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Erik Jones focused on Xfinity, Truck races ahead of Matt Kenseth’s final appeal


FORT WORTH - When Erik Jones met with the media Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway, the result of Matt Kenseth’s final appeal of his two-race suspension had yet to be announced.

That meant Jones, 19, still didn’t know for sure if he would be driving the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing. Racing this weekend in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series (which he practiced in Thursday afternoon), Jones said he had yet to talk with Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff.

“We’re just waiting to see what happens here with the appeals process in a few hours and see where it goes from there,” Jones said shortly after 2:15 p.m. ET, an hour after Kenseth’s case went to Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss. “Obviously, the Truck and the Xfinity car are my main focus. That’s what I know I’m doing coming into this weekend. If (driving the No. 20) were to happen, I’m going to do the best I can for them, just keeping them in contention and hopefully have a great race for them.”

If the suspension is upheld, Sunday would be Jones’ third time in a Sprint Cup car in 2015. He unexpectedly had to replace an injured Denny Hamlin after a rain delay during the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway and finished 26th.

Three races later at Kansas Speedway, the Truck series points leader was called on to substitute for Kyle Busch in the final race before he returned from the leg injuries he sustained in the Xfinity season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Jones had been running in the top 10 most of the race until he spun on the frontstretch on lap 197 and finished 40th, many laps off the lead.

“Bristol I think was a tough situation for everybody in never being in a Cup car all together,’ Jones said. “I was really comfortable at Kansas. I was pretty happy with the way things were going, but then I lost it. But running up in the top 10 and being competitive and being in contention gave me a lot of confidence for the next opportunity, whether it be this weekend or whether it be in a year or two years, whatever it may be. I definitely feel confident in myself to be able to go out and do a good job.”

One driver who knows a little bit about what Jones has experienced this year is two-time defending Truck champion Matt Crafton, who made his Sprint Cup debut as the replacement in Busch’s No. 18 for the season-opening Daytona 500.

Crafton got the call to sub for the injured Busch at 7 pm the night before the race.

“It’s honestly not as nerve-wracking as you would think and whenever I got the call ... I didn’t have time to think about it,” Crafton said while sitting next to Jones. “But I’m a race car driver, so I adapt to the situation. This has been Erik’s dream I’m sure to race in Sprint Cup. I’m sure it’s definitely not the opportunity he wanted to get here, but the same way with me running the Daytona 500. Definitely I’v always wanted to say I’ve run the Daytona 500, but I didn’t want to say I did it for my buddy that was hurt.”

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