Already boasting three talented young drivers in its stable, Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) announced the addition of a fourth today, with the signing of 16-year-old Erik Jones. The 2013 Snowball Derby winner will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut driving the No. 51 Tundra in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway April 6 as part of a five-race schedule for KBM this season.
Last March, Jones became the first 15-year-old driver ever to compete in the ARCA Racing Series, making his debut at the Mobile ARCA 200. Across 10 ARCA Racing Series starts in 2012, he posted four top-five and five top-10 finishes while leading 103 laps. The talented youngster qualified inside the top 10 for all 10 races and twice posted third-place finishes, June 24 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway and Aug. 11 at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich.
The Michigan native made a name for himself last December when he raced side-by-side for several laps and eventually worked his way past KBM owner Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win the 45th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. The victory came in a race widely recognized as the most prestigious late model event in the country, with a field which included NASCAR regulars Busch, David Ragan and Johanna Long along with up-and-coming second-generation drivers Chase Elliott, Ross Kenseth and John Hunter Nemechek.
"I've been around Erik a few times running late models -- he's a good kid and a good driver, so we're excited to be adding him to the crop of young talent we've assembled at KBM this season," Busch said. "He did a nice job practicing my late model at Nashville last year for the All-American 400 and then he raced me hard and clean in the closing laps of the Snowball Derby to win that race. Doing those types of things is how you get recognized in this sport."
"Kyle is a driver that I have always looked up to and have a lot of respect for, so to be able to make my Truck Series debut in one of his Tundras is something I would have never imagined," Jones said. "This is definitely the biggest opportunity of my career. I've always wanted to drive in NASCAR, so I am really looking forward to getting on the track in Martinsville in a few weeks and being able to evaluate where I stand against the great mix of veterans and young talent that the Truck Series offers."
The addition of Jones to a lineup of young drivers which already includes 19-year-old Darrell Wallace Jr. and Joey Coulter and Parker Kligerman, a pair of 22-year-olds, provides KBM with the crop of young talent that Busch has desired since becoming a NASCAR owner at the start of the 2010 season.
A rule change announced at the end of the 2011 season, allows 16 and 17-year-old drivers to compete in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events on tracks that are 1.1-mile or less. In addition to his debut at Martinsville, Jones will drive the No. 51 Tundra at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway April 14, both Iowa Speedway races (July 13 and Sept. 8) and one more race yet to be determined.