You can tell the start of the auto racing season and the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is almost here as NASCAR has started making drivers available to sports writers in NASCAR cities and towns.
The first guy made available to me was Erik Jones, who just a couple of seasons ago was considered one of stock car racing’s young lions. At 24, he’s still young. But after being fired from the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing stable of drivers, Jones will be trying to rebuild his career at Richard Petty Motorsports as the replacement for Bubba Wallace, who has signed with the new team headed by Michael Jordan.
Perhaps more important to his young fans (and sports writers seeking unusual preseason angles), he said the Erik Jones Reading Corner is still a thing.
The reading corner is exactly that. It’s in Jones’ home next to a fireplace. It consists of an oversized reading chair and afghan — like something you’d see in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. On a shelf above the reading chair are books that Jones has read, though he doesn’t display them prominently like commentators on cable news network Zoom calls to show how erudite they are.
“I’ve been a big fan of reading since I was a little kid, and when we were in the pandemic, I wanted to find something to do to try to connect with fans,” said Jones, who won two races in five seasons driving for Gibbs.
The reading corner has a corner of its own at erikjonesracing.com. There are lists of books Jones and his fans have recently read, and “storytime videos” of the driver reading books to youngsters written by Dr. Seuss and others.
But Jones knows that producing green eggs, ham and a playoff berth for his new team might require some serious speed reading.
“For us, the goal is just to improve on what RPM has done the past two years,” he said of Wallace’s middle of the pack points finishes during which occasional flashes of speed were shown. “Try to get in the top 20 in points, and obviously a win is the ultimate goal — and I think there are places we can win.”
If he does, there’s a corner in Erik Jones’ home where you’ll be able to read about it.