Erik Jones is set to make is 200th career start across all three of NASCAR’s national touring series in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway – the same Martinsville Speedway where the Joe Gibbs racing driver made his first career national touring series start as a 16-year-old in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
The now 22-year-old said he has learned a lot in the six years since his debut at the ‘Half Mile of Mayhem.’
“If I could take the Martinsville knowledge I have now and go back to my first start, that would be great,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that I wasn’t really prepared for going in. I had never driven a truck. I had never been to Martinsville, so it was kind of an eye opener for me.
“I think the aggression level is something I would have known a little better in my first start. I think we were running fourth and kind of got knocked out of the way and finished ninth, so that was kind of unfortunate.”
Like so many other drivers before him, Jones grew up racing and winning on short-tracks like Martinsville throughout the country. Like so many other drivers before him, Jones found out quickly that there isn’t a track that’s comparable to the only track remaining from NASCAR’s original schedule.
“It’s tough,” Jones said. “I thought the same thing going into Martinsville for the first time – that it would fall right into my wheelhouse, but it’s a tough place. It’s very different.
“The way you have to drive it is very unique to itself. It’s really like no other short-track I had raced growing up. It’s really a learning experience every time, just trying to improve and figure out what it takes to be really fast around that place.”
Jones has an average finish of 20th at Martinsville, but is looking to improve on that this Sunday.
“A top-10 finish would be a really good day there,” he said. “We’ve had really good speed the last few weeks, we just haven’t be able to close races out. It would be really nice to go to Martinsville and have a really solid day.”
And as he enters his 200th start, Jones talked about the biggest thing he has learned throughout his career as a whole.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned through my entire career, to this point, is just maintaining the work ethic that it takes to be successful at the top-level,” Jones said. “I think it’s a lot more that what people really see and think from the outside. You really have to put in the work to be one of the top guys at the Cup level.
The STP 500 presented by whosyourdriver.org is this weekend.
The weekend starts with a practice day for the truck series on Friday, followed by a Truck Series autograph session and the Hauler Parade.
On Saturday, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series is in action with a 250 lap race. Following the race the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will qualify for Sunday’s STP 500.
Sunday the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is in action with the running of the STP 500. The race is the first short-track race of the season and the first race back on the East Coast after the Series’ “West Coast Swing.”
Ticket prices for the STP 500 begin at $47 with youth tickets for fans 17-and-under just $25 regardless of location. Youth 17-and-under are admitted free to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 250 lap race on Saturday. Friday’s practice day is free to everyone.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.