Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Promising Cup Series Rookie Thinking of Father This Year

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Promising Cup Series Rookie Thinking of Father This Year

Article excerpt

LAS VEGAS * When Erik Jones climbs into his NASCAR Cup Series car Sunday, an important watch will be stowed away in his nearby motorhome.

Jones reached the pinnacle of stock-car racing this year amid a void. His father Dave, the watch's owner, died of cancer last year. Since then Jones hasn't gone anywhere without the silver Shinola.

"It's kind of the one thing that I have that connects me back to him," he said.

The 20-year-old Cup rookie spoke about his father's passing for the first time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ahead of Sunday's Kobalt 400. Jones is one of NASCAR's hottest young drivers, going from Truck Series champion in 2015 to the Xfinity Series rookie of the year in 2016 to a job with Furniture Row Racing when it added a second Cup car this season.

"There were definitely times over the last few weeks I would have loved to call him and just talk to him about racing and general life," Jones said about his dad.

Dave Jones was as proud of his Michigan roots as his son. The Shinola watch was made in Detroit. The elder Jones also sold another Michigan-made product, a 1965 Corvette, to help fund his son's racing career.

"I never had to worry about the money I was making or bills I was paying or anything else," Jones said. "I would call my Dad and say, 'Hey, man, I've got this problem or that problem and what do you think?' And he would have an opinion or a solution. He always had the answer, I felt like. And all of a sudden you lose that so quickly."

Jones was at his North Carolina home last March when his mother called. His father had lost feeling in his arm and went to the doctor thinking he had a pinched nerve. The diagnosis was devastating: lung cancer that had spread to his brain.

"It was just tough to see someone kind of fade away over a few months," Jones said.

As his father got weaker, a surprise guest showed up to his Michigan home: car owner Joe Gibbs. …

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