P.J. Jones signs aggressive deal with BACE By Marty Smith NASCAR Online P.J. Jones, a former CART FedEx Championship Indy car driver and veteran of a varied assortment of racing series, will pilot the No. 74 Chevrolet for BACE Motorsports in the...
P.J. Jones signs aggressive deal with BACE By Marty Smith NASCAR Online
P.J. Jones, a former CART FedEx Championship Indy car driver and veteran of a varied assortment of racing series, will pilot the No. 74 Chevrolet for BACE Motorsports in the 2000 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division, team owner Bill Baumgardner announced Tuesday.
The announcement, made in conjunction with the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour, hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway, also indicated BACE's intention of making the move to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2001 with Jones.
The No. 74 team, which completed the 1999 season largely unsponsored and enters NASCAR 2000 in the same fashion, also plans to compete in five NASCAR Winston Cup races in the NASCAR 2000 season.
"Are we crazy? Yes," said Baumgarnder, owner and president of BACE Motorsports. "We've signed P.J. to a three-year contract. It's one year Busch, two years Cup. We're going Cup racing in 2001. We will be running five Winston Cup races in 2000, yet to be determined. We'd love to have a sponsor for those, but without it, we'll run it out of our pocket. We're serious about this."
Baumgardner's excitement is warranted. He has the 1999 NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year in Tony Raines, who will move to the No. 33 Bayer/Alka-Seltzer Chevrolet in NASCAR 2000, thus freeing up the heralded No. 74 for Jones.
The leader of the No. 74 team - which still has yet to land a sponsor - is Billy Nacewicz, former crew chief of late open-wheel driver Richie Evans. Together, Evans and Nacewicz compiled an astounding 400-plus victories and eight-straight national NASCAR Modified championships.
"After three championships and a Rookie of the Year, BACE is in the process of completely restructuring itself over the past several months," Baumgardner said. "Tony's returning and that's just great, he's an awesome individual and a doggoned good driver.
"And, I don't think BACE gave Tony Raines as good an opportunity as he deserved in '99. We were still able to overcome most everything and get him into the rookie of the year deal, but he deserves better, and we're gonna work hard to give it to him."
In Jones, Raines will have the veteran running mate he needs. Jones has driven everything from NASCAR Winston Cup cars to NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series machines to CART cars to Silver Crown cars and even high tech sports cars.
However, one thing he hasn't experienced is the NASCAR Busch Series, which, according to Baumgardner, is of little concern to him.
"I asked him, do you think you can drive a Busch car?" said Baumgarnder, who won three consecutive NASCAR Busch Series championships with Johnny Benson and Randy LaJoie from 1995-97. "And he said 'well let's see, I've driven trucks, I've driver CART cars, including at Indy, I've driven off-road trucks, slot cars, Silver Crown cars, Midgets and everything else. So yeah, I think I can handle a Busch car.'"
That type of desire and confidence is one of many attributes that sold Baumgardner on Jones.
"P.J. is staunchly desirous of learning how to drive a Busch car," Baumgardner said. "He's had quite a career in Winston Cup with Harry Melling, and Harry didn't do too bad at picking new drivers either."
Jones, who was a critical element in Juan Manual Fangio's IMSA GTP championships while the pair drove for Dan Gurney's All American Racers in the early 1990s, competed in six NASCAR Winston Cup events in 1993 for Melling Racing. He had one top-10 finish. His best finish in his CART career was a second at Nazareth Speedway -- a track visited by the NASCAR Busch Series.
Other than talent and desire, one other vital focus for Baumgardner was his driver's devotion to family, something Jones had to a T. Jones' father, open-wheel legend Parnelli Jones, instilled that in his sons at an early age.
"A father-son tandem teamed up with a father-son here," Baumgardner said. "Parnelli Jones is a legend among legends in the real fast cars, and is as down to earth an individual as you'll ever meet. He has given P.J. an old value system, one that says no matter how good you get, above all else stands family. That's what we were looking for."
So, after searching through "everyone we thought we could attain," Baumgardner and son Brian opted to go with Jones. And, in Jones, they feel like they have a perfect fit.
"In midsummer we began trying to decide who we'd like to have as the second BACE driver, and we decided early on we wanted to go outside the loop to start fresh with a new attitude, and that's what P.J. gives us," he said. "We have an excellent history of starting fresh with new drivers. We've had a pretty good run. But I'd like to be more like Rick Hendrick in Winston Cup; I'd like to win the Busch championship with different drivers, all in a row. That's the kind of diversity I want to have.
"Taking all of that into account, we decided to go outside the series. We looked at the trucks, then to Indy cars, and everything seemed to lend itself to BACE to go to Indy cars, which are an outstanding breeding ground. Then, we were introduced to PJ Jones and immediately the chemistry was right, the personalities were right. P.J. was right.
"I asked him, do you have this fear of wrecking a Busch car? And he said, 'Well, I don't wanna go out and do it.' Then he said, 'It's not like wrecking a CART car. We just got back from testing at Michigan and our car was doing 249 at the end of the straightaway.'
"So I said, flat out at Daytona and Talladega's no big deal then I guess? He said, 'Well, it's great racing and I don't mean to talk down, but I'm used to 220 down the straightaway with no bumpers.' Right then, I was ready to sign him up."