Michigan’s Jones announces father’s death before MIS race

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Erik Jones waits in his car during Xfinity practice at MIS on Friday.

Brooklyn – Erik Jones is a rising star in the NASCAR scene, already earning a Camping World Truck series championship last year while driving for Kyle Busch.

Jones, a Swartz Creek High graduate who turned 20 last month, was in the No. 20 Reser’s Fine Foods Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, competing for the first time at the two-mile superspeedway in an Xfinity series race.

Just prior to getting in his car, Jones announced on social media the death of his father, Dave Jones, who passed away Tuesday.

“To confirm – my father did pass away on Tuesday. Take it to the limit Papa Bear,” Jones wrote on Twitter before stepping into his car. Jones also wrote a letter to his dad and included that on Twitter with his post.

Jones began his letter: “I want to start off by thanking you, thanking you for giving me a life and an opportunity that most would only dream of. You saw something in me early on, that maybe I didn’t even see in myself.”

Jones finished fourth in Saturday's race, won by Daniel Suarez.

“It was important to him,” David Wilson, Toyota President and CEO of Racing, said of Jones' decision to race Saturday. “He did it to honor his father. Erik is a tough kid and we’ll be there for him.”

In his early teen years, Jones worked for his father’s business, Paragon Reproductions, a Corvette restoration shop in Michigan.

Jones made a name for himself when he received his high school diploma at Texas Motor Speedway two years ago prior to the WinStar World Casino 400 before finishing 11th. He went on to win three races while competing on a part-time basis, then won three more races while running full-time last year to win the championship.

Jones is competing full-time for the first time in Xfinity this year, already owning victories at Bristol and Dover and is coming off a runnerup spot last weekend at Dover. With Saturday's finish he improved from fifth to fourth in the standings, 55 behind leader Suarez.

It was at Dover where he passed Busch and Kyle Larson, who also competes in Sprint Cup, with three laps to go and went on to earn the win, then announced his father had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the spring.

Jones has run up front this weekend, fourth fastest in practice Friday (191.159 mph), then qualifying second (191.535) Saturday morning for the afternoon race, coming up just short of earning his fourth consecutive pole. Alex Bowman sat on the pole at 191.586.

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Jones got a taste of competing on NASCAR’s top series, Sprint Cup, a few times last year, subbing all three times for JGR.

Jones jumped in Denny Hamlin’s car in the Food City 500 and finished 26th. He then took over in the No. 18 Toyota for an injured Busch and actually led at Kansas before crashing while running fourth.

Then, Jones did triple duty during race weekends at Texas and Phoenix last November while filling in the No. 20 Toyota while Matt Kenseth was sitting out a two-race suspension. He finished 12th at Texas after suffering a blown tire late, then finished 19th at Phoenix.

Jones has yet to run a Sprint Cup race this season, but he could make his way on the scene again in the not so distant future. After all, he is more than holding his own while driving against multiple Sprint Cup competitors like Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and Larson in the Xfinity series.

And you can bet Erik's father is proud of what he has already accomplished.