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Jones to make Cup debut this weekend

Jeff Birchfield • Jul 17, 2018 at 8:08 PM

Sevierville driver Blake Jones will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway behind the wheel of BK Racing’s No. 23 Tennessee XXX Moonshine Toyota.

The 21-year-old is best known on the track for his win in a 2015 ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway and off the track for the Blake Jones Indoor Racing Center in Pigeon Forge.

In 2010, he became the youngest Late Model Stock champion in Lonesome Pine Raceway history at just 13 years old. A natural behind the wheel, Jones won 14 of 16 races at Dumplin Valley Raceway during his first season of racing go-karts in 2005.

After his Lonesome Pine title, he was a regular at Kingsport Speedway. He has since made sporadic appearances in ARCA and the NASCAR K&N Series. He had four top-10 finishes in seven ARCA starts and has made five starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, finishing 25th last Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.

He becomes the third East Tennessee driver to race in the Cup Series this season, following Knoxville’s Trevor Bayne and Chad Finchum.

Bayne won’t be in Sunday’s race at New Hampshire because former series champion Matt Kenseth will be behind the wheel of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford.

This will be the first time since 1989 that three drivers from East Tennessee raced in NASCAR’s top series during the same season. That year it was Brad Teague and Mike Potter of Johnson City and Chattanooga’s Grant Adcox. The previous season, the three East Tennessee drivers were all from Johnson City: Teague, Potter and Connie Saylor.

VOLUNTEER SPEEDWAY

Heavy rains Monday night washed out the Schaffer’s Oil Southern Nationals Series Super Late Model race at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap.

Series and track officials are looking at possible reschedule dates. The decision of racing at a new date or to cancel the event altogether will be announced at a later time.

Volunteer Speedway cranks back up Saturday night with its weekly track championship racing program.

WHERE THERE’S SMOKE ...

There’s racing.

Tony Stewart is retired from his NASCAR driving career, but the three-time champion remains active racing dirt sprint cars.

The three-time NASCAR champion’s 2018 schedule has included races at his own Eldora Speedway and the legendary Williams Grove in Pennsylvania. He winds up his season July 28 at the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals.

Stewart had quit racing sprint cars after his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a dirt track race in 2014. But “Smoke” returned to the winged sprints, which he has called his favorite race cars, in 2017.

The 47-year-old Stewart has one victory this season — which came in May in Mississippi — and 13 top-five finishes. The top fives include a recent race at Grandview, Pa., which was won by NASCAR regular Kyle Larson and saw Kasey Kahne finish third.

Another former NASCAR star, 63-year-old Ken Schrader, has won twice this season on the dirt driving UMP Modifieds. Schrader remains active racing a variety of cars from sprint cars to ARCA stock cars. He also won in a NASCAR Late Model car at the weekly action at Alaska Raceway Park on June 30.

JUNIOR ACTION

The NHRA Junior Drag Racing Eastern Conference Finals will take place at Bristol Dragway Thursday through Saturday.

The young racers started competing last weekend, and there have been multiple races leading up to the finals. The NHRA event features more than 500 drivers, spanning from ages 6 to 17, racing half-scale dragsters that reach up to 85 mph.

Each of the 10 members of the Team Champions in the event will receive a Wally trophy, named for NHRA founder Wally Parks. Individual champions will receive $1,500, a Wally and a champions jacket. Runner-up finishers will receive $500 each.

Time trial runs are scheduled to start at 8 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. Eliminations will start at 2 p.m. Friday and run through Saturday.

KINGSPORT REVS UP

After hosting the CARS Tour last week, Kingsport Speedway has its regular NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program scheduled Friday at the three-eighths-mile concrete oval.

The Late Model Stocks are the featured class with the Mod Street, Mod 4, Pure 4 and Pure Street also in action.

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