GARDINER, Me -- Eric Jones drove the Team EJP Chevrolet Silverado to a 16th-place finish in the Las Vegas 350 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 27th. Jones completed 144 of the race's 146 laps, and earned $7,890. Jones was scheduled to start from the 21st position, but was relegated to the back of the field for missing the pre-race drivers' meeting.
Jones rushed from his back-of-the-pack starting position and quickly fought his way into the top-20.
"We had a good truck and came from the back pretty quick," Jones said. "Then we had a caution and stayed out to get track position. It turned out we had a long green flag run after that, and it bit us. Whenever you come to Vegas, all everyone wants to talk about is taking a gamble, and that is what we did. We had to come down pit road for tires, and that put us a couple of laps down. We were able to make one of them back up, but we were a little disappointed. We definitely could have finished a whole lot better.
"We had come through some little problems throughout the day, for instance, we had a bad shock in qualifying that slowed us down and then the problem with missing the drivers' meeting, but we had a good truck and could have raced it into the top-10. We took a chance, and it didn't work out for us, but that is all part of racing."
Jones reflects back on the first part of his abbreviated 2003 schedule and is proud of the results Team EJP Racing has produced to this point.
"We are a part-time team," Jones said. "Sometimes when you aren't at the track every weekend, little things can jump out of no where to get you. That happened at Vegas with us missing the drivers' meeting. But these guys are fully prepared every time that transporter leaves the shop. I know when we get to the track everything that can be done has been done.
"It seems like we have had a little spell of bad luck, or something, here the past few races. But I am really proud of the results we have had to this point. If I had to point to one race, of course it would be Kansas where we qualified so well (seventh) and finished sixth. But there were two other races where we felt we were even better, but had little things pop up and get us. We had an awesome truck at Charlotte and got caught a lap down after a round of green flag stops. We were super fast at Texas, but rode around most of the night on seven cylinders. We know that without those problems, we had a truck to run in the top-5 at each of those races."
Jones points to a change in the engine program as one of the positive steps the team has made to finish out the 2003 season.
"We went to Hutter engines halfway through the year, and it has been a world of difference," Jones said. "The power is impressive, and we have noticed an increase in reliability. It definitely gives us more confidence to have a strong piece under the hood."
Jones and Team EJP Racing will attempt two more events in 2003, the upcoming event at Texas Motor Speedway, and the season finale at the newly-remodeled Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I am looking forward to going back to Texas," Jones said. "We tested really well there in the Chevrolet test, and we had such a strong run there back in June. We are taking the same truck back there, and with the Hutter motors, we should be really strong down there.
"And I am really looking forward to going to Homestead. We are taking a brand-new truck down there, one we call Dracula. And I am anxious to see how the track is. I have heard it will be really fast. The biggest issue is if the asphalt is going to be cured or not. I hope it is and we have a good race. I know a lot of fans didn't like the old layout, but I liked it because it was different. I think the new layout is going to suit my driving style just fine, so we should have a very strong run to close out the season."