Conner Jones made a strong impression during his first visit to New Smyrna Speedway for the World Series of Asphalt by claiming two victories and finishing second in the Pro Late Model standings behind dirt track standout Kody Swanson.
When Jones arrived at New Smyrna, he was unsure of how he would fare against numerous other talented drivers, but he said that his consistency during the week would not have been possible without the hard work of his crew.
“It felt really great,” Jones said. “I can’t thank Mike Darne, Jeff Fultz and everyone enough for putting that amazing week together.”
Jones initially did not have any plans to do the World Series of Asphalt until Darne approached Jones and asked him if he wanted to gain some experience in a PLM by heading down to New Smyrna, which Jones quickly accepted.
Having never raced in a PLM prior to this year, Jones took part in a test session at Hickory Motor Speedway in his #14 before making the long trip down to New Smyrna for what would be a grueling seven nights of competition.
Along with battling a strong list of drivers like Swanson, Jett Noland and 2019 Winchester 400 champion Stephen Nasse every night, Jones was also tasked with figuring out how to properly navigate New Smyrna in a way that would help him gain the respect of his competition while simultaneously keeping him competitive.
“New Smyrna is really fast,” Jones said. “It really shoves you around the seat going into the corner, and the closest track that I can compare it to is Dominion Raceway, but it was still a whole new ballgame.”
Jones’ first evening of racing in the World Series of Asphalt saw him obtain a solid fifth-place finish after starting in the third position. Night 2 would go even better for Jones, as he kept his car out of trouble and stayed inside the Top 5 to cross the start-finish line in fourth.
Now in contention for the championship, Jones was determined to keep putting together solid runs throughout the rest of the week and got a much-needed boost on Feb. 7 when he won the 35-lap PLM feature after starting on the outside of the front row.
Jones tied Noland in the win column two days later, but another win from Noland on Feb. 10, combined with Swanson recording a victory and six consecutive Top 10 finishes of his own, meant that Jones would need to outrun both of them in the season finale on Friday to have a chance at the title.
Jones’ hopes for a championship came to an end when was swept up in an accident while trying to avoid another car. Even though Jones was disappointed over how his week ended, he could not help but be proud of his overall performance.
“The week would have been so much better if we won [the championship],” Jones said. “That last race really screwed us a little bit. [Hinde] got loose and came up in front of me, and I had to check up a little bit, but Kody Swanson never let up off the gas.”
With the World Series of Asphalt now over, Jones is more confident in his ability to hold his own against season veterans as he tackles his first full-time season in the Solid Rock Carriers Late Model Stock Car Tour, where he hopes to be a championship contender by the time the series reaches the finale at Rockingham Speedway on Oct. 30.
“I’d definitely love to get one or two CARS Tour wins,” Jones said. “At the very least, I want to get some Top 5s with this car as often as possible.”
Jones will make his CARS LMSC Tour debut on March 6 when the series heads to Dillon Motor Speedway for the Black’s Tire & Auto Service 125.