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.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”