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Ed Jones Preparing for Back-to-Back Xfinity Runs; Eyeing Oval Debut

Ed Jones NASCAR Xfinity Series Sam Hunt Racing Portland Sonoma Oval debut

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, LAT Images for Toyota Racing

Former NTT IndyCar Series driver Ed Jones is gearing up for back-to-back runs on the road courses in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, returning to Sam Hunt Racing for the second and third of his three scheduled runs, at the moment, in 2024.

Jones will pilot the No. 24 Synergy Modular Toyota GR Supra in Saturday’s Pacific Office Automation 147 at Portland International Speedway, before jumping over the team’s flagship entry, the No. 26, the following weekend at Sonoma.

This weekend’s excursion in Portland will mark the third NASCAR National Series start for Jones, and the first at a racetrack other than Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where he has made NASCAR Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series starts in back-to-back seasons.

On Thursday, the 29-year-old driver spoke to members of the media in advance of his second Xfinity Series start on Saturday.

“It’s really exciting to be back in the Xfinity car with Sam Hunt Racing,” Jones exclaimed. “COTA was an amazing experience. The race didn’t quite work out how we would have liked, but in the last stage, once we fixed some issues we had with the car, we were extremely fast and making a lot of forward progress. So, coming off of that, it makes us really confident for Portland.”

While Saturday will mark the first time on the racetrack in an Xfinity Series vehicle for Jones, the Emirati-born driver isn’t new to the 1.967-mile road course, having made three NTT IndyCar Series starts on the course, located in Portland, Oregon, with a best finish of 11th-place in 2021.

“[Portland] is another track that I know, and I’ve had experience there in the IndyCar,” Jones added. “That helps a bit, obviously it will be very different driving it in an Xfinity car, but we did quite a bit of preparation on the simulator with Toyota, I found that tool to be really useful, especially at COTA, just getting up to speed.”

“When you have such limited practice time, 15 minutes, it makes it extremely difficult for someone that doesn’t have prior experience with the car to get on it, and [the simulator time] made the whole process easier, and having Sonoma as a back-to-back weekend enhances that progress more, being comfortable with the car and the team.”

Working alongside Sage Karam, who will drive the No. 26 Toyota GR Supra, again this weekend at Portland, Jones believes that Sam Hunt Racing is capable of having a strong weekend considering the solid baseline from last year, with Connor Mosack earning a top-10 finish.

“I think the biggest thing is being back in the car so quickly after you learn, because, for example, COTA was the first time I drove a racecar in six months. So, you have 15 minutes of practice after six months of not driving any racecar. It’s very difficult, but it went extremely well I would say, but now having this opportunity, it’s been a bit of a break, but much less of a break than it was for COTA.

“We’ll be up to speed at Portland quickly and then just being able to be familiar with everything for Sonoma will really make the transition much easier.”

Next weekend’s event at Sonoma is the final Xfinity Series run currently on the schedule for Jones with Sam Hunt Racing, but the long-time road racer is open to doing more, and seems to have a great deal of interest in taking his excursions outside of just the road courses, and onto the ovals.

While competing in IndyCar, Jones found success on ovals, finishing third in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 for Dale Coyne Racing, and scoring top-10 results at World Wide Technology Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018.

“Yeah, ovals are actually my favorite type of racing, and although my background traditionally was road courses, when I did IndyCar, the ovals were my favorite part of the series, so it’s really something I would love to do,” Jones said. “We have been trying to make plans for me to do a race, obviously there are a lot of things involved to make that happen, but it’s something that I’m really keen on doing and hopefully we can get one or two in this season.”

“But we’ll see, that’s a progressing situation, but I’m really trying hard to make it happen.”

While things aren’t necessarily etched into stone if Jones has it his way, Sonoma won’t be the last time you see him in an Xfinity Series car this season, and when he returns to the racetrack, he’ll be avoiding right turns at all costs.

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