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Xfinity Series Spotlight: Brandon Jones

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Brandon Jones was a fan of team owner Richard Childress long before he had the chance to drive for him.

“I think it was my first race at Las Vegas,” Jones told NBC Sports. “He was in a hurry, Richard’s always in a hurry, but I was like, ‘Hey!’ I didn’t even know what to say to him. And now, thank gosh last year I got an opportunity to drive with him a little bit, and now we’re best friends. You can come in his office and kick back and have a normal conversation, so it’s great.”

Jones, now 19, was given a five-race opportunity in 2015. After earning two top-five finishes, Jones received a full-time ride for 2016 driving the No. 33 Chevrolet.

“It was a grin on my face, that’s for sure,” Jones said about getting the phone call.

It was also a huge relief because Jones had contemplated many different career paths, such as the military or welding. Cars were always a love of his though and Jones isn’t one to be idle for too long or work behind a desk.

The Rookie of the Year candidate qualified for the inaugural Xfinity Series Chase on the strength of 11 top-10 finishes.

Entering Saturday’s race at Dover International Speedway, Jones has work to do if he wants to advance in the Chase. A 26th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway has put him 11th on the Chase grid. But there’s no other team he would rather be with in that position.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: The Gales (Bubba and Cale) played a huge role in getting your racing career started, how did you connect with them?

Jones: I didn’t come from a family that was in NASCAR or any form of racing, but we’ve always been car people. We met Cale through Kevin Harvick Inc. when he was driving the Rheem car, and knew some people at Rheem through their contact and just got to know Cale really well. One day we got invited to go down to Mobile, Alabama, to drive a Legends car with him and his dad to see how we liked it and to hang out down there in his hometown. Ended up falling in love with it as soon as I got in that thing.

His dad was also helping another kid in Georgia where we were living at the time, Spencer Davis, so we went out there after school every day and drove his truck. We’d take turns and then it led to my family getting a truck with him. Then we did the same thing but with our own vehicles, and we had just one big race at the end of the year and started the next year off with the full-time season in that super truck division. Lanier (Raceplex) and Gresham (Motorsports Park) were the two tracks that we ran, so that’s kind of how I got my start. I did that for a year before we moved on to a Late Model division; then started working in the K&N Series some, followed by ARCA.

NBC Sports: You started out at an older age than what is considered the norm, so did you feel like you had to work harder to earn your way?

Jones: I was 13 when I started, and six or seven is the go-kart age usually. I think we did it right. We didn’t just jump right into a race; we started just by running laps. We’d have headsets on and two-seaters and all kinds of stuff. I think that helped me kind of catch up with everything. You could tell when Spencer (Davis) was out there with me because he had thousands of go-kart races (under his belt) before we had raced the trucks, which is so different but still, he had that racing background and he had that mindset of how to win a race. So you could tell the confidence level for sure, but I feel like now I’m starting to level off with everybody and get really comfortable with these cars.

NBC Sports: There’s an actor named Brandon Jones who is also on Twitter with a very similar handle to yours, have you ever gotten tagged in his tweets?

Jones: Oh yeah, for sure. I probably got some of their followers, too. You can tell, ‘That one was probably not meant to follow me.’ (Musician) Colt Ford and people like that. It’s pretty cool.

NBC Sports: Being an outdoors person, what do you enjoy doing away from racing?

Jones: Bow hunting, fishing, things like that. All that stuff is so time-consuming, it’s like you don’t just go out there and pull your bow and be able to take a kill with an animal. Every day you’re trying to perfect yourself, so it’s pretty time-consuming. I try to go to the shop at least once or twice a week and then with the days I’m not racing I fill with bow shooting; I like tactical shooting, three-gun type stuff, so every day I’m slammed full.

NBC Sports: How did you get interested in wood building?

Jones: It was one of those YouTube things. You’re watching a video and then it’s like, ‘Oh, what is this?’ We’ve been doing all kinds of cool projects. My girlfriend, she loves to do pallet board type stuff, so we’ve been getting into that some. I built a really big outdoor farm table before, woodsheds, so we’ve done some pretty big stuff in the past, but I’ve tried to keep it small now.

NBC Sports: Have you ever gotten hurt doing anything outdoorsy or while building something?

Jones: I’ve never gotten hurt but frustrated, for sure. I have probably doubled my pricing in wood because I would cut one thing and I’ll be like, ‘This is not even matching up’ and I have to go back to Lowe’s and buy a whole new sheet or board. It was a pain in the beginning but I think it’s another thing you learn how to make mistakes and now I’ve gotten to where I know how to measure everything out.

NBC Sports: You have an interest in antique cars, correct?

Jones: Yeah, we had three cars built that we found behind barns rusted up. We kind of did a big transformation on them. I’ve got a Camaro with an RCR sp2 Xfinity motor in it from previous years; it’s a pretty cool little piece. My favorite one is my great grandfather’s truck that we had completely redone. We put a huge motor in it and painted it and everything, but it’s a got original wood and bed and everything.

NBC Sports: If you were to describe your personality would a Southern boy in jeans and boots and always outside be accurate?

Jones: Yep. Extremely outdoorsy. I just enjoy time out there and time on the ranch. I love, love being in the woods and being away from the city-type. I’ve done both. I’ve been in the city before, grew up in Atlanta, so I was dead smack in the middle of everything, and I think that’s why I probably grew so much to the country fields. It’s pretty funny, my dad laughs at me because they used to do 2,000 head of cattle when he was growing up my age so he grew up in the country life and now he’s like, ‘I gotta get away from it and be in the city.’ But I did it opposite; I’m into the cows and the farming and all that stuff, so he laughs and says a little bit of that wore off on me.

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Daytona road course entry lists

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NASCAR’s national series will make their debuts on the Daytona road course this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck events will be held without any practice or qualifying.

NASCAR is prohibiting drivers from competing in more than one series this weekend on the Daytona road course in an effort to get extra track time. NASCAR states that is to make the event fair for everyone.

Sunday’s Cup race will be broadcast on NBC.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the races at the Daytona road course 

Cup – Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine drivers are entered for the race at the Daytona road course.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

Joey Gase is in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Gray Gaulding is in the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is in the No. 62 for Beard Motorsports.

Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for Motorsports Business Management.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for Cup entry list

 

Xfinity – UNOH 188 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Andy Lally is back in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car after finishing fifth last week at Road America.

AJ Allmendinger, who finished second last week at Road America, is in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

IMSA driver Earl Bamber will make his Xfinity debut this weekend in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Brandon Gdovic will make his second start of the season, driving the No. 26 for Sam Hunt Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Truck – Sunoco 159 (Noon ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in the race that will be held before the Cup event on Sunday on the Daytona road course.

Alex Tagliani will drive the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Click here for Truck entry list

Silly Season Scorecard: Christopher Bell moves back to JGR

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No surprise that Christopher Bell moves over to the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing next season with Leavine Family Racing being sold and Erik Jones not remaining with JGR beyond this season. Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Monday.

While JGR lets the 24-year-old Jones, who has 133 Cup starts go, it brings in the 25-year-old Bell who has made 22 career Cup starts. Jones said before Sunday’s race he was “blindsided a little bit” by JGR’s move.

It’s part of the building momentum of Silly Season. In the last week, Team Penske signed Brad Keselowski to a reported one-year extension and Bubba Wallace said he has an offer for next year not only from Richard Petty Motorsports but also Chip Ganassi Racing.

Here’s how the Cup Silly Season scorecard looks as of Aug. 10.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said in a press conference Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through at least 2021.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 10: Aric Almirola is in a contract year at Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto is in a contract year at Wood Brothers Racing. He said after the Aug. 9 Michigan race: “I haven’t really talked about that stuff for next year yet, but we’ve just been so focused and head down on digging and trying to make the playoffs and run well. We haven’t even really talked about it, so, hopefully, I stay here for a very long time to come and that’s what they had expressed to me when I came over here.”

No. 32: Corey LaJoie is in a contract year at Go Fas Racing.

No. 42: Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports on Aug. 8 in regards to talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year: “We really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace said Aug. 9 he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports and an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 car next season.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Leavine Family Racing announced it was selling its assets earlier this week. The buyer has not been announced. Christopher Bell will move to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for 2021.

Christopher Bell to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021

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Christopher Bell will drive for the No. 20 next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team announced Monday, a decision that was expected with Erik Jones’ contract expiring after this season and it not being renewed. 

“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said in a statement from the team. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”

Said car owner Joe Gibbs: “We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021. He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”

Bell drove for JGR in in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, winning 15 races, before moving to the Cup Series and Leavine Family Racing this season. Leavine Family Racing announced last week that it has been sold.

Entering Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Bell is 19th in points. His best finish this season is fourth at the first Pocono race in late June.

Xfinity playoff grid after Road America

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Brandon Brown extended his hold on the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid last weekend at Road America after struggles early in the race.

Brown needed to be pushed back to pit road before the field took the green because of a mechanical issue. He fell a lap down as his crew diagnosed the issue, got his lap back, scored four stage points in the second stage and finished 12th, one spot off his best career finish on a road course.

MORE: Brandon Brown wants to reward father with a special celebration

MORE: Austin Cindric wins at Road America 

Brown’s effort and Jeremy Clements misfortune in being collected in a crash to finish 29th led to Brown extending his lead on Clements for the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid to 53 points. Myatt Snider is 73 points behind Brown. Eight races remain until the Xfinity playoffs begin Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at the playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Those shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Xfinity playoff grid.