With a career-best Southern Super Series finish of third at Mobile, Ala., International Speedway, Mooresville resident Garrett Jones appears headed for rookie honors on the super late model circuit.
The 15-year-old is fourth in the standings, 51 points ahead of fellow rookie contender Harrison Burton of Huntersville, with two races remaining. Burton is seventh in the standings.
Jones stepped up to super late model racing this year after competing in pro late model for two years. In his first super late model outing, the Statesville Christian School student won the Last Chance race for the 2014 Snowball Derby to gain entrance into the prestigious short-track event.
He then produced a 26th-place finish in the Snowball Derby after placing third in the Snowflake 100 pro late model event. Then at the nine-night World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna, Fla., Speedway in February he finished second in the standings to Mooresville’s Zane Smith.
Heading into the CARS Tour super late model race at Concord Speedway the last weekend in August, Jones owned nine top-5 finishes in his first season of piloting the powerful cars. He will conclude his 2015 season in the Dec. 3-6 Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.
“The Snowball is the biggest race for super late models all year,” says Jones, whose race shop is near the Mooresville Dragway. “My plan is to be in my car for that race. I’m building a new car and it’s coming along really good. I was hoping I could get it finished before I went back to school, but I missed my goal by probably a week.”
Jones has been racing for 10 years. He began racing karts at age 5, but his father, Larry Jones, didn’t like the fact his son had no seat belt or roll cage. That’s when Jones switched to quarter-midgets, where he eventually captured two national championships. In 2011 Jones’ family secured a shop in Mooresville when he raced quarter-midgets nationally on the USAC tour. The following year he moved into late model racing and at age 12 became the youngest winner ever at Dillon, S.C., Motor Speedway.
“As crazy as it seems, going from a quarter-midget to a full-bodied stock car was a big change for me, but it didn’t take me long to get used to it. It felt natural,” said Jones, who is the first driver in his family. “Racing has always fit me well. From day one it felt it was the right thing for me.
“I’ve played football and soccer, but I didn’t have as much interest in them as I did racing. I was always the smaller kid in class and when I went to play football … I was getting stomped on out there on the field. That wasn’t my game.”
In 2013, Jones captured the rookie of the year award in the UARA Series as well as the pro late model title at Five Flags Speedway. His family also relocated from West Palm Beach to Mooresville that year so he could race more and become familiar with his cars by working in the shop. The move to super late model this year was simply the next step in Jones’ career.
“We accomplished a lot in the pro late model division … we learned a lot, but it was time to try something new,” Jones said. “The super (late model) is the same car, just a different engine. The biggest challenge for me this year has been getting used to the difference in horsepower. You have to drive them a lot differently. I don’t think it was as big a step for me as it is for some people. It’s just a learning curve.”
This year, Jones races Pensacola-based Goodson Racing’s super late model in the Southern Super Series. He uses his own car in other events, such as the CARS Tour. Mike Garvey is the crew chief for both cars.
The next race on Jones’ schedule is the Sept. 6-7 event at Winchester, Ind., Speedway in the ARCA/CRA Super Series.
Laughlin inks 3-race deal
Mooresville resident Max McLaughlin has signed a three-race deal that will allow him to make his World of Outlaws World Finals debut at age 15.
McLaughlin will compete in the Nov. 5-7 event at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in a big block modified fielded by Tyler Siri Racing. McLaughlin has been watching the World Finals since childhood, but said he never dreamed he would be racing in them at this age.
McLaughlin will use his father’s number, Crazy 8, on his car. McLaughlin’s father, Mike “Magic Shoes” McLaughlin began his racing career 35 years ago in big block modifieds on the Northeast’s dirt tracks.
The younger McLaughlin will make his debut with Tyler Siri Racing in a Sept. 19 Super Dirt Car Series event at Brewerton Speedway in Central Square, N.Y. He is a regular at Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, competing in the Outlaw Mini Sprint Division and the 600 wingless micro-sprint. He recently made his UMP Modified debut with a victory at Dublin Speedway in Elizabethtown, N.C. In 21 races covering three series this year, McLaughlin has produced nine victories and 11 poles.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.