Erik Jones will look at Chicago in a totally different way for the rest of his life in a little less than a month from now.
For it will be in the Windy City that the young NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver will make his Nationwide Series debut in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19.
It will be the first of three NNS starts Jones will make during the second half of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 20 JGR NNS Toyota Camry. He’ll also race Aug. 22 at Bristol and Nov. 8 at Phoenix.
“(I have) high expectations for all three races,” Jones said in a team media release. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to run some Nationwide races this year with Joe Gibbs Racing.”
A native of tiny Byron, Michigan (halfway between Flint and East Lansing), Jones will be the sixth different driver in the No. 20 this season. Matt Kenseth has made the most appearances behind its wheel (nine), with one appearance each by Sam Hornish Jr., Michael McDowell, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Suarez.
Jones, who just turned 18 on May 30, has made just three starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the No. 51 Toyota Tundra in the NCWTS this season, with a best finish of 11th at Texas.
He was leading late in last Saturday’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park when he was hit from behind and spun out by German Quiroga Jr., leaving Jones with a disappointing 23rd-place finish.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had a little bit of bad luck in the (Camping World) Truck Series and then one where we just weren’t on our game,” told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It hasn’t gone quite like we’d hoped this year, but Gateway was definitely a big step for us. It does make me feel good that I got this opportunity and really felt like we accomplished something in the Truck Series to make it happen.”
Jones has made a total of eight NCWTS starts in his short career, including being the youngest winner in series history last year at Phoenix. All told, Jones has one win, two top-10 finishes and five top-10 showings in those eight starts.
“Being in the Nationwide Series, it’s really such another level, but it’s one that I’ve been wanting to get on now for so long,” Jones said. “It’s a series that you look at as definitely the next step on the development ladder. To have my opportunity and my shot at going out there and running those races with those guys is pretty special.”
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