think of a better way to thank Kyle for all these years [than by] getting the driver’s championship for him. He’s wanted one since the company started, and to bring it home for myself and for KBM, you couldn’t really ask for a better ending than that.”
Kyle Busch discovered the young prodigy in Jones when he was only 16 years old. He then signed Jones to a developmental driver deal after he was victorious over Busch in the Snowball Derby a few years ago, a famous dirt track race in Florida.
At 19 years, five months and 21 days, Jones officially became the youngest champion in Truck Series history. Which begs the question: what’s next for the youngster in his quest to the Sprint Cup Series?
The answer: a full-time season in the Xfinity Series in 2016 with a handful of Sprint Cup Races as well for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“At some point, yeah, I want to race in the Cup series every weekend,” said Jones “I feel like there’s a plan in place for that opportunity to arise. And I’ll just keep taking what’s given to me every week and go out and try to win races.”
Jones grabbed three wins this season and could have had many more if it weren’t for mechanical failures, pit stop mistakes and other factors that derailed his chances to win races earlier in the season.
“Erik’s done a lot of growing up in a short period of time. I’m glad he stuck with me and our plan. I think he has a lot of bigger and greater things ahead on his plate,” team owner Kyle Busch said.
Matt Crafton, who finished third in the overall standings, ended up winning the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway after winning the pole and dominating the race. In victory lane, Crafton was happy with the win, his first of his career at the track, but also was looking forward to 2016.
“Six wins with as many laps as we’ve led — it’s been awesome this season,” Crafton said. “We just made too many mistakes. I made too many mistakes. But I promise one thing: it’s going to make us stronger in 2016.”
Brad Keselowski Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who was consistent all season, was left wanting more after his second place finish in the point standings to Jones.
“We just have to move on to next year. I know what second place feels like and I really don’t like it too much,” Reddick said “If I didn’t have enough reasons to win a championship, I’ve got one more.”
Reddick will pilot the No. 29 truck full-time again next season, with Daniel Hemric moving teams to BKR and driving the No. 19 truck next season as well.
With one NASCAR championship under his belt, Erik Jones, a native of Byron, Michigan, is primed for success down the road and in the near future of his career. This is only the beginning, and we are seeing a superstar in the making before our very eyes.