Rare to find a teenager who knows exactly what he wants.
Perhaps it’s even rarer when one reveals they’re not content to rest on their laurels and triumphs.
Garrett Jones seems to be one of those anomalies. At 14, Jones is one of the more eager adolescents you’ll come across.
He’s excited to start the 2014 season Friday at Five Flags Speedway and raring to begin defense of the Allen Turner Pro Late Model track title he won last year.
But of all the goals Jones anticipates attaining, racking up wins ranks at the top of that list.
“Winning a championship was great, but we didn’t win any races,” said the eighth grader from Mooresville, N.C., who took Pensacola’s high banks by storm in 2013.
“We had a lotta consistent finishes, but eventually we have to start winning races. I can’t complain. We wanted do better, but we’re steadily improving every race.”
It’ll be the gameplan for Jones and the other PLM drivers that descend upon the famed half-mile asphalt oval and battle in a 100 lapper come Friday.
Four other local classes also usher in the new racing year. Two-time defending champ Donnie Hamrac leads the Modifieds in a 25 lapper; the Super Stocks and Sportsmen also compete for 25 laps while the Bombers get up on the wheel for 20.
Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday with PLM qualifying starting at 7 and features going off at 8.
Admission is as follows: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and military; $5 for children, ages 6 to 11; free for kids 5-under.
After a year in the seat netted him late model accolades across the southeast, Jones believes his learning curve has narrowed.
His early-season results prove that. Jones sat on the pole at the prestigious PLM Rattler125 last week at South Alabama Speedway.
Some ill-timed weather forecasting from his team, though, cost him the win and relegated Jones to sixth.
“We were only 40 laps in,” he said, “running fourth and trying to save our stuff when my crew chief said we needed to go because rain was on the way. We got up to second before a tire started going down and we wore our stuff out. It was a bad call because I thought we had a really good car.”
Another important lesson in the education of young Jones.
Much of the knowledge he gained last year went out the window at the Snowflake 100 during Snowball Derby weekend a few, short months ago.
“I messed up in qualifying for the first time the whole year,” Jones said. “Five Flags is all about momentum and I was in the back of the pack. We just didn’t have track position.”
He eventually finished 17th, a spot behind Harrison Burton.
The son of famed NASCAR driver Jeff Burton, 13-year-old Harrison has plans on running the full complement of Allen Turner PLM races this year.
“Me and Harrison have been racing a long time,” the 14 year old said of the 13 year old with a straight face. “We know how not to wreck each other. It’d be fun to get down to the end against him because we know each other so well.”
In addition to Harrison Burton, Jones must also try to devise a plan to keep rival Bryce Dulabhan at bay.
The pair waged quite the duel last year with Jones hosting the Five Flags crown and Dulabhan, an 18 year old from Fairhope, Ala., capturing the Gulf Coast championship. The Gulf Coast points race combines points from Five Flags and Mobile International Speedway.
Jones welcomes the competition. But like all champions, he remains confident that win No. 1 is right around Turn 4.
“I’ve learned how to get up on the wheel faster,” he said, “and I don’t have to be in such a hurry to get where I need be. I’m positive we’ll get one this weekend.”