By AMANDA VINCENT
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular and part-time Xfinity Series driver Erik Jones will assume fill-in duties for Kyle Busch behind the wheel of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the Sprint Cup Series, starting with the May 9, 2015, race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., according to a release from Joe Gibbs Racing on Thursday morning. The race at Kansas will be Jones’ official Sprint Cup Series debut.
“I’m pretty excited and grateful for the opportunity to drive the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota Camry in the Sprint Cup Series and make my debut for Joe Gibbs Racing,” Jones said. “This is a reeally good opportunity for me. We are going to try to manage our expectations, and if we can go out and get a top-15 run and gain some experience, that would be a great day for us. I’m also excited about representing M&Ms, a great longtime partner at JGR and such a well-known brand. I am looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the M&Ms Toyota at Kansas.”
Sprint Cup Series veteran driver, David Ragan, previously drove the No. 18 for Busch, but he’ll move over to Michael Waltrip Racing to drive the No. 55 Toyota, beginning with the Kansas race. Ragan will drive the No. 18 one final time Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Jones is a full-time competitor in the Camping World Truck Series, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He’ll already be at Kansas Speedway during the race weekend to race in the Truck Series event at the track. He already has been racing for Joe Gibbs Racing part-time in the Xfinity Series, in some races as a fill-in for the injured Busch.
Busch suffered a broken leg and broken foot in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February. He has missed all Sprint Cup points-paying races to this point. A date for Busch’s return to NASCAR competition has not yet been set.
Jones is third in the Camping World Truck Series championship points standings, three races into that series’ 2015 season. This is Jones’ first full season of competition in any of NASCAR’s three national divisions.
So far this season, Jones has eight Xfinity Series starts to his credit, including a win and five top-five finishes.
Jones got a limited amount of Sprint Cup Series on-track experience, filling in for another JGR driver, Denny Hamlin, at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway recently after Hamlin climbed out of his No. 11 car early in the race because of back and neck spasms. That race didn’t count as Jones’ Sprint Cup debut and Hamlin received credit for the race, as NASCAR rules state that the driver who starts the race in a car gets the points and credit for where the car finishes.