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2014 IHRA Hot Rod Champion – Tony Jones

Monday, 27 October 2014

In June, Tony Jones celebrated his very first Ironman trophy in IHRA competition by winning a Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour event at Memphis International Raceway in a thriller over Greg Fowler. Almost four months later to the day, Jones was back in the winner’s circle at the very same track with a win over the very same person.

Only this time, there was much, much more at stake.

Jones secured his second ever victory in IHRA competition at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals at Memphis International Raceway earlier this month, clinching the Hot Rod World Championship in the process when he bested Fowler for the second time in as many tries during the Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL.

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   Tony Jones

With a championship on the line, Jones, a newcomer to IHRA competition, bested Fowler with a .024 reaction time paired with a 10.911-second pass in the 10.90 index class at 140.39 mph while Fowler, who had been spot-on all afternoon, ran a tick too quick with a 10.898 at 142.81 mph.

The win gave Jones a championship in his first season out with the IHRA after finishing third in Division 4, capping off what can only be described as a dream season for Jones.

“I have pinched myself a couple of times, but it still really hasn’t sunk in just yet that I won it,” Jones said. “All afternoon I just took it a round at a time. After every round we kept thinking it is just three more rounds, just two more rounds and then just one more round. In the winner’s circle, my buddy looked at me and simply said ‘zero more rounds’ and it sort of clicked that we had just won it.”

After a long afternoon that included wins over the best-of-the-best in IHRA’s Hot Rod category, the irony did not escape Jones as he went up against Fowler for the second time this season in Memphis.

“I really didn’t think I could beat him twice. The first time we went to Memphis and beat him, he treed me. This time he stuck me in the left lane and I ended up treeing him. It was a great race, there were a lot of nerves, but the good Lord took the anxiety away from me and we were able to get the win,” Jones said.

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   Summit Tournament of Champions Hot Rod Final - Greg Fowler (near) vs. Tony Jones

Jones’ afternoon included wins over two divisional champions and a divisional runner-up after he himself barely managed to hold on to a spot in the field. Jones entered the final race of the divisional season as the points leader in Division 4, but two poor showings plummeted him to third in the standings – the cutoff point to make the tournament.

But in Memphis, Jones proved he belonged. Driving his bright yellow ’67 Camaro, Jones bested Joe Tillman, Dakota Lowery and Ricky Roe to secure his place in the finals. All three rounds proved a challenge, with Jones using a .003 light to overcome Tillman’s 10.915 in round one and a near-dead on 10.902 with a .009 light was needed in the semifinals to best Roe’s 10.907 with a .009 tree, moving Jones into the championship bout.

Championship runner-up Fowler had wins over Chris Dean, Tim Andersen and 2014 IHRA Sportsman Driver of the Year John Dustin, capping a year that included one win and a championship in Division 3 behind the wheel of the Friends of Coal sponsored 1980 Camaro.

“This whole thing has been like a dream come true. You pray for something like this, but people like me, we are just out here enjoying the sport. People like us just don’t win these things,” Jones said.

Ironically, Jones’ championship season almost didn’t happen. It took the urging of longtime friend Roger Massey, himself an accomplished Top Sportsman racer, to get Jones out to his first IHRA event. From there, things just clicked for the Gilmer, Texas native.

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   Tony Jones

“A friend of mine convinced me to give IHRA a try this year and from the very start, every time I went to a race, I found myself going rounds,” Jones said. “It was so different, so relaxing to run IHRA. I found myself right at home and before long we found ourselves leading the division. We almost gave it away in our final race, but we were able to hang on and get to Memphis.”

With the win, Jones will earn the coveted No. 1 for his car as he plans to continue racing with the IHRA and defend his championship in 2015.

“I think I am wearing the wife out with the fact that we have a world champion in the home,” Jones said with a laugh. “The car ran really good all year and we capped it off with the perfect weekend. I really couldn’t have done any of it without Jesus in my life. He is the reason I am here. I also want to thank Roger Massey for inviting me to go racing, my wife and daughter for being there for me, my mom for always being there and thanks to IHRA for giving us a great place to race. I also want to thank Sunset Racecraft, Summit and everyone that helps make this possible.”

Last modified on Monday, 27 October 2014