With a finish of 15th or better in Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, 19-year-old Erik Jones will be crowned the youngest champion in series history. While Jones certainly aspires to add this major accomplishment to his personal resume, perhaps equally important to the racing prodigy is delivering a much-coveted Driver's Championship to boss and mentor Kyle Busch.
Busch first crossed paths with Jones racing Super Late Models in January of 2012, when both opened up their racing seasons in the SpeedFest 200 at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Ga. In the early stages of the event a rocket fast car with a No. 4 on the side blew past Busch's No. 51 Camry. While Jones and his No. 4 team would blow a motor while running second just before the halfway mark of the race, he had already made a lasting impression on Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) owner.
Later that season, Busch entered the All-American 400 Super Late Model race at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tenn., on the same weekend that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Having to miss the practice sessions, he called upon Jones, who was also entered in the race to shake down his Camry for him. While the Michigan teenager was already on Busch's map, it was later that year at the prestigious Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., that he made a name for himself across the motorsports world. The 16-year-old raced door-to-door with the NASCAR Superstar and in the end it was Jones in his family-owned car that crossed the finish line first.
In 2013 when NASCAR lowered the minimum age requirement for tracks 1.1-mile or less, KBM signed the then 16-year-old Jones to a five-race deal in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The talented youngster finished inside the top 10 in each of his first four starts and then in his fifth-and-final start became the youngest winner of a NASCAR National Series event with his win at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway. The win helped propel the No. 51 Tundra team to the organization's second Owner's Championship.
Jones schedule more than doubled in 2014 and he rewarded the team by capturing three wins, two poles, five top-five and eight top-10 finishes across his 12 starts and once again was part of an Owner's Championship with the No. 51 team. At last year's banquet, Busch and Jones set a goal of winning both the Driver's and Owner's Championships in 2015 and not having to share the Truck Series side of the stage with another team.
The No. 4 Tundra team started out 2015 strong, earning top-three finishes in four of the first six races, but finishes of 15th and 23rd in early June put the team in a hole in the championship standings. After the eighth race of the season at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., Jones found himself fourth in points, 33 behind Matt Crafton. Behind the strength of 14 consecutive top-10 finishes, which has included wins at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont., and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, the NASCAR Next alum has propelled to the top of the standings, where he sits 19 points ahead of fellow teenager Tyler Reddick going into Friday night's 134-lap event.
With the giving season fast approaching, Jones will be looking to get an early start on his holiday shopping list Friday night at Homestead. The 19-year-old is ready to deliver something that is shiny, silver and will bring lots of joy to Kyle Busch.