(TOLEDO, Ohio - August 6, 2013) - Seventeen-year-old Erik Jones will finally get to race in front of his hometown crowd, or as hometown as it gets on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards tour.
Jones is entered in the No. 15 Venturini Motorsports Toyota for this Saturday's (August 10) Primera Plastics 200 at Berlin Raceway. His hometown of Bryon, Michigan is close by, relatively speaking for a national tour.
"I'm only about an hour and a half from Berlin, so I should have lots of people coming to watch - friends and family," Jones said. "It's my only (ARCA) race in the state of Michigan, so it will be fun to see all the support."
Despite his youth, Jones has, unlike most places on the ARCA tour, a good deal of seat-time at Berlin, having raced in various late model divisions on the quirky less-than-a-half-mile circle, not to mention running the ARCA race there last year, finishing a solid third.
"We ran third last year; we just got behind on pit strategy, getting two tires at the end when everyone else had four. But it was still a great run for us. The Venturini (Motorsports) short track program is so strong; I really think if we're going to win one, this could be it. That would be so cool to do it at home too."
While maneuvering a 3,400-pound ARCA car on a short track can be a lot to handle for even the most experienced drivers, Berlin, one of the smallest tracks on the ARCA schedule, can be extra challenging.
"Berlin is probably the most unique track I've ever raced on," Jones added. "It's definitely a different place, especially in one of these bigger, heavier ARCA cars.
"You never stop turning. The backstretch is one big turn. And the line in (turns) three and four is so different than the line in one and two. You run three and four way high, and then you arch back down to the bottom off four. Coming through four is really like running two different corners.
"I think part of the challenge is to get the car to work in both corners, or at each end. And the biggest thing is saving your tires for the end. They don't wear out, and you can run these Hoosier radials all day, but the drop off with older tires at Berlin, for whatever reason, is more significant compared to anywhere else we go."
In last year's race, the event went mostly green all the way, with just two cautions for 14 laps.
"I think last year caught everyone off guard a little. Typically, you get your share of cautions, especially on the short tracks. Everyone was waiting for that first caution, but it never came, which is a testament to the talent of the drivers and the quality of the cars, but we were all forced to change our strategy during the race. It was definitely the first time I had ever pitted (at Berlin) under green flag conditions. But the longer you stayed out waiting for the caution that never came, the further you got behind."
Pitting at Berlin can be challenging even under caution, but pitting under green can add to the difficulty factor. Drivers have to woe up in time to make a 90-degree turn onto pit road between turns one and two, and then make a 180-degree turn from their pit box back onto the frontstretch off turn four.
Jones, who finished a career-best second at Pocono Raceway back in June, was just two laps away from winning at Pocono last weekend, before a brush with the wall, coupled with an engine malfunction, prevented him from completing the final two laps. He still finished 12th..
The 200-lap race at Berlin begins at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, with live audio coverage and live timing and scoring featured on ARCAracing.com.
Frank Kimmel is the leading winner at the track, with three victories (1999, 2003, 2004).
Kimmel, the current point leader, recently tied Iggy Katona in all-time series wins, each with 79.
Other former ARCA winners at Berlin include Nelson Stacy, Katona, Ramo Stott, Bob and Brian Keselowski, Tim Steele, Fred Campbell, and Scott Speed to name a few.
The Berlin ARCA 200 will also be the second ARCA Racing Series race that will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. NBC Sports Network's ARCA racing coverage of the Berlin ARCA 200 premieres Thursday, August 15, at 11 p.m. ET.