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Erik Jones TMS Graduate a Quick Study in Intermediate-Level Courses

Tuesday, Jun 02 1496
Last year knowing that Erik Jones was going to miss his high school graduation to race in the WinStar World Casino 400 at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) in Fort Worth, track president Eddie Gossage and his staff held a pre-race graduation ceremony on the frontstretch stage and presented the Michigan native with his high school diploma. Having just turned 18, last year's event in the Lone Star State also marked the racing prodigy's first NASCAR start on a track larger than one mile in length.


While most high school graduates have the summer to prepare for their first taste of college, Jones walked the stage at TMS and 20 minutes later received his first lesson in Mile-and-a-Half Racing 101. He ran inside the top five for most of the 167-lap event as he went to school learning the aero dependency of the NASCAR Camping World Series trucks. When the bell rang and class was dismissed, the combination of a loose-handling Tundra and the race being decided by fuel strategy left the freshman with a disappointing 11th-place finish.


Sharing the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra with team owner Kyle Busch last season, Jones had to wait until late September at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway to tackle his next intermediate-level course. Having been humbled by his first race at a 1.5-mile venue, the young driver leaned on Busch and his open notebook in an effort to gain more knowledge on the methodology of racing on larger tracks and was able to enter his second test more prepared. Once again he ran inside the top five for most of the event and with 25 laps settled into the second position behind KBM teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. With 13 laps remaining, the talented teenager took over the top spot and by the time he crossed the finish line had separated himself by 1.329 seconds over Wallace Jr.


Jones statistics on the 1.5-mile tracks in the Truck Series this season are very impressive. Combined between the three mile-and-a-half races in 2015 (Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway) he has led 63.3% (276/436) of the laps and been the fastest truck on the track for 50.9% (187/367) of the green-flag laps. His mile-and-a-half mojo has also carried over to NASCAR's second division, where he picked up his first career XFINITY Series victory in April after outdueling NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stalwarts Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brad Keselowski in the closing laps at Texas.


Statistics prove that the Texas Motor Speedway graduate has been a quick study in intermediate-level courses. Now Jones returns to Texas hoping to finish Friday night's event at the head of the class and continue in his quest to be the valedictorian for the Truck Series commencement in November.


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