By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
No other driver has electrified NASCAR’s top-three touring series recently quite like Erik Jones.
The 19-year-old has already conquered the Camping World Truck Series, winning the championship last season. Jones, a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver, also impressed last year in select races in relief of an injured Kyle Busch, most notably at Kansas Speedway, where he made his first career start and drove all the way up into the top-five before crashing out midway through.
So, it only seems natural that Jones has been appointed as an immediate championship contender in the XFINITY Series. Running full time this year, Jones secured his first win of the season at Bristol last weekend, bettering mentor Busch on a late restart.
But with a full stable of Sprint Cup veterans at Joe Gibbs Racing, many wonder when the move to NASCAR’s top level will actually happen. Even though the talent is there, the open seats are not, and although the Michigan native would have preferred to already been in the Cup Series, he admits that the decision doesn’t just rest on him.
“Yes and no,” said Jones, on if a timetable for a move up has been established. “I think back a couple years ago and I had a time table and said to myself that I want to be here by this time and I want to be to Cup by this time, but as I kind of moved forward and got into the Truck Series and then the XFINITY Series and got with these teams, I’ve learned that it’s not my choice.
“I’m just racing for these guys and it’s up to the sponsors, it’s up to the team owners and it’s up to opportunities and spots being open. I think there’s a plan in place for me at some point. I’m not sure 100 percent what it is, but I’m along for the ride right now and truly enjoying my time in the XFINITY Series and going out and being competitive every week and being in contention to win is a pretty cool opportunity for me in general.”
Image: Sean Gardner/Getty Images