P.J. Jones returns to action in the no. 97 Menards/Colorfast Chevrolet. CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 6, 2002) -- It's the end of the season and all eyes are focused on the NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series Championships. But P.J. Jones and Dexter...
P.J. Jones returns to action in the no. 97 Menards/Colorfast Chevrolet.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 6, 2002) -- It's the end of the season and all eyes are focused on the NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series Championships. But P.J. Jones and Dexter Tuttle are concentrating on something else entirely -- their first NASCAR Busch Grand National Series race together. Their story may not be as dramatic as who will come out on top of the points standings, but it's a passionate one about two men who love to race.
Jones will be the driver of the No. 97 Menards/Colorfast Chevrolet in this weekend's Bashas' 200 race (2 p.m. EDT on NBC). This open wheel standout is no stranger to stock car racing, having spent time in the Busch Series with several teams. He also has the genes of 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, his father. But it's been a rocky road, especially after Jones fractured a vertebrae during practice for the Indy 500 in May of this year. Since then he's been back at the track, racing competitively and searching for that elusive perfect ride.
Tuttle is the team owner and the businessman behind Colorfast Industries. Tuttle had always wanted to go racing, and figured the best way to accomplish that would be to start up his own team. And so he formed Tuttle Motorsports, joined up with Jones and went shopping to find a co-sponsor to share the car's hood with Colorfast.
Jones and Tuttle, filled with excitement about the possibilities, went to Menards, a home improvement retailer that distributes Colorfast products. They also happen to be heavily involved in open wheel racing. In fact, P.J. was driving for Team Menard as an interim driver when his own crash and injury occurred this year. The sponsorship turned out to be a good fit, and Menards signed on to run eight to 10 races next season with Tuttle Motorsports. In preparation, the brand new team will attempt its first race at Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile oval, armed with engines from Bill Davis Racing.
And so as they head to the desert, Jones, Tuttle and Menards are hoping that the stars have aligned for their unlikely trio. And while they may not be in the running for a championship, this start-up team can match any other team in the NASCAR garage when it comes to passion for racing.
Driver P.J. Jones's thoughts --
We last saw you at Watkins Glen, where you turned in an impressive fourth-place finish for A.J. Foyt's team. What else have you been up to this year?
"Well I've run a couple of Silver Crown races, including one out in Phoenix where I finished fourth. There was the short stint with A.J. Foyt. That was really exciting to just jump in that car and run so well, and to give that team a boost. Then of course, there was the Indy 500 with Team Menard. That didn't go too well because I broke my neck (in practice)."
You certainly know what the dangers of racing involve -- you come from a racing family that's seen some pretty series injuries to both you, your brother and your father. What is it then that keeps you wanting to race?
"I think it's just the love of the sport and just loving to be able to race. Sure you can get hurt, and I have, but you can get hurt walking down the driveway to get the paper. I think it's just that you have it in your blood. You just have to shake off the injuries and try to get back up on the horse. I don't think I'll ever not want to race just because of an injury.
You've raced pretty much anything with wheels on it -- midgets, stock cars, Indy-style cars, trucks, high-tech sports cars. Anything you haven't raced yet that you'd like to try out?
"Definitely the World Rally, which races through Europe and Australia and on dirt. It's about the only thing I haven't tried, except maybe drag racing. I don't know if I'd want to do (drag racing) day in and day out, but I've always wanted to try that. But for me, there's nothing like driving a midget or sprint car. You drive hard, slide in the corner sideways, it's great. The Indy car was awesome because of the thrill, because of the speed. But I love stock cars because that's wheel-to-wheel, side-by-side, 40 cars. You can't beat that."
You are clearly focused on putting together a deal that would let you race on a more consistent basis. How did the opportunity with Colorfast and Dexter Tuttle come about?
"I'm really excited about this opportunity with Colorfast and Menards. It started out because Dexter wanted me to drive his Southwest Tour car at Sears Point. But I couldn't do that because I had a broken neck. But we stayed in touch and then Dexter called to tell me he was going to be buying some Busch cars. So I put him together with my connections at Menards, and we went from there. We've really put this program together in a short period of time. We tested at Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, and that went fairly well. So we're looking for a good solid run to kick off next year."