Devin Jones, a UNC Charlotte senior, won the Street Tuner (ST) class at Daytona International Speedway with teammate Nick Galante Jan. 23. The dynamic duo held off their competitors to give the No. 81 BimmerWorld Racing BMW 328i the top step on the podium.
The 23-year-old sports car racing driver currently living in Mooresville, North Carolina accomplished a dream many years in the making.
“Daytona is the track every driver wants to win at, it’s the pinnacle of motorsports,” Jones said. “I grew up watching races at Daytona and dreamed of getting a chance to race there.”
Jones, a native of California, grew up racing go-karts as he developed the skills necessary to be a successful driver. He won multiple races and championships during his karting career.
“The first time I came to Daytona was as a kid for Daytona Kart Week,” Jones said. “We lived in California then, so my family and I drove across the country to race there.”
“At the end of the weekend, my dad and I went into the old Daytona victory lane that they were tearing down to rebuild. We took a brick from the old victory lane. I still have that brick. So to stand in that same victory lane as a winner in IMSA is truly a culmination of years of sacrifice and hard work. I will remember it for the rest of my life.”
For the past two seasons, Jones drove for Bodymotion Racing behind the wheel of a Porsche Cayman.
According to Jones, you have to be very precise with your racing line in the Cayman or it will cost the driver plenty of momentum.
This season, Jones must change his driving style to meet the demands of a completely different animal with BimmerWorld Racing.
“The BMW 328i is a turbo car, which is something I had to get used to,” Jones said. “The turbo kicks on a bit after you pick up throttle, this can be tricky.”
“Once I got a feel for how the car needs to be driven, the turbo is a big benefit. Car placement isn’t quite as critical on corner entry compared to the Cayman, but when the turbo comes on, you have to get the car pointed for a strong exit off the corner. Both cars are fast in different parts of a certain track, that’s part of what makes the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge such a great series,” Jones said.
As a senior communication major at UNC Charlotte, Jones must find a way to balance life in the classroom, while traveling around the country to focus on his racing career.
“The faculty has been accommodating and very supportive of my goals with racing. I’ve known of many students who have attended UNCC and have gone on to do great things in the motorsports industry. It’s inspiring to see so many students who have a passion for racing. I am a communications major and when I am at the track, I can use things that I’ve learned in the classroom towards building relationships with fans, teams, and sponsors. I can also draw on my experiences from the business side of motorsports to help me make connections to theories in class. It’s been an honor to attend UNCC and I always proudly call this school my home,” Jones said.
Despite settling down in the sports car racing world, Jones has two career starts in NASCAR. During the 2013 season, he finished 24th in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Martinsville Speedway, while bringing home a 26th place finish last year in his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Watkins Glen.
UNC Charlotte is relatively close to many NASCAR related facilities, which gives those wishing to pursue a career in motorsports the perfect opportunity to get their foot in the door. Although Jones has success in sports car racing, could a potential NASCAR career be in the works.
“I wouldn’t rule out anything, but my main focus is sports car racing,” Jones said. “With that being said, I had a blast racing at Watkins Glen in Xfinity last summer, so if the right opportunities come about I would always love to jump back into one of NASCAR’s top three series.”
In the past, Jones had a goal of competing in NASCAR full-time but it can be challenging to find the right opportunity to secure a ride. Ultimately, he fell in love with sports car racing and it appears that he has found a home.
Jones and Galante’s ST class victory at Daytona put them in a good position as the ST title battle will heat up throughout the course of the season. Jones is confident that the 2018 season will be a memorable one.
“Our goals for the IMSA season is to win races and win the championship,” Jones said.
Jones and Galante will be back in action on March 16 at Sebring International Raceway for the second round of the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge.