Prior to the 2012 Snowball Derby – arguably the most prestigious short track race in America – Erik Jones was a relative unknown.
That December day in the Super Late Model race held at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, Jones took his first step toward NASCAR stardom. Driving his family-owned car, Jones cleared Busch with 18 laps to go and adroitly held him off the rest of the race for the win.
Busch was so impressed that he signed Jones to a contract with his Kyle Busch Motorsports team to run late models and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series trucks. In just 28 starts for KBM in the Truck Series, Jones has already won five races. He even subbed for Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car at Kansas this May when Busch was out with a leg injury.
In Saturday’s Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1), Jones and Busch will compete against each other in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the first time.
“It's always exciting to get to race against Kyle, whether it's Late Models, XFINITY or now in the trucks,” Jones said. “I'm sure he'll be fast this weekend as he always is in the Truck Series. He came to the test with us and shook our Tundra down and made a few laps. I think he was just trying to learn a few secrets for himself and his team. It will be cool to get to race against him and see what he's got."
Busch will make his first NCWTS start of the season on Saturday. He won a series-best seven races last year.
“Just looking forward to getting back to the series and seeing if I can't score a victory and have another year where I've won across all three series,” Busch said.
Jones, who ranks third in the NCWTS standings, wants to get the win for himself as he tries to evaporate leader Matt Crafton’s 24-point advantage. He maintains he’ll race Busch hard even though he’s his boss.
“It's definitely a different situation than racing against anybody else in the field, but you still go at him if it's for the win and you have to race him like you would anyone else,” Jones said.
If Jones, Busch or No. 54 KBM driver Matt Tifft visits Victory Lane at Pocono, KBM will add the “Tricky Triangle” to the list as the 18th of 21 active NCWTS tracks it has conquered.
“It sure would be exciting if it came down to me and Kyle at the end of the day racing for the win at Pocono,” Jones said. “I think he'd be excited knowing that it's a team truck and we are both going at it for the win."