FORT WORTH, Texas — Brandon Jones walked into the Texas Motor Speedway media center on Friday looking like a man who had the stress blasted off his shoulders.
He had good reason to, as well, considering Jones announced a contract extension this week, ensuring that he’ll continue as the driver of the No. 19 Toyota Supra at Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next year.
It will mark Jones’ third full season with the Gibbs outfit, as he chases a maiden championship.
“It’s a big weight off of our shoulders,” said Jones of having his deal sewn up. “Any driver right now is fighting to get some stuff going and that was really big for us to be able to come back for 2020.”
Jones’ future was the subject of some speculation in the rumor mill in recent weeks, but he made an emphatic statement that he belonged by grabbing his first Xfinity Series victory at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 19.
The Atlanta, Ga., native used a late-race restart to catapult himself to the front of the field and held off defending series champion Tyler Reddick for the win in his 134th start.
“I think those last four laps were the longest four laps of my life,” Jones noted in recalling the victory. “I’ve won a lot of different races throughout different stuff, but I think the Xfinity level is one of the most competitive series we have in NASCAR. After every lap, I would look in the mirror after a corner and see how much more they had gained on us and I could tell that they were catching a little bit — but not as fast as I was thinking they were. It was definitely nerve wracking though.
“I know I mentioned after the race that I wasn’t even sure if I was wide open on the throttle at times. That just goes to show how much nerves were going on through my mind,” Jones continued. “I was trying to do everything I could at the end. I knew that maybe the top line was maybe the quickest, but for me it was risk versus reward at that point. I didn’t want to get up there and brush the wall or do anything crazy and have that put us out of contention. I was taking the safe route around the track for those last four laps.
“I knew if we were able to get clean air that was going to be key.”
Now that he finally has that first win under his belt, Jones is hoping the floodgates will open and he’ll be able to become a more-frequent victor in NASCAR’s national series ranks.
“To have one win is big. I know when I was racing in the ARCA series even, the first win was tough to get … and then the next week we blew by everybody and it was a piece of cake,” Jones said. “I think it’s a mindset thing. You have the mindset of you think you can do it, but every time you get in a car and you’re having tires go flat or you have people wreck you and stuff — it kind of gets in your head a little bit, so it’s always good to get back on track, winning races and doing really well.
“I think that’s really big for team morale and even myself.”
While Jones is happy with where he’s at right now in his career, he also didn’t hesitate to point out that there’s one more rung above him on the NASCAR ladder — and that’s his ultimate goal in racing.
“Eventually, yeah, (the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) is where I want to be,” Jones said. “I mentioned earlier in the year, if I ever get to the point where we are racing Cup and we are doing it full time, I want to be able to step in the year before and maybe run five races and see what it’s like, to see how the competition is. I know it’s got to be stiff. I know those guys really race hard. We have guys come down from the Cup level and race Xfinity, so you definitely get a taste for it there.
“It would be interesting (to move up). I don’t know how long a race would be on your body either,” he added. “There are a lot of unknowns there for a driver, but ultimately, that’s where I want to be (is) in Cup.”