MOORESVILLE, N.C. – It was a roller coaster of a race weekend for Super Late Model rookie driver Garrett Jones during his debut Winchester 400 this past week. The 16-year-old driver overcame multiple challenges to race in the Top-10 of the premier short track event before a broken heim on the trackbar relegated him to a 24th place finish.
Jones had just raced his way up through the field from 27th place after pitting under an early caution to adjust the feel of the car and was passing top drivers like Erik Jones and Cody Coughlin when his trackbar gave out and ended his day earlier than expected.
“To have a car capable of winning one of the major short track races was so cool,” said Jones after returning to his home in Mooresville, N.C. on Monday. “But to fall short of battling it out for the win at the end really knocks the wind out of you after being ‘on-the-chip’ all weekend.”
Jones had fought hard all weekend long to be in contention for the win, as he had issues with his trackbar on both Friday and Saturday. After fixing it multiple times, Jones finished second in Friday’s second practice of the day and qualified 18th out of a packed field of 39 competitors.
“Once the green flag dropped, I had no drive. It was like a completely different car from what I qualified,” Jones explained. “We pitted during the first or second caution and Mike (Garvey, crew chief) made some good adjustments. We were able to drive back up through the field from 27th place.”
“At times as my tires started to wear out I‘d lose drive, but everyone was losing drive so I kept pace up in the Top-10,” he continued. “I was still up in the Top-10 around Lap 250 and was racing pretty hard with Cody Coughlin, who went on to finish second, when the trackbar broke for the final time. Luckily I had been running the high groove, so I managed to prevent any major wrecks and got the car on pit road without causing a caution.”
Despite the disappointing finish, Jones did enjoy racing up front at the “Fastest Half Mile” with drivers such as Christopher Bell, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott, and already looks forward to his next Winchester 400.
“To race with drivers like Christopher Bell and Erik Jones and the other guys up front was awesome! But at the same time, I expect myself to be racing with them, be competitive and beat them,” Jones said. “Racing at Winchester really is unlike any other track. Normally, I love racing the outside groove up next to the wall, but at Winchester, I found the low groove, and my car was faster down there at times during the race. That’s what I like about Winchester. You can race all over the track. It’s really fast and fun. I really can’t wait for next year!”
Jones came away from the weekend with valuable experience that he can use for the upcoming Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in December.
“While the tracks are completely different, I got some great practice making hot pit stops this weekend. That is something we don’t normally get to do in Super Late Model racing but will get to do again at the Snowball Derby,” said Jones. “For this race I got to work with the same crew I will have at the Derby. Everything matters in these stops, from how fast you think you can get away with while coming down pit road, to how fast you can get into your box, and how fast you can get out of your box. ‘Racing’ on pit road was a new experience for me this weekend. I really enjoyed it, and will have more confidence with that going into the Derby now.”
Fans can learn more about Jones and follow his journey to the Snowball Derby by visiting his Garrett Motorsports page on Facebook, following him on Twitter at @GarrettJones88 or Instagram via @GarrettJones88. They can also visit www.garrettmotorsports.com to find out more.
-Garrett Motorsports Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com