The last time Erik Jones raced in his family-owned Super Late Model was during the 2014 Winchester 400. In fact, the last two races for that car have been on the high banks of Winchester Speedway (IN) for the prestigious Super Late Model event. But now the car is making, with the help of Jones’ Kyle Busch Motorsports NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team, its return at a different race. Jones will pilot the car in the Redbud 300 on Saturday, July 18 on the high banks of Anderson, Indiana’s Anderson Speedway.
Jones wasn’t planning on making the trip to Indiana for the race, but after winning the Battle at Berlin 251 last month, he decided to try to chase the JEGS/CRA $100,000 Super Late Model Triple Crown that is made up of Berlin, the Redbud 300 and the Winchester 400.
The two-time Snowball Derby champion, who won his first Derby with his family-owned team, tried to find a last-minute ride for the Redbud, but nobody had anything available for him to race.
It wasn’t until a week ago that Jones finally decided to take the family car out of its Mooresville, North Carolina storage unit to race on the quarter-mile bullring of Anderson.
“I was trying to get some other opportunities together that didn’t quite work out,” Jones told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It came to probably Wednesday afternoon when we were sitting in the rain at Kentucky for practice. I talked to Rudy Fugle, my crew chief on the truck, about how I couldn’t find anything and couldn’t do anything. He said ‘why don’t we go get that car out of the storage unit and get it ready with some of our guys?’ So that’s how it went.”
The 19-year-old Jones and his KBM crew have been thrashing on the car since Sunday night to get it ready for this weekend. He said the car is starting to come along well thanks to the effort his team has put in.
“They’ve been staying after work to get it ready,” Jones said. “We’ve only been working on it since Sunday when it got pulled out of the storage unit. It’s coming along now. It’s to the point where we are almost ready to go, so it’s been pretty cool to see these guys put it together as fast as they have.”
Winning the Redbud would mean a lot for Jones for a couple of different reasons. The car that he is running is certainly a big part of it, explained Jones, but also because he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire at Anderson the way he has at other places.
“It’s been one of the more challenging ones for me in my career,” said Jones. “I don’t know that I’ve ever had a ton of success there in anything that I’ve went there in.”
Jones has only attempted the Redbud 300 once in his career. He finished 15th there after crashing in the 2013 edition of the race.
He said the small size of the track is what makes the place, and this race, so challenging to conquer.
“I look forward to get to go there, but it’s just so challenging,” said Jones. “Just the sheer size of it being so small and the action that’s happening so fast. There’s just not a lot of time to think and do things and miss wrecks when you get yourself in that kind of position. It’s pretty hard to make it 300 laps around that place when you have 25 other guys trying to route and gouge their way by you.”
Jones said it’s possible to compare racing at Anderson to racing at Bristol Motor Speedway in a NASCAR Sprint Cup car, but he explained that Anderson in a Super Late Model is even tougher.
“I’d say it’s amped up from Bristol,” Jones explained. “At Bristol you have time to at least process and think about what’s going on. At Anderson the straightaways are so short. You don’t even really have to time to catch your breath let alone think about what is even going on.”
The difficulty of Anderson is what makes completing the Triple Crown so difficult. In the two-year history of the JEGS/CRA Super Late Model Triple Crown Series only Johnny VanDoorn went to the final race at Winchester with a chance to win the $100,000 bonus.
Jones said he’d love to be the first to claim the Triple Crown, but he’s aware of just how difficult that feat will be.
“It would be pretty awesome,” said Jones. “I’ve said since they started doing it that it would be really hard for somebody to do. The three tracks are just so unique. I never really thought that a guy that would win at Berlin would be able to win at Anderson or Winchester especially. Or a guy that wins at Winchester would win at Berlin.
It won’t be easy, but if we could do it that would be big for us.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount