HAMPTON, Ga. Buckshot Jones took a couple days off work this week to do a favor for a friend.
Although most people would be excited about the opportunity to drive on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, he wasn't making too much of the chance to drive for Michael Waltrip because Jones' ambitions have shifted gears in the past 18 months. He no longer is consumed by the roar of a race engine.
He now realizes the need for speed has been replaced by a sense of normalcy and responsibility that is every bit as gratifying as the lead draft at Daytona.
Jones made his second appearance in the sport this year in one of Waltrip's Chevrolets during last Sunday's race at Talladega, Ala. even leading for 19 laps. He was testing another Chevrolet Monday and Tuesday for Waltrip in preparation for the race at Atlanta later this month.
Once that race is done, Jones will go to his home near Braselton, Ga., and back to a life that includes a wife, two baby boys and a career in land development. And he won't look back.
''I don't miss racing as much as you'd think,'' he said.
Jones grew weary of a business that is guided by the whim of big business and market share reports. He shook hands, signed autographs and kissed babies on behalf of sponsor Georgia Pacific after he was hired to drive at Petty Enterprises, but the Pettys fired him two months into his second season, and the entire experience was more of an awakening than a letdown.
''The way things happen, the way things come down, can really be a hassle in this sport,'' Jones said while Waltrip's crew ate lunch Monday afternoon. ''What we talked about and what happened were two different things. If somebody tells you what they're going to do and they don't do it, you lose trust. When it got to that point, Iwasn't upset about not driving anymore. I was upset about people not doing what they tell you.''
So Jones walked away without any regrets. He earned a business degree at the University of Georgia before he embarked on a racing career, so he had the kind of safety net few others in the sport can appreciate.
As a land developer for residential communities, Jones is able to be home at night to enjoy family life. No more hopscotching across the country for races, no more nights in a motor home or hotel, no more bedtime stories with a cell phone.
''When I did the race at Talladega, it was weird being away from home for a couple nights,'' Jones said. ''I had forgotten what that was like.''
Making two or three appearances, especially when they're on the big tracks like Daytona, Talladega or Atlanta, is just fine with Jones, especially when he has the opportunity to drive the kind of top-flight cars built in Waltrip's shop.
''Would I consider coming back full time? Maybe with DEI, Gibbs or Yates,'' he said of three of the top race teams in the sport. ''I'd have to think about it. I won't jump into any car.''
Jones finished 17th at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in July and he was 40th last Sunday at Talladega. His car was fast, but a flat tire ripped the fender off and forced him to an early exit.
''It was fun while it lasted,'' he said. ''It was fun to be out front again. It brought back some good memories.''
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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