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Erik Jones’ career path has gone the same way as he drives: fast

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After winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2015, Erik Jones figured he’d spend two or three years in the Xfinity Series before eventually moving up to the NASCAR Cup Series.

After all, what was the rush? He’s only 20 years old.

But as it turned out, that two-to-three year gameplan in Xfinity that Joe Gibbs Racing had in mind was quickly reduced to just one year, the 2016 campaign.

Now, Jones finds himself in NASCAR’s premier series, driver of the No. 77 Toyota Camry and teammates with veteran Martin Truex Jr. at Furniture Row Racing.

Not only is this Jones’ first season in NASCAR Cup, it’s also Furniture Row’s first year as a two-car team. Up to this point over the last decade-plus, the Denver, Colorado-based FRR has been only a single-car team.

And with Monday’s announcement of a new points format and three stages in a race starting this season, Jones’ rookie season may be a bit more difficult than he anticipated because he may have to change his aggressive driving style somewhat.

“All throughout my career, I’ve been an all or nothing, checkers or wreckers driver,” Jones said Tuesday during the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte. “I think it’s definitely different this year.

“You have to rack up those points. The more bonus points you have, the better chance you have to make it to Homestead.”

Jones is the first graduate, so to speak, of the Toyota driver development program to reach the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“When I joined KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) in 2013, Toyota was heavily invested into our sport but they didn’t have a driver development program like now,” Jones said. “It was me and Darrell Wallace. People forget. Toyota did a lot for me and has for me.”

Teaming with Truex will be valuable to Jones as he tries to learn the ropes of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“I think Martin will be a great teammate,” Jones said. “For Furniture Row it will be so beneficial to have two cars at the track. That one extra car is pretty important. It should be good.

“… I think it’s going to be an exciting season with a new group of guys. It’s a team that’s really on the rise and is growing.”

One of the biggest personal challenges for Jones will be a rivalry with another young driver who was the Cup Series’ Rookie of the Year last season, Chase Elliott.

“I guess there sort of was that at the Late Model level,” Jones said. “We raced each other so much. I don’t know if it will carry to the Cup series. We weren’t wrecking; we just raced hard and were upset if we lost. Neither wanted to lose to each other.

“We felt we were competing against each other, trying to burst onto the NASCAR scene. It’d be good if we are running up front and running together (this season).”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 90: Roger Slack

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Eldora Speedway general manager Roger Slack joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss his track’s past, present and possible future with NASCAR.

Slack detailed the run-up to the initial “secret” test with Tony Stewart and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon that led to scheduling a Camping World Truck Series race that recently completed its fifth edition.

Slack also discussed the storied history of Eldora, which opened in 1954 and was bought by Stewart 50 years later.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR America: How Daniel Suarez found out he was replacing Carl Edwards (video)

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On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Daniel Suarez recalled the moment he got the call that he was being promoted to replace Carl Edwards in the NASCAR Cup Series at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Suarez was at dinner back home in Mexico with family and friends when JGR officials called and him to be ready for a teleconference in a few moments.

Suarez stepped away, telling his dinner partners he’d be back shortly — which ultimately lasted 40 minutes.

When he returned to the dinner table, he couldn’t tell anything about the phone call — JGR officials swore him to secrecy — but he eventually revealed that he had been promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series to replace Edwards, who had decided to take a hiatus from his racing career.

Check out the video above.

 

 

NASCAR America: What Joe Gibbs Racing teammates really think of each other (video)

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Daniel Suarez appeared on Wednesday’s live broadcast of NASCAR America from the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina,

One of the funniest segments of Suarez’s visit was a video and verbal collage of how much he and his fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammates really think of each other — all in good humor, of course.

Check out the video above where Suarez, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch answer the “tough questions” about themselves, as well as how they feel about their fellow teammates.

NASCAR America: Daniel Suarez’s journey from Mexico and VW Beetles to NASCAR champion (video)

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In winning last year’s Xfinity Series championship, Mexican native Daniel Suarez became NASCAR’s first international champion.

It was the culmination of a journey that began with his father and, interestingly enough, Volkswagen Beetles.

Check out Suarez’s story and the thoughts about his success and prowess by our NASCAR America analysts in the video above.

Speaking of VW Beetles, Suarez’s father sold his restoration shop to fund his son’s racing dream. Years later, Daniel repaid his father by purchasing a new restoration shop for him. See the video below.