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.

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