When Chris Jones rolled through the pit gates to start his 2013 campaign, he did so with a sense of optimism and trepidation. The hard work the 41 year old second generation speedster and his crew had done behind the scenes had produced a potent Gaerte powered 360 cubic inch Maxim sprint car, but he'd also run the year without the backing of one of his long-time marketing partners. Undaunted, the Demorestville, Ontario native - who now operates from a home base of Carrying Place - put his best foot forward and headed into battle.
"Any race team - even those in NASCAR - can have sponsorship issues, so there really isn't anything special about my story," said Jones. "The secret is not have it affect your thinking once you climb into the driver's seat and fasten the belts. That part of the sport demands your 100% attention. You can't concentrate on anything else; not even for a second."
Jones says his #11J machine was fast right out of the box, a point driven home with a seventh place finish during the Southern Ontario Sprint Car season opener at Brighton, May 18th. His crew - led by his father Barry, with his mother Sharyl, wife Angi and sons Evan and Branden - learned enough to log a runner-up effort (in a photo finish) when the tour returned June 8. From there, a string of three consecutive trips to the winner's circle made him the driver to beat whenever the SOS teams would roll into town.
The final point tally saw with a total of four wins and a Top 10 finish in every event. A third place showing in the series finale - Saturday, September 1 at Brighton - was the icing on the cake and gave Jones the season championship by a 59 point margin over Jamie Collard.
Even with a number of accomplishments in his motorsports endeavours, Chris Jones says that winning the 2013 Southern Ontario Sprint Car Series championship is one of the biggest achievements in his career.
"That title shows that hard work behind the scenes and consistency on the racetrack really does payoff," said Jones. "The big picture started to come into focus after the first couple of races and became very clear after that three race win streak. That's when the team started to think we really had a chance to win it all. Going forward, we knew we'd have to race hard, but more importantly, race smart and keep up the momentum we'd built up to that point."
Jones, whose resume includes the 1993 DIRTcar Sportsman Modified track championship at Cornwall Motor Speedway, the DIRTcar Northeast Region 358 Modified region Rookie of the Year crown in 1995 and Cornwall's 2006 Doiron Engineering Cup for 358 Modifieds says his mission is to be even more competitive and run the full Empire Sprint and Patriot Group tours, while also looking for back-to-back SOS titles. Perhaps lofty goals, but something worth shooting for.
"Our plans for next year will come down to the level of marketing support we're able to bring to the team," said the driver/car owner, who has a desire to compete at Ohio tracks Limaland Motorsports Park and Eldora Speedway. "This year, we made things work with help from Hotch's Auto Parts and my auto repair shop, Jones Automotive but to get to where I'd like us to be for 2014 means I'll have to start knocking on some doors now and put some sponsorship deals together well before the next season rolls around. Heading into meetings with the notch of a series championship on my belt should help open some doors."
Prepared by: Jim Clarke - Clarke Motorsports Communications/First Draft Media
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