The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

July 16, 2014

Jones breaks through ahead of Nationwide debut

18-year-old Erik Jones had a victory in Phoenix that made him the youngest winner in series history.

DES MOINES — Erik Jones has discovered that driving the No. 51 truck isn't nearly as easy as Kyle Busch makes it look.

Last weekend, Jones finally pushed through the adversity that had dogged him all season with a run that showed why Busch and others are so high on his potential.

Jones led 131 of the 200 laps in a NASCAR trucks race at Iowa Speedway on Friday and cruised to his first victory of 2014 and the sixth for Busch's No. 51 team.

The win came at a perfect time for the 18-year-old Jones, who will make his NASCAR Nationwide debut this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

"It was definitely a great win in a lot of ways for everybody over here at (Kyle Busch Motorsports) and for myself just to get some momentum going. Hopefully we can carry it into this next weekend and keep going on the Nationwide side of things," Jones said.

Busch has set a nearly impossible standard for Jones to match by winning all five of his trucks starts in 2014.

Jones is still learning how to drive — and deal with the bad breaks that are inherent to motorsports.

Jones emerged as something of a stock car wunderkind in 2012, becoming the first 15-year-old to run an ARCA race. His early success caught the eye of Busch, who gave him five starts in the No. 51 last year, and Jones rewarded Busch's faith in him with a victory in Phoenix that made Jones the youngest winner in series history.

Busch's support has been crucial so far for Jones, who unlike many of NASCAR's young stars is a first-generation racer.

"Kyle has been a big influence on me and pointing me in the right direction and helping me out. I think he's been the biggest person in my career," Jones said.

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