WHITE CITY — Preston Jones had never even started up a sprint car before this season. The 22-year-old Central Point resident is a modified driver — well, normally.
But Jones recently added to his resume.
Near the start of racing season, Coos Bay Speedway owner Chuck Prather asked Jones if he would like to drive one of his sprint cars at his track and at Southern Oregon Speedway.
Jones' reaction? Why not. He wouldn't have to foot the bill for all the things he normally has to pay for with his modified.
"He was just looking for a talented driver," Jones says. "I don't consider myself a talented driver. He was looking for people who can put on a show. I thought I'd give it a shot."
Jones is too humble. His results have been tremendous.
Jones is first in the Crate Sprint Car Southern Oregon Sprint Tour standings with 353 points through seven races. Lawrence Van Hoof is second with 333 points and Kyler Barraza third (317) as of June 10.
Jones, a 2009 Crater High graduate and the modified rookie champion that year, is waiting on a motor for his ride and he intends to compete in both classes this summer. He also has experience in the Super 4 category.
For now, Jones is lapping up his success in sprint car action. His next race is July 27 at Southern Oregon Speedway.
"I'm loving the sprint car thing right now," he says.
Jones, who installs guardrails for a living, began racing when he was 12. He didn't play any other sports and never went to a school dance.
Racing was his thing.
He picked up his first A-main sprint car victory on May 12 — Mother's Day — in Coos Bay.
"She was there," Jones said of his mom. "My parents got there right before the heat race."
The celebration afterward?
"Pizza," Jones says. "Nobody's going to Disneyland."
Prather's sprint cars are maintained by Barraza. He gave Jones a quick introduction to the vehicles the day before their first race in Coos Bay.
Jones gets help from his dad, Greg Jones, friends Devon Weiser and Greg Lubbers and girlfriend Kym Price come race day.
"My dad wasn't sure about it at first, but now he loves it," Jones says of sprint car racing. "It was refreshing to start a season in a new car with no one I really know and go out and have fun. I told my dad, 'Let's just make this a fun season.'"
The crate sprint class is affordable, the fields are generally level (because the motors are all the same) and it's entertaining, Jones says.
Driving a sprint car is a piece of cake compared to modifieds, which have smaller tires and take more effort to handle, he says.
"Sprint cars are much more forgiving," Jones says. "You can drive them harder and they stick better."
Out of respect to Prather, Jones says he's played it on the cautious side when he's been in dangerous situations this season.
"It's not mine," he says. "I don't want to cause any heartache or headaches."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org