Blake Jones captured the biggest win (International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200) of his young racing career back in May of 2015 at Talladega Superspeedway in reaching victory lane with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
But nothing would put a bigger smile on the 20-year-old’s face than to be able write his name in the record book at Bristol Motor Speedway by winning the inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals to be held Friday through Sunday, May 19-21, 2017. Jones will be driving the No. 96 Ford Fusion for Highlands Motorsports owner Wade Lopez and team manager/crew chief Wade Day at “The Last Great Colosseum.”
Jones, who resides in Sevierville, Tenn., has seven career starts with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, and he also has competed in one NASCAR Xfinity Series event, coming last fall at Kentucky Speedway. He also has experience at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile with three NASCAR K&N Pro Series races to his credit.
“I’m really looking forward to teaming up with Highlands Motorsports for the Short Track U.S. Nationals,” Jones said Wednesday afternoon from his home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. “Wade Lopez and Wade Day, what more do I need to say – they’re both great guys and both accomplished racers with just a genuine love and passion for stock car racing. We’ve got a really good piece (Super Late Model) to race this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I’ve actually not raced much period over the past year, so the open test sessions for the Short Track U.S. Nationals have really benefited me greatly. I guess you could say it’s kind of helped shake the rust off of me. What’s that old saying, about once you learn how to ride a bicycle you’ll never forget how to? Well, I sure hope that holds true for race car drivers, that once you’ve been out of the seat for a while, all it takes is just running some practice laps to get you acclimated once again. I’m just really thankful to Wade Lopez and Wade Day for giving me this opportunity to drive their car.”
Many say Jones is a natural talent when it comes to racing, it’s like he was born with a steering wheel in his hands. The progression up the racing ladder has seen him win not only races but championships each step in the climb.
His first season racing go-karts in 2005 at Dumplin Valley Raceway in Kodak, Jones captured 14 wins in 16 starts to win both the championship and Rookie of the Year honors. In 2006 he began racing in the INEX-sanctioned Bandolero Bandits division, competing on the quarter-mile track inside the tri-oval along the front-stretch at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jones quickly became a winner, visiting victory lane in just his fourth race.
The 2007 and 2008 racing seasons proved to be banner campaigns for young Jones, as he won the ’07 Tennessee State Bandolero Bandits championship – and in ’08 he captured both the Charlotte Motor Speedway Winter Heat title and the Atlanta Motor Speedway Thursday Thunder championship. Along the way over the course of those two seasons, Jones won over 20 races and recorded over 40 top-five finishes.
Making the move up to an INEX-sanctioned Legends car for the 2009 racing season, Jones continued his winning ways by parking in Newport Speedway’s victory lane in just his second start. He also captured additional hardware by being named ’09 Tennessee State Legends champion after a phenomenal 17-win season.
The next step for Jones was getting behind the wheel of a full-bodied stock car, and that’s where he first joined forces with Wade Day. The combination of Jones and Day proved to be a winning deal, leading to capturing the Late Model Stock Car championship in 2010 at Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Va. Jones won eight races en route to winning the track championship and also earning rookie of the year honors. In 2011 the decision was made to move Jones up to racing with the United Speed Alliance Racing Pro Cup Series.
“When I was just 13 years old, my father (Teddy Jones) hired Wade Day to be my crew chief and oversee the racing efforts of our family-owned race team,” Jones stated. “Bringing Wade (Day) onboard really paid dividends immediately as he taught me how to become a Late Model Stock Car racer. Not just teaching me how to drive a full-sized stock car, but he really showed me what it took to become a good race car driver. I truly learned so much from Wade, just listening to what he would tell me and then going out on the track and doing what he told me to do.
“There just aren’t many people in motorsports who are as knowledgeable about race cars as Wade, and that’s a fact. His accomplishments behind the wheel as a racer speak for themselves, with two NASCAR Weekly Racing Series regional championships back in the early 2000s, along with winning the International Sport Compact Auto Racing Series championship, plus running with the American Speed Association and United Speed Alliance Racing Hooters Pro Cup Series. Besides working with me, he served as crew chief for current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Trevor Bayne when he was a teenager racing in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, and he’s worked with countless other young racers.”
A stellar field of top Super Late Model competitors from around the country will be present at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Short Track U.S. Nationals, and for those who didn’t attend any of the open test sessions, Jones believes they’ll be wide-eyed when running their first laps on the high banks.
“I’m telling you, I’ve driven 200 mph at both Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, but the overall feeling of speed you experience driving a Super Late Model around Bristol is something else,” Jones said. “The Super Late Models are running faster lap times than what the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars are turning. The cornering speeds especially are much quicker in the Super Late Model than from when I’ve raced here in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. The G-forces in the turns on your body are incredible. You’re getting around the place so quickly you’ve got to be thinking well ahead.
“My parents would bring me up here when I was just a young boy to watch NASCAR races, and to have been able to run in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series races I’ve competed in and now this prestigious inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals, I’m blessed and very thankful for all the racing opportunities in life I’ve been given. There are going to be many top drivers and teams competing in this event, but I know Wade Lopez and Wade Day have me in top-notch equipment and we’re all really pumped-up and excited. We’re going to give it our 100 percent best effort.”
The Highlands Motorsports entry for Jones at Bristol Motor Speedway will be sponsored by: Lopez Wealth Management Group, Global Building Contractors, American Proud Flags & Accessories and Food Country USA.
Highland Motorsports PR