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TMS Adds Some Pomp To Camping World Race

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 6 2014

Camping World driver Erik Jones graduated at Texas. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Leave it to flamboyant Texas Motor Speedway promoter Eddie Gossage to link fast cars to the graduation tune Pomp and Circumstance.

As the starting field is introduced for tonight’s WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, 18-year-old Erik Jones will receive his high school diploma as he crosses the stage during driver introductions.

Jones became the youngest winner in NASCAR’s Truck Series in November when he stunned the racing world with his victory at Phoenix International Raceway.

So when the opportunity came along to make his 1.5-mile oval debut in the No. 51 Toyota Tundra owned by Kyle Busch came along and it conflicted with his high school graduation, it was an easy decision for the Michigan native.

“You’d have to know Erik, but ever since the first grade all he’s ever want to do is race,” said Erik’s father Dave Jones, who along with his mother Carol, fielded questions from the media Friday afternoon.

“He would have quit school in the first grade to go racing, if that was an option.”

Erik Jones has known for months he would forego his graduation to race. But after Gossage got involved, it became the best of both worlds for the baby-faced driver.

“It kind of started off as a joke, but it all worked out,” said Jones, who will fly out of Dallas Saturday morning and head to Wisconsin to run a Late Model race at the Milwaukee Mile this weekend. “Texas Motor Speedway was gracious to get all of this together.

“Being able to graduate at a race track, I don’t think I’d have it any other way.”

When NASCAR announced last fall the Truck Series will return to Gateway International Raceway just outside of St. Louis, there was much jubilation in the Johnny Sauter camp.

Before the 1.25-mile oval was dropped from the schedule in 2010, the Wisconsin native hadn’t finished outside of the top three in two starts at the unique facility.

The Truck Series rolls into Gateway next weekend.

“I’m super excited about going back there,” said Sauter. “Short track racing is kind of what I grew up doing in the Midwest.

“Gateway is a big race track but I still consider it a short track. Turns 1 and 2 are super tight and Turns 3 and 4 are a lot like Milwaukee. I think it’s great for the series.

“I was ecstatic when I heard it was going back on the schedule.”

John Wes Townley will be arguably the busiest race car driver in the country this week.

The 24-year-old driver’s week started on Tuesday when he flew to Philadelphia so he could participate in Wednesday’s ARCA seven hour test at Pocono Raceway on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening, Townley jetted to Dallas so he could compete in tonight’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at TMS.

Following this evening’s 250-mile event, he will board and airplane and fly to Pocono where he will pilot the No. 15 Toyota Camry in Saturday afternoon’s ARCA 200 at the two-mile triangle.

Townley, who starts ninth in Texas, will roll off the starting grid on the outside front row on Saturday at Pocono.

But because teammate Brennan Poole qualified the car on Friday afternoon, Townley will be forced to drop to the rear of the field at the start of the race.

“We’ve got a great car up at Pocono and I have a lot of confidence in my new crew chief, Brad Parrott, and Venturini Motorsports,” Townley said. “That’s a fairly long race (80 laps or 200 miles), so I think we’ll have time to work our way back up to the front.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 6 2014
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