Jones navigates rookie season without his father
When Erik Jones climbs into his NASCAR Cup Series car Sunday, an important watch will be stowed away in his nearby motor home.
Jones reached the pinnacle of stock-car racing this year amid a void. His father, Dave, the watch’s owner, died of cancer last year. Since then, Jones hasn’t gone anywhere without the silver Shinola.
“It’s kind of the one thing that I have that connects me back to him,” he said.
The 20-year-old Cup rookie spoke about his father’s passing for the first time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ahead of Sunday’s Kobalt 400 as NASCAR begins its three-race western swing at the 1.5-mile oval.
Jones is one of NASCAR’s hottest young drivers, going from Truck Series champion in 2015 to the Xfinity Series rookie of the year in 2016 to a job with Furniture Row Racing when it added a second Cup car this season.
“There were definitely times over the last few weeks I would have loved to call him and just talk to him about racing and general life,” Jones said about his dad.
Dave Jones was as proud of his Michigan roots as his son. The Shinola watch was made in Detroit. The elder Jones also sold another Michigan-made product, a 1965 Corvette, to help fund his son’s racing career.
“I never had to worry about the money I was making or bills I was paying or anything else,” Jones said. “I would call my dad and say, ‘Hey, man, I’ve got this problem and what do you think?’ And he would have an opinion or a solution.”
Jones was at his North Carolina home last March when his mother called. His father had lost feeling in his arm and went to the doctor thinking he had a pinched nerve. The diagnosis was devastating: lung cancer that had spread to his brain.
“It was just tough to see someone kind of fade away over a few months,” Jones said.
As his father got weaker, a surprise guest showed up to his Michigan home: car owner Joe Gibbs. He wanted Dave Jones to know the news before he even informed his son. Gibbs had brokered a deal for Jones to race in NASCAR’s top series in 2017.
Dave Jones passed away at 53 in June, the week of his son’s return to Michigan to race at his home track. Erik Jones insisted on driving, and he said it took him a while to adjust to life without who he called his “best friend.”
Jones had mechanical issues in the No. 77 Toyota at the seasonopening Daytona 500. Jones started 34th, crashed and ended 39th. He earned a 14th-place finish at Atlanta last week and qualified eighth for Sunday’s race.
And with Jones’s career on the rise, he has earned the financial security to make a sentimental purchase: his father’s old ’65 Corvette.
“I found the guy and got the car back,” Jones said.
Logano wins Xfinity race
Joey Logano pulled away from Kyle Larson on a restart with four laps left and held on to win the NASCAR Xfinity race in Las Vegas.
Logano chose the outside lane on the last restart and moved in front of Larson out of the fourth turn at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his first Xfinity victory since October at Charlotte.
Daniel Suarez put Cup regulars in the top three spots. Elliott Sadler finished 10th and retained the points lead.