Go-cart Start Leads To Big Cars


Quiet Jones Brother Races In Superstock

June 16, 1991|By Stanley C. Dillon

Ernie Jones of Westminster is the quiet half of the Jones Boys.

He is often referred to as Rick Jones' brother, but it doesn't bother Ernie, because the two always help each other.

Ernie runs in the superstock late-model class at Potomac Speedwayin Budd's Creek, Charles County, and Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa. Rick runs in the semi-late division at Lincoln and Trail-Way speedways in Hanover.

Ernie has always been interested in racing. His father, Ernie Sr., raced in the 1950s at Lincoln, and in high school, Ernie Jr. began helping Westminster driver Don Zechman.

Since ErnieJr. couldn't afford to race stock cars, he decided to try go-carts, but the desire to race the bigger cars burned strong.

Thirteen years ago, he was racing his go-cart at Lincoln Speedway in a special show. He was racing down the backstretch making his way to the front, but as he moved between two other carts, one hit his and sent it flying end-over-end.

When everything came to a stop, Ernie was lying onthe track with his leg badly broken in several places. Five screws were required to mend his leg, but two months later, he finished out the year racing carts.

Ernie felt it was time to think about makingthe move. The decision was made for him when Zechman offered to build him a semi-late over the off season. With the tumble in his cart still vivid in his mind, Ernie felt it was an offer he couldn't resist.

Ernie made his debut in the semi-late class at Trail-Way and has been racing ever since. He still fools around with go-carts but hasn't raced in one since he moved to stock cars.

Ernie did well in thesemi-lates. He picked up four or five wins a year at Trail-Way, including a couple of championship events.

Eight years ago, Ernie met Walt Shriver, an engine builder in Union Mills. Walt was known for the engines he built for Al Shawver and O. J. Myers.

The two hit it off and a year later, Ernie began racing limited late models with a motor from Shriver. The two have been together ever since.

"He builds a good motor," Ernie said. "I ran one of his motors five years before it blew, and we were running two to three nights a week."

Shriver also builds the motors for Rick Jones.

Ernie ran limited late models until this year at Susquehanna Speedway in Newberrytown, Pa. He would also run his car with the late models at Potomac and Lincoln Speedways. Even with a limited 355-cubic-inch motor, Ernie was competitive with the late-model cars that had larger power plants.

This year, Ernie decided to concentrate on late models. He had Shriver build him a 406-cubic-inch motor. It didn't take much for Ernie to adaptto the faster, more powerful cars.

"It's a big difference," Erniesaid. "The late models are more competitive. There are 20 guys out there capable of winning on any given night. It's a whole different ballgame.

"The drivers are smoother in late models. You know what they will do. In the other divisions you don't always know where they are going to go."

Because the drivers are more skilled, it doesn't mean that the driver can relax. "You really have to keep on your toesin the late models," Ernie said. "They are going so fast that you have to make split-second decisions."

Running with the more skilled drivers doesn't mean you will never have any problems. Three weeks ago at Lincoln Speedway, Ernie was hit by another car and went crashinginto the backstretch wall with his throttle struck.

He hit the fence so hard that it took track workers almost an hour to repair the guard rails. It took much longer and a lot of money before Ernie was ready to race again.

"I was sore a couple of days," Ernie said. "Itcost me about $3,500 to repair the car. I had to have a new front clip installed on the car.

"Walt (Shriver) believed that I hit the wall so hard that I may have cracked the block. So the last couple of weeks I have had the smaller 355-cubic-inch motor in the car until hehas a new 406-cubic-inch motor ready. He expects it to be ready nextweek."

Ernie has always been a steady competitor. Now concentrating on the late models, he is in the top 10 in the point standings at Potomac and Lincoln speedways.

Besides brother Rick, other helpersare Gary Miller, Steve Stremell, Bill Elmo, Charlie Schaffer, Pat Stickles and Nancy Bollinger. The sponsors of his yellow late-model include Ernie's Place, R. J. Home Improvements, Delco Signs, Grinestaff Racing Enterprises, C&O Distributors, Doug's Garage, Gary's Radiator and Electronics Unlimited.

The 39-year-old driver has no plans to quit racing.

"I am not about to quit until I get that first late-model win." he said. "But another hit to the wall would cut racing short, since the pocketbook could not afford it."

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