NASCAR: "Buckshot" Takes Aim at Brickyard 400
2 July 1998INDIANAPOLIS-- Aspiring NASCAR driver Roy "Buckshot" Jones had five Winston Cup races penciled in for the 1998 racing season as he ran for the Busch Grand National championship.
The list did not include the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But those plans have taken a dramatic turn upward. Two weeks before a gaggle of Winston Cup regulars is due at the Speedway to begin serious pre-Brickyard testing, Buckshot took to the historic 2 1/2-mile oval Tuesday for three days of practice that he hopes will help get him into the race.
Jones has joined the Stavola Brothers team, replacing Hut Stricklin. He practiced in a pair of freshly painted but unnumbered Chevrolets under the watchful eyes of co-owner Billy Stavola and Indy 500 veteran Pancho Carter, hired to be his coach at Indianapolis.
"This is a really prestigious track," said Jones, who turns 28 nine days before the Brickyard. "Just to make this race is a big deal.
"People look at Daytona and Indy. For some driver like me it would be awesome to make Daytona, but it would be just as awesome to make it here at the Brickyard. I'm not saying other tracks aren't as important, but this is just where racin' is. For Indy cars and the Brickyard, that's where racin' comes from. Daytona's the same way.
"Since NASCAR came in here, this is a really big event."
Jones has been racing mainly on the Busch Grand National circuit this season. He has one victory, at New Hampshire, and stands sixth in points with 1,819 and $218,750 in earnings after 16 races. He also drove in one Winston Cup race, at Dover, Del., his first in the Stavola Brothers car. He turned in a creditable eighth-place finish.
Jones was selected to take over the driver's seat of the Stavola Brothers machine after Stricklin failed to qualify for several races and sponsor Circuit City withdrew.
"We haven't decided how many races we're going to run," owner Billy Stavola said. "We're getting close to putting a deal together where we can at least run a dozen races or so.
"Working the Busch series, he's a really aggressive driver. He has a good head on his shoulders, he's very focused, and he's a good young, bright boy who's very interested in being a good race car driver. And I think he's got every ability and quality to do it."
Jones, from Georgia, will bring over sponsors he had for the four races he intended to compete in as an independent. What particularly pleased Jones was that the team had two equal cars ready for testing, and he quickly was turning laps slightly above 170 mph. It took 172-plus last year to qualify for the Brickyard.
"They're real patient," he said. "I'm a rookie at this and a little slow at it."
Carter, who drove in 17 Indy 500s and had a pole and a top finish of third, knew the Stavolas from his involvement in NASCAR racing. They contacted him about coaching newcomer Jones, a University of Georgia graduate who carries the number "00" on his Busch car.
Carter, who lives in the Indianapolis area, took Jones around the track Tuesday in a passenger car, pointed out the best way to enter and exit the turns and provided other tidbits of racing information.
On Wednesday after each run, Buckshot and Pancho studied engine performance images on a monitor. Carter explained where he needed to lift, get on the throttle and so forth. It certainly was an accelerated course in driving the Speedway.
"Buckshot's good," Carter said. "He's not bull-headed in any stretch of the imagination. He's a real aggressive driver and that's probably the one thing that doesn't do you a whole lot of good here as you've got to concentrate on being a little smoother, roll in, roll out, and try to work on momentum and corner speeds."
Carter said that Buckshot was a good listener. Carter also indicated that he could relate to how the rookie drives. Carter noted that Jones would turn a good lap, try harder and go slower. He said that a driver must convince himself that not diving as hard into the turns is the fastest way around in a stock car.
Jones attended the 1995 Brickyard and spent time watching how the Cup drivers drove on the track and talked with them in the garages.
"It kind of intimidates you when you first get here," he said of the track, "because it has such long straightaways.
"But the track has got incredible grip. Whoever did this track, built the track and everything else around here, it's so powerful. I never thought you'd be able to go in the corners that quick here. It's a very nice racetrack. I'm really impressed with it."
Jones picked up his unusual nickname when he was little after crashing into a table while chasing around the living room with his cousin. He jumped right up and his grandfather said, "You're tough as buckshot."
Born in W. Palm Beach, Fla., his family moved to Georgia when he was about one. He never drove go-karts or went through any of the early stages of driving apprenticeship like most Cup drivers. He didn't get behind the wheel of a race car until he was 21 after convincing his father to buy him a late model stock car.
While attending college and earning a business degree, he drove at Lanier Raceway in Gainesville, Ga. He won his first race in 1992, then moved up to the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series. He drove his first Busch race in 1995 and won his first Busch race at Milwaukee on July 7, 1996. His first pole came at North Carolina Motor Speedway later that year on Oct. 18.
"I won't be able to run for (Winston Cup) rookie of the year now," Jones said. "That's a real big honor to run for rookie of the year, but when the opportunity comes to run with a first-class team and some more races, I think that is more important."