The NASCAR off-season is typically a time of rest and relaxation, but for sophomore sensation Brandon Jones it has been a time of determination and growth.
Heading into the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona International Speedway, Jones has a positive outlook and rightly so.
“At the end of last year we showed great improvement as a team and an organization,” said Jones “We’ve had a lot of sit-down meetings to talk about 2017 and the changes moving forward. I’m really, really excited to kick off the season in Daytona.”
The soon-to-be 20-year-old driver is prepping for his second full-time season at Richard Childress Racing with a new goal for the 2017 XFINITY Series season.
“We made the Chase last year, which was a goal of ours,” he said. “This year we need to go to the final round in Homestead and hope for a chance to win the championship.”
In 2016, the rookie driver produced 12 top-10 finishes and led 36 laps en route to 10th-place finish in the driver standings.
The hard work last year helped young Jones obtain his goal in 2016, an appearance in the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase. However, his post-season run ended after the first round of eliminations at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This season, Jones is looking to have a quick start right out of the gate and has his eyes set on bigger things.
“A championship run is where I want to be and a couple of wins here and there will help out a lot,” said Jones. “So that’s our goal this year, getting to Victory Lane.”
New Year, New Team
One of the biggest changes for Jones and the No. 33 team is the leadership of crew chief Nick Harrison, who moved over from the No. 3 XFINITY Series team for the 2017 season. Harrison is eager to work with the rising sophomore once again.
“Last year was his first year with RCR and I think he learned a lot,” said Harrison “I believe with his off-season prep, and the hard work going on here at RCR, Victory Lane is in the near future.”
As part of that prep, Jones has been dedicated to improvement, always learning from his teammates and spending a great deal of time in the simulator.
“We can pretty much go through an entire day’s worth of changes in the simulator,” said Jones. “We can do everything that we can try at-track, just like a normal practice day. That aspect of it is really cool. I also think it helps myself, visual wise. I get to see where we are with different setups and what landmarks I can pick out.”
Headed into the 2017 season, Jones has been working closely Harrison. The duo has been hard at work planning strategy for all of the new NASCAR rules and format changes, however the veteran crew chief understands how to keep it fun.
“I love Nick, you know he is an all-around good guy. We have fun and I’m going to enjoy it,” said Jones. “He puts his game face on when it’s time to get after it. I think we already act like we have been together for years and years.”
Putting In The Work
It is evident that the chemistry on the No. 33 team is off to a roaring start and that isn’t limited to the driver and crew chief. Race engineer Jeremy Frankoski has been hard at work this off-season, on car setups as well as driver sit ups. Jones realized last season that his physical fitness could be improved as well as the team’s performance on the track.
“The main thing I felt like I struggled with last season was sustaining my nutrition and keeping my health up,” said Jones.
“Each week I prepare a fitness program for him to follow. I have my CrossFit level 1, so the program is tailored with CrossFit movements and workouts specifically for Brandon and his goals.”
Jones regularly joins Frankoski in the RCR pit stop training facility, where the two workout side-by-side to improve his physical performance. Frankoski has given Jones a clean food diet with daily macro numbers to achieve, and the sophomore driver is packing on lean pounds this year.
“Brandon’s positive attitude and willingness to train has already gained results in the short time we’ve been working together,” said Frankoski. “Everyone likes to talk about the physical results associated with a new fitness program, however, Brandon’s biggest difference has been with his mental toughness and focus for 2017. He is naturally a mentally competitive and tough guy but working through difficult workouts pushing yourself harder than you thought possible will translate to in-car performance.
“Also, being a part of his pit stop practice, I have watched him quickly knock the off-season rust away, implement feedback from Austin Dillon and our pit crew, and perfect his stops with consistency,” he said. “Witnessing this kind of intensity from him so far, I have no doubt that 2017 will be a record year for him.”
With the intense workout regiment and new diet, the sophomore’s off-season resembles something closer to that of a college athlete than that of most NASCAR personalities.
“I’m not a huge fan of the workout, but I feel like it will help. Anything I can do on my part to be the best I can, I’m going to do it,” said Jones. “We have been working extremely hard at RCR. We are just trying to put every little piece together here to really make it happen this year.”
The slow and restful off-season that most fans picture is a thing of the past. It’s a new season, a new team and a new Brandon Jones.