This week I sat down with Erik Jones; a new face in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series circuit. We talked about the challenges that come with balancing school and racing. Also, how it feels to become the youngest winner in NCWTS history.
Samantha Wiesneth: How/when did you get your start in racing?
Erik Jones: I started racing when I was seven in quarter midgets, a go kart series for kids. I never did very well at other sports, and when I found something I could be competitive in, it really caught on.
SW: Do people ever tell you that you are crazy for having started racing so young? If so, how do you overcome those road-blocks?
EJ: I don’t know If crazy is the right word, I don’t think a lot of people could believe it though. I faced some challenges at my home track with other people saying I was too young, when I began racing street stocks at 12. Thinking back, it is a little wild that a 12 year old was racing a three thousand pound race car.
SW: What is the best advice that you have gotten since you've started racing?
EJ: Stay focused, stay humble, stay driven. Three statements that I believe has made a number of great drivers, be so great.
SW: Most drivers would find success in just being the youngest to compete in a series, but you also became the youngest winner in NCWTS history. How does that help you to advance in your career?
EJ: The win at Phoenix was huge for me. It really gave me a head start going into 2014, and gave us something that we can present to sponsors as a proven winner. Winning in the truck series was a huge accomplishment for me personally as well as being a winner in NASCAR is something I have dreamed of since I started racing.
SW: Since you have to balance school and racing, what does a normal race week look like for you?
EJ: It’s really tough. I am in my senior year now, but I have taken classes online for the past two years. That helped a lot with being able to travel, but when I go down to North Carolina, I usually have to take a few hours out of each day to dedicate to school, so I don’t get behind.
SW: What do your friends and classmates think about everything that you do and what you have accomplished? What kind of support do they give?
EJ: They think it’s really cool. Having their support has been awesome, some follow it closer than others, and ask how the weekend went, while others already know the answer. It’s definitely a different thing to be doing at 17. But it makes it interesting for sure.
SW: What advice would you give to other students who are starting young and following their dreams?
EJ: Make sure it’s something that you really want to dedicate your time too. You will lose a lot of time throughout your teenage years, and it has to be something that you are willing to give up. Its a crazy industry. Make sure you pay attention in school too, you always need a backup plan if it doesn’t work out.
SW: For most high school seniors, graduation is the culmination of all the hard work that they've done in school; you are going to miss your graduation to run your first superspeedway race. What was the thought process behind this?
EJ: Well, this is a little contradictory to my last statement, but I have never been a big fan of school. I never have seen graduation as of big as an accomplishment as most I think, I always saw it as just something that you were forced to do in life. My thought process was that I would much rather be going 180 at Texas Motor Speedway, than throwing my cap in the air.
SW: What will you do differently to prepare for your first superspeedway race?
EJ: I don’t think that I will do anything necessarily different. I will talk to Kyle about what to expect, and go and learn about more of the aerodynamic side of things to get a feel for it. The biggest thing at a super speedway is really knowing how to air works, and how to use it to your advantage.
SW: What are your on and off track goals for this year?
EJ: On track I would like to go out and win some more races with KBM this year, and bring home another owners championship for the company. Off track, I want to finish up my high school career, and figure out what I am going to do next. I also want to get moved down to North Carolina this summer, which is pretty exciting.
SW: What is it like sharing a truck with Kyle Busch and driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports?
EJ: The cool factor of it all hasn’t worn off one bit. I get to drive for one of the best in this sport, and have him as a mentor. Having Kyle to talk to before I go to these races has been a big help to me, especially when I have never been somewhere before. Driving for KBM is great, they have the nicest equipment in the truck garage, and I think that we work harder than anyone. Being a part of that organization has been an honor to say the least.
SW: Who are your role models in racing? Why?
EJ: My role model would be Jimmie Johnson. The guy does everything right, he has accomplished just as much as anyone in the sport, and is considered one of the greatest to ever get behind the wheel of a race car. I’m honestly not sure what racer wouldn’t want to be like him.
SW: What are three things you want people to know about Erik Jones?
EJ: 1. I’m just like any other 17-year-old. I go to school and I like to hang out with my friends, I just happen to have the opportunity to race fast cars on the weekend.
2. I’m a sucker for chocolate cake
3. I have a twitter - @erik_jones and Facebook fan page – Erik Jones Racing – that everyone should go and follow or “like”
Erik will be making his return to the NCWTS on March 29th at Martinsville Speedway. Thank you to Erik Jones and everyone at Erik Jones Racing for making this interview possible. Thanks for reading!
You can always contact me on twitter @nascargal18