Rookie Jones looking for strong run in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East 'Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150' at Greenville-Pickens
Growing up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Sevierville, Blake Jones has attended NASCAR racing with his family at Bristol Motor Speedway for several years and dreamed of one day racing at the high-banked "World's Fastest Half-Mile."
Dreams do come true, and the Sevier County High School student who captured the 2011 Championship Auto Racing Series Pro Cup Rookie of the Year title, recently competed in his first-ever NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race as a companion event during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series doubleheader weekend in East Tennessee. Jones ran high as 12th in the Widow Wax 125 presented by SealWrap Repair Tape, but due to a faulty alternator which forced him behind pit wall for repairs, lost several laps and finished in 29th-place.
At the age of 15 years, two months and five days, Jones became the youngest driver to take the green flag in K&N Pro Series East history. He surpassed the previous mark held by Chase Elliott, set in 2011. Jones also holds the standard of being the youngest driver to ever compete in a CARS Pro Cup event, running at South Boston (Va.) Speedway in the fall of 2010 at the age of 13.
"Yeah, it was definitely an awesome experience getting to race at Bristol Motor Speedway," said Jones this week while at his family-owned Teddy Jones Racing shop. "We didn't realize it until we were told at Bristol, but being the youngest driver to this point to ever start a K&N race is a pretty cool deal. There's really no other racing venue in the entire world that compares to Bristol, with 160,000 seats that seem to rise forever up in the sky. When you're down in the infield pits and look up, it's quite a sight just seeing that many seats enclosing the arena.
"Having the opportunity to get race at Bristol meant family and friends could make the short drive up from Sevierville and watch us race, and we really wanted to have a good run. Being we're basically a small race team, compared to the other K&N teams with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series affiliation, a top-15 finish for us would have been tremendous. We worked our way up and was running 12th when issues with the alternator caused the battery to go dead and we lost several laps in the pits fixing the problem. I really believe we could've finished top-10 if not for the misfortune under the hood. But overall, with it being our first-ever K&N race and also with it being at such a tough place as BMS, I gained a lot of experience with the seat-time which will benefit us next year at Bristol."
With his first series start under his belt, Jones now switches his focus to stop number two in 2012 for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East - the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 on Saturday, March 31 at historic Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway.
"We've been working hard in the shop since Bristol getting the car prepared for the Greenville-Pickens race," Jones said. "At Bristol you had a really high-banked track where you carry a lot of speed through the corners, and at Greenville-Pickens you also have a half-mile track but the corners are flat. You've got to really roll out of the throttle getting into the corner and not push through the center of the turn, if you want to be able get in the gas and carry some momentum up off the corner.
"We'll just have to dial the car (chassis) in during practice and then go out and lay down a good qualifying run to set us up to hopefully have a top-10 finish. With our small family-owned Teddy Jones Racing team, I guess you could kind of say we're an 'underdog' compared to the K&N teams we compete against that have technical knowledge and backing from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operations. But I'm confident in my ability to drive the car, and I have great confidence in my guys working on the car and I really believe we'll have a good run at Greenville-Pickens."
Qualifying in the Palmetto State for the Kevin Whitaker 150 on Saturday, March 31 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway is set for 6 p.m., with the green flag scheduled to wave at 8 p.m. The event will be televised (tape-delay) on the Speed Channel at a later date.
To learn more about Blake Jones, visit his Web site at www.BlakeJonesRacing.com … and contact Teddy Jones Racing at (865) 388-2795. You can follow Blake Jones on social media via Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/80BlakeJones and on Facebook at Blake Jones Racing.