Conner Jones will drive for his third team in six races when the CARS Late Model Stock Tour makes its first trip to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The familiar-looking iRacing, All Things Automotive, JR Motorsports Chevrolet will have a new pilot for the next couple of races.
JR Motorsports announced via their website that Jones will take the wheel of the 88 car. In just 52 races since 2015, the team has 44 top tens, 37 top 5’s, 20 wins, and a tour championship to its credit. Most of their success was with Josh Berry behind the wheel. JR motorsports decided to part ways with their former driver, Will Cox III, ahead of the last event at Caraway Speedway. Josh Berry was tabbed to fill in the spot until they could find another driver.
Jones has shown promise in a couple of runs on the tour thus far. Jones drove from the 20th starting position to 5th place before causing a spin after quarter panel contact with Daniel Silvestri in the closing laps at Caraway Speedway. His best finish was 11th at Dillon Motor Speedway. His one race with GMS Racing showed what he could accomplish with the right equipment. Through five races in 2021, Conner Jones has driven for Mike Darne Racing, GMS racing, and now Jones has big shoes to fill competing for the Mooresville, NC team. Jones, at just 15 years old, recounted the mind-blowing experience when he got the news.
“It really kind of happened overnight after Caraway,” Jones said.
“GMS set us up with them. Once their driver fell out, we called them. We took the opening. We have two races at Langley and Dominion to get a feel for everything, and if we make the cut, we make the cut.”
Jones will essentially get to try out for the number 88 team for back-to-back races in his home state of Virginia. On June 19th Conner Jones will be able to turn laps at Dominion Raceway, which is his home track, in a car that has been competitive historically.
It has already been an up and down season for the JR Motorsports team. With Berry behind the wheel at Caraway, the team finished with a DNF. Engine woes plagued the team after less than 20 laps. Josh Berry’s 30,000$ win at the Old North State Nationals earlier in the year at Orange County was a huge momentum lift for the team. The car underperformed in 2021 with Will Cox III. Jones himself is looking to perform better in qualifying, which is a crucial skill for good results in such a competitive field. Qualifying upfront could be a more attainable goal for Jones when he starts with his new crew.
“Qualifying is one of the hardest things I’ve done, but when it comes to racing I feel like I can get it done,” Jones said.
Jones looked up to Josh Berry when he first began competing in Late Model Stock Cars.
“I raced with Josh a bunch last year,” Jones mentioned. “He’s always raced me clean. I always really liked Josh. He’s been a great dude to me; always been willing to talk. I think it’s going to be a good year.”
Jones started the season out racing Pro Late Models at New Smyrna Speedway during Speedweeks. Jones won two Late Model features and he nearly won the Short Track Nationals points championship. Jones fell just short in an epic week-long battle with Kody Swanson. He ran a select number of Late Model Stock events in 2020 but he is most familiar with the upcoming race at Langley Speedway because of Legends Car races that he has competed in at the facility.
Change has been a constant for the 15-year-old from Fredericksburg, Virginia in 2021. There are plenty of unknowns going into the weekend. Jones isn’t sure who will be spotting for him, but he is confident that the team will provide good feedback for his time behind the wheel. Brian Schafer will be the crew chief. When asked if Jones met Dale Earnhardt Jr. or had any kind of relationship with him before learning he would drive for his car, he had this to say.
“Honestly, I met him one time at a Richmond race when I was a little kid,” Jones explained. “I was still racing Bandoleros. He signed my sunglasses. I thought he was the coolest dude in the world and I still think that. I’ve never really met him outside of that though. I was maybe nine or ten years old.“
GMS Racing and JR Motorsports don’t share any technical alliances but they both have driver development deals through Chevrolet. Conner Jones had everybody at GMS to thank, as well as his dad, for playing a major role in putting together a two-race deal. Jones will attempt to ace his audition with a couple of competitive runs to solidify a spot in the JR Motorsports stable.
The Solid Rock Carriers Cars Late Model Stock Tour will kick off its Virginia stretch at Langley Speedway Saturday at 7 pm. Follow the action at race22 on Facebook for live updates. Recaps and stories of all things Late Models can be found at race22.com, the Short Track Authority.
Cover photo by Bridger Swinimer.