DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Normally, drivers strive to “keep it straight” at Daytona International Speedway, a 2.5-mile high-banked high-speed tri-oval where control is essential.
Wednesday was somewhat different for Erik Jones. Control was a relative term.
Jones, one of the bright young stars for both Joe Gibbs Racing and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, spent the morning on the edge, free-wheeling several tire-squealing Toyotas on the “Toyota Thrill Ride” outside the speedway’s frontstretch. Speedway President Chip Wile and area media members went along for the rides, during an event promoting the July 7, 60th annual Coke Zero Sugar 400 at DIS.
The Toyota Thrill Ride is an exciting and unique experience that Toyota provides race fans near the “Toyota Injector” at Daytona International Speedway on race weekends. Toyota is a Founding Partner at DIS and sponsors one of the five fan injector entrances into the speedway.
Jones, 22, took media on white-knuckle experiences in Toyotas on two different courses – an off-road course and a street course. Jones drove a 2018 Toyota XSE Camry on the street course, which includes multiple sharp turns including a 180-degree ‘J-Turn.’ The off-road course was negotiated in a Toyota TRD Tundra, Tacoma and 4Runner and features a hill approximately 30-feet high with 31-degree banking – the same banking as Daytona International Speedway’s famed turns.
Jones was the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year for Furniture Row Racing. He’s with Joe Gibbs Racing this season, driving the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota Camry. Jones is 14th in the series championship standings. In 2016, Jones was the top rookie in the NASCAR Xfinity Series; in 2015 he was the series champion and Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, becoming the youngest champion (19 years, five months and 21 days) in the history of the truck series.
In Monster Energy Series competition at DIS, Jones finished ninth in last year’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, then returned this past February to post an eighth-place finish in the Advance Auto Parts Clash, a third-place run in the Duel At DAYTONA and a 36th-place finish in the DAYTONA 500.