NASCAR rookie Erik Jones first made headlines when he defeated Kyle Busch head-to-head in the 2012 Snowball Derby when Jones was only 16 years old.
Jones was driving his own No. 4 Super Late Model when he battled Busch on a restart and won the race. Most people think that’s when Busch “discovered” Jones, but Jones said the story actually dates back further than that race.
Busch did sign Jones to a five-race Camping World Truck Series schedule three months after Jones beat him, and Jones ended up winning the last of those races. But Jones actually drove for Busch two months prior to the Snowball Derby thanks to short track spotter Branden Lines and crew chief Chris Gabehart.
Jones said in a NASCAR media teleconference on Tuesday that he actually drove a Kyle Busch Super Late Model at the All-American 400 in Nashville two months before the Snowball Derby. Busch was supposed to run the test race, but he had practice obligations for NASCAR at Talladega. Lines and Gabehart recommended Jones to Busch, and the rest is history.
“Branden was actually the guy that got me the opportunity in 2012 to do Nashville and shake down Kyle’s Late Model,” Jones said. “Braden had a good relationship with Chris Gabehart and without running that test, Kyle probably wouldn’t have thought as much of me after we won the Derby.”
Jones later won the Truck Series in 2015, and he made his full-time Cup Series debut this season for Furniture Row Racing. He is 18th in the points, and he will move to Joe Gibbs Racing next season to drive the No. 20 car.
The 21-year-old has seven top-10s in the Cup Series, and he is regarded as one of the young stars in the sport. After beating Kyle Busch five years ago, Jones will be his teammate starting next season.