By Natalie Urquiza
Most 17-year-old high school students are working, playing sports or preparing for college. Jagger Jones does all that plus is a race car driver in the Arizona Lottery 100, K&N Pro Series West Championship.
The Notre Dame Preparatory High School senior drives the No. 6 Ford for the championship team Sunrise Ford Racing, which is owned by Bob Bruncati. Jones is the son of P.J. Jones, who raced in various motorsports, and his grandfather is Indy 500 champ Parnelli Jones.
Jones will make his hometown debut at the Arizona Lottery 100, K&N Pro Series West Championship, at 4 p.m. Saturday, November 9, after the Xfinity’s Series race at ISM Raceway. Attendance is free, but fans are encouraged to donate nonperishable food items or new toys for the Valley of the Sun United Way and those in need. The event is a 100-lap championship race in NASCAR’s developmental league.
“I think it is great for more people to come see our sport, to see our K&N Series, the race we put on and see the track,” Jones says. “I think once they go there, there is a good chance someone will really enjoy it. There is a higher chance they will come back the next year than never experiencing that. I think it’s a great thing for them to do.”
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jones has lived in Scottsdale since he was 4. He says Notre Dame Prep’s staff has been understanding and supportive of his occupation.
“Of course, there are tough times with the whole going to school and racing full time,” Jones says. “It has actually been a pretty good experience. I enjoy going to a normal high school.”
He was inspired by his father and grandfather, but he’s passionate about racing. As a youngster, he raced go-karts and frequently heard everything was handed to him and he didn’t have to work for it.
“No matter what it looks like from the outside or not, that is really not the case between going to school full time and racing,” Jones says. “I definitely put all the effort I possibly can and I try not take things for granted. I try to use all the resources I can to make the most out of my career.
“I think it really comes down to not really getting that in your head what other people think or what they say. I know who I am and I know what I am trying to do, which is win races and championships.”
Jones has a positive attitude toward racing, and he makes it clear no one in his family forced him to race.
“It was because I was around the sport and fell in love with it,” Jones says. “That is what motivates me to race—not my parents, my grandparents, legacy or anything like that. It really comes down to my passion and my desire. It is really what I want to do.”
That fiery devotion for racing began at age 6 when his father bought him a go-kart for his birthday. P.J. Jones thought it would be a hobby for his son. On his 9th birthday, he received a new go-kart and got serious about racing.
“I think the next week, my dad was like, ‘Hey there is a race next week. Let’s just do it for fun and see how it goes,’” Jones says. “I think a month later we were starting to travel, going to the regional races, and about a year later I was racing in the national tour.”
Jones competed in Europe, where go-kart racing is popular. He represented the United States, racing against children from Asia, Europe, America, Canada and Australia.
“That is super-cool to look back at now,” Jones says, “I went in there and got a lot of experiences that I wouldn’t have had racing in the United States.”
After go-kart racing, he pursued stock car racing and made a name for himself in 2017 by winning his first race in Lake Havasu.
“That was my first stock car win, so that was super-cool,” Jones says. “That was the beginning of my path to where I want to be in NASCAR, so just finding success in that and stock car oval racing.”
The following year, he raced for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Motorsports No. 88 car. He won his first of three races for JR Motorsports at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
“That was one of the most, greatest highlight of my career so far,” Jones says. “To just drive the No. 88 car. No matter what car it is, it is pretty cool that not a lot of people get to do.”
He’s now racing for No. 6 Sunrise Ford Racing and admires the owner, Bob Bruncati. He calls Bruncati nice and helpful to up-and-coming drivers like himself and teammate Trevor Huddleston.
“He helps fund a great team, really puts in a lot of energy in having good cars and being really competitive,” Jones says. “Bob has given me a great opportunity and I am so grateful for that. Also, being able to work with (hall of famer) Bill Sedgwick, who has had success himself not only as a driver but as a crew chief.”
The 2019 season is winding down, but the season’s last race has been on Jones’ mind for as long as he can remember—ISM Raceway. Previously, he only raced in a i-Racing simulator.
“I am super excited,” he says. “I have raced go-karts in the Phoenix area but that was five years ago. Since then I haven’t. The closest I have raced is in Tucson once or Lake Havasu a couple times. I am excited to race in my home area.”
NASCAR Arizona Lottery 100, K&N Pro Series West Championship, ISM Raceway, 7602 S. Avondale Boulevard, Avondale, 866.408.7223, ismraceway.com, 4 p.m. Saturday, November 9, free.