Erik Jones to run full NASCAR Trucks and part-time XFINITY Series schedules in 2015

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We’re set to see a lot more of Erik Jones in the near-future.

The 18-year-old, who has ran part-time programs the last two seasons for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, will drive full-time for KBM next year. Additionally, Jones will also run a part-time NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I feel like my success at KBM the last two seasons has opened the door to this opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series and I’m grateful for what everyone at Toyota, KBM and JGR has done to help make this possible,” Jones said in a statement.

“JGR has collected 100 wins in the series and I’m ready to take what I’ve learned in just a handful of races this year and be able to go out next year and help them bring home more victories.

“When you add the experience I will gain in the XFINITY Series to the 23-race Truck Series schedule, I’ll be gaining valuable seat time in the best equipment as I continue to climb the ladder in NASCAR and I couldn’t be more thankful to be where I am so early in my career.”

Lots of information regarding both of  Jones’ efforts – a truck number and sponsor in the Truck Series, plus total number of races, crew chief, car number and sponsors in the XFINITY Series – will be announced later.

But what we do know is that Ryan “Rudy” Fugle will serve as crew chief for Jones in the Trucks. Fugle currently works as a race engineer, but last year, he was the CC for KBM’s No. 51 team in its run to the series’ owner’s championship and for Jones’ first series win last fall at Phoenix International Raceway (which made Jones the youngest NASCAR national series event winner ever).

“Rudy and I have developed a great relationship the last few years and we’re going to have a quality team with a lot of familiar faces around us,” Jones added. “I’m confident that I’ll be able to take what I’ve learned running a part-time schedule the last two seasons and be able to go out and challenge for wins week in and week out and be a contender for the [Truck Series] championship next season.”

Jones has done well in his part-time role for KBM with three wins (including one this year at Las Vegas), six Top-5s, and 12 Top-10s in 20 Truck Series starts across 2013 and 2014. He’s also made a pair of Nationwide Series starts this year for JGR, finishing seventh at Chicago and eighth at Bristol.

This weekend at Phoenix, Jones will take part in both of those series. He’ll drive KBM’s No. 51 Toyota Tundra in the Truck Series race Friday night, then drive the No. 20 JGR Toyota Camry in Saturday’s 200-miler for the Nationwide Series.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”