DENVER, NC (October 22, 2012) – Many veterans may struggle to finish 225 laps at the historic Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, and even more may struggle to make a 42-car field when 82 cars show up to race. However, that is exactly what 15-year-old Brandon Jones did on Sunday afternoon. With the odds stacked against him and just two 15-minute practice sessions, the young driver went from being the 70th fastest car in qualifying practice, to race into the feature event, and ultimately drive to a 16th-place finish in his career debut at the legendary short track.
The afternoon started off with four heat races where drivers were lined up based on their practice speeds. Jones rolled off 18th in his 20-car feature. With just 25 laps to contend, drivers were racing to get inside the top-8 positions to transfer into the feature race. Jones raced all the way up to the 10th position, narrowly missing the feature, but ensuring a good starting position for the last-chance race.
Less than an hour later, Jones was climbing back in the cockpit for the last-chance race. With 50 laps around the 0.526-mile speedway, Jones had one more chance to make it in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers feature race. Jones rolled off fourth in the last-chance race. The young driver logged several laps inside the top three positions but ultimately crossed the finish line in the fourth position, and secured the 36th starting position in the 150-lap feature.
Just 45 minutes later, Jones was back in the car for the 150-lap feature race. With 42 drivers in the field, Jones listened closely as his spotter, Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) teammate Cale Gale, guided him through the field. Around lap 10, Jones was in the middle of a three-wide battle going into turn three, while the driver was able to keep his No. 33 Chevrolet moving forward, Jones did suffer some fender damage. Luckily, he was able to continue racing until the caution flag was displayed when he came on pit road for repairs.
Jones restarted the event in the 37th position and quickly began picking up positions. When a multi-car accident broke out in turn two, Jones carefully raced through the wreckage. The No. 33 Chevrolet was collected at the last second when a turned vehicle spun around and caught the left rear fender of Jones’ machine. Turned around on the track, Jones’ attempts to re-fire the engine failed and the driver lost a lap to the leaders. With less than half the race completed, Jones focused on the two cars he was competing with for the “lucky dog” award and returned to the lead lap of competition the next caution.
The field took a 10-minute break at the halfway point of the race to make adjustments and repairs to their cars. With their car handling well, the team made minimal changes and Jones prepared for another 75 laps behind the wheel. Coming off the green flag, Jones picked up 10 positions over the next 20 laps to race his way inside the top 20.
Jones was spun coming off turn four on lap 121. Despite damage to the rear bumper cover and nose of the car, the driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet was able to continue racing and picking up positions. By the time the checkered flag waved, Jones was scored in the 16th position.
“I had a blast racing at Martinsville Speedway this weekend,” commented Jones. “It’s such a historic track, and to be able to make my first career start there was really cool. Cale [Gale, driver of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet for ESR in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series] was my crew chief for the weekend and did a great job spotting for me this afternoon. He helped me a lot a few years ago when I first started racing, so it was fun to work with him again. I feel like our team has a lot of momentum going into our last few races and I’m looking forward to getting to Greenville, S.C. with them next week.”
Jones will make his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut next week in the rescheduled Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140 at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 27. The event, originally scheduled for Labor Day, was postponed for rain. A one-hour practice is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET, with the driver autograph session at 6:30 p.m. and the race to follow at 8 p.m. ET. The race will be broadcast on NASCAR Home Tracks Radio presented by SPEED51.com live on www.nascarhometracks.com.
Eddie Sharp Racing (TeamESR.com) (ESR) is a championship winning race team housed in a 40,000 square-foot facility in Denver, N.C. After just four short years of competition within the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Racing Series, the team impressively accumulated upwards of 20 race wins. The 2009 season was a pivotal year for ESR, as they dominated the series with six race wins, 15 top-fives and 19 top-10s en route to the series championship with driver Justin Lofton. In 2010, ESR made the transition to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In 2011, Sharp and Lofton were reunited within truck competition. In 2012, ESR expands to house multiple truck teams with Lofton returning to the No. 6 CollegeComplete.com Silverado, and Cale Gale joining the team behind the wheel of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet Silverado.