Erik Jones certainly left his mark on the high banks of Winchester Speedway (IN) in this weekend’s JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Winchester 100. What looked like it might be a fairy tale day for the 15-year-old Michigan driver took a turn when a flat tire appeared with just 18-laps remaining, after the rookie driver had led most of the event. It was then that he showed his true talent and rallied his No. 4 Paragon Corvette Reproductions Chevy machine back up to a third-place finish.
The flat tire forced Jones to hit pit road under green flag conditions, but the caution flag quickly flew for an incident elsewhere on the track, allowing Jones to stay in the hunt for victory.
“When the caution came out I was extremely happy,” said Jones. “I was happy at that part, and then when we got the Lucky Dog (to get back on the lead lap) that was, of course, even better. I knew we had a strong car and I thought we could get back up there. When we got back up to the front that fast I was pretty surprised that the car was still that good after that. We had a really, really good car and I think we had a shot at the win.”
Once he was back on the lead lap, Jones got all he could out of his No. 4 Chevy, but still needed just one more caution to make it back up to the top spot.
“If there was one more caution that would’ve come out I think we could have had another shot at it,” said Jones. “But it didn’t play our way tonight and we’ll go on to the next one.
“It meant a lot to come back through the field so strong like that. We had such a dominant car from the time practice started and then we qualified fast time. Honestly, the atmosphere felt a lot like Rockford when we won. When we got to the front as quick as we did, I was really surprised how good the car was and then we were just riding out there.”
Although it was his first-ever trip to the high-banked monster that is Winchester Speedway, Jones turned many heads and added his name to an elite list of short trackers who have tasted success at the historic facility.
“I love this place, honestly,” said Jones. “It’s one of the coolest, neatest tracks I’ve ever been to. And when you’ve got help like I do it makes it a whole lot easier. My crew chief, Butch VanDoorn, is only a couple years older than I am (19), but he is the man when it comes to setting up the racecar. I even got a lot of help from his brother Johnny (defending CRA Super Series Champion), who went out there with me and we drove around and he showed me the line and how to pass. He told me how the race was probably going to go – and it really did go like he said. That’s all an advantage. Anything that somebody can tell you like that, that’s going to help.”
With his strong third-place finish at Winchester, Jones finds himself in a great position in the point standings as the season begins to wind down.
“We’re going to keep racing like we are trying to go for wins and top-five finishes. I think if we keep doing that we have a really good chance at the championship when this is all over.”
Jones will be back behind the wheel of his Paragon Corvette Reproductions machine in the next JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour event at Owosso Speedway (MI) on September 3rd, a race that will be his homecoming as he hails from just down the road in Byron, MI.
For more information visit www.erikjonesracing.com