IRL: PJ Jones ready to race for Beck

IRL: PJ Jones ready to race for Beck

There are plenty of drivers wandering the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month looking for the right opportunity. With fewer cars available in 2004 due to the financial impact of fielding a team that relies on leased rather than built engines,...

There are plenty of drivers wandering the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month looking for the right opportunity. With fewer cars available in 2004 due to the financial impact of fielding a team that relies on leased rather than built engines, a change in specifications for those power mills and the costs of chassis updates as well, it's been a tough row to hoe for those in the driving business.

P.J. Jones.
Photo by Ange Lisuzzo.
Earlier in the week, Greg Beck intimated he'd have his driver and sponsor set by the end of the week. If you think Sunday starts a new week, well, maybe he was a bit late with that announcement, but today Beck announced he will enter second generation driver PJ Jones in the #98 blue Curb Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone challenger for the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 30th.

"The deal was finalized yesterday morning," Beck said. "We worked hard on this all week and Mike [Curb] said earlier in the week he wanted to do something. This makes a lot of sense," Beck detailed. "Mike Curb stepped up to help us out and to get this done now instead of next week," when time would be short to prepare the car.

At this point in time, the #98 car is in the paint shop being prepared for practice to resume on Wednesday of next week. "Optimistically," Beck said, "we'd like to be out there on Wednesday but realistically, I think we're looking at Thursday. The car should be back from the paint shop by late Wednesday," leaving the team Thursday, Friday and Saturday practices to prep for Bump Day.

Jones has been an all-purpose driver the last few years, running NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, USAC Silver Crown and anything else he could get his hands on. "I'm really excited to have another chance at the Indy 500 this year. I'd been on the CART side for so long that I missed some years here at the Brickyard," Jones admitted. "It's no secret I've been down south racing at every opportunity. I've been looking for the right place, right people and right surroundings. I think I've found that here."

P.J. Jones.
Photo by Kenneth Plotkin.
Just two weeks ago Jones was racing Silver Crown at Memphis Motorsports Park. His fine performance there, when he came from 19th on the grid to finish fourth caused Curb to accelerate his interest in putting the Indy program together. "We leaned on Mr. Curb to do this," Jones said. "I brought no money to the table."

Greg Beck is hoping to use this first race together with Jones and the Curb/Agajanian group to go forward with at least one other event. "We'd love to do Nashville because of the music connection and we'd love to continue with PJ. He's proved himself in all forms of racing. He'll drive the Silver Crown, the Cup car and anything else. It shows he's a real racer."

The last time Jones came to Indy was two years ago, in 2002, but he was unable to make the field of 33 fastest cars. "Two years ago the cars had more downforce and the speeds were higher. I'm pretty tight with Robby Gordon and I know what's up with the cars these days. I think it's good that speeds are down because now the driver is more of a factor," Jones stated. "Going flat all day is not much of a challenge.

"It's important to be right there, put it in the show and work on race setup" next week. "We have to concentrate and be smart. Greg puts a good race car together and I think we'll be right there. Obviously we'll be starting from the back, but this is such a long race it really doesn't matter."

P.J. Jones.
Photo by Robert Kurtycz.
This year engines are not an issue, Beck noted. "We'd like to get out there and do 250 miles a day and then, once this race is done go forward to run other races with PJ. I don't think it'll take long to figure out" what the car wants in terms of setup and gears. "Once we know what the race pace will be, we can get a general direction. We won't spend a lot of time hunting," he revealed.

"I can't wait," Jones laughed. "I've been coming here 35 years, since I was two years old. I came here this week not having anything and now I'm ready to race. At least it'll be more relaxing this time. We can take our time and get up to speed."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers P.J. Jones