Snakebitten Erik Jones looks for victory lane in double-header weekend


It’s been an interesting year for Erik Jones.

The 19-year-old is finally racing in his full rookie year in the Camping World Truck after having won four of 17 races over the previous two seasons as a part-time driver.

He’s also been in all but one Xfinity Series race, driving both the No. 20 and No. 54 Toyotas for Joe Gibbs Racing, at one point earning three-straight poles and his first Xfinity win at Texas Motor Speedway in April. That launched speculation about how quickly Jones would rise to the Sprint Cup level.

The following weeks saw the Byron, Mich., native make his unorthodox debut in relief of Denny Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway. Then he made his official debut driving Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota at Kansas Speedway as Busch recovered from injuries suffered in the Xfinity race at Daytona in February. Jones was running in the top 10 on Lap 197 when he lost control of the car on the frontstetch and hit the wall, leading to a 40th-place finish.

Meanwhile, in the CWTS, where he is actually competing for points, Jones is still winless after eight races.

Since that May 9 Sprint Cup race, Jones has simply been snake-bitten. The best outcome Jones has experienced in any of the national series is a second-place finish to Kasey Kahne in the CWTS race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, when a green-white-checkered duel ended with Kahne ahead by .005 seconds.

The race before, Jones led 151 laps at Kansas before he ran out of gas in the closing laps and finished 11th. After Charlotte, Jones led 50 laps at Dover before Tyler Reddick passed him with seven laps remaining to steal the win.

Then in two-straight races, at Texas and Gateway Motorsports Park, Jones had led a race high 68 and 84 laps when his truck experienced battery issues that either plunged him deep in the field or ended his night.

Now Jones returns to Iowa Speedway, a .875-mile track that hosted Jones’ first of three wins in 2014 when he led 131 of 200 laps.

“Iowa has been a pretty fun place for me,” Jones said in a release. “I ran well in the Xfinity Series race there earlier this year, so I’m pretty excited to get back there this weekend and I think the whole team is as well. It’s a place that has been pretty good to me since I went there for the first time in 2013 when we ran second in the spring and then we were able to get the win there last year.”

After he finishes the Truck race, Jones will travel to Chicagoland Speedway to compete in the Xfinty race at the 1.5-mile track. He’ll be back behind the wheel of Kyle Busch’s No. 54 a week after the Cup driver won at Michigan International Speedway in his first Xfinity race since being injured at Daytona. Jones’ best Xfinity finish since his Texas win is third at Iowa.

“I’m looking forward to Chicagoland, it’s a cool place and that’s where we made our Xfinity Series debut last year, so there are some things I can apply from there and take over with me this year,” said Jones, who finished seventh at track last year. “Obviously with the No. 54 team having some momentum from the Michigan win, that will be fun, to take it on into Chicago and see if we can have back-to-back wins.”

The CWTS race at Iowa starts at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and the Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland will start Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET on FS1.