FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Erik Jones walked across the stage wearing a cap and gown to receive his high school diploma. He then got into a NASCAR truck owned by Kyle Busch and went racing.
On the night of his high school graduation ceremony in Swartz Creek, Michigan, the 18-year-old Jones was instead at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night making his first national-level start on a 1 1/2-mile oval.
''To graduate at a race track, I don't know that I would have had it any other way,'' said Jones, who finished 11th.
Before driver introductions, ''Pomp and Circumstance'' played while Jones went across the stage. He then received his actual diploma from TMS President Eddie Gossage, who also donned cap and gown and presented the young driver with another diploma signifying his graduation to 1 1/2-mile tracks.
Last November in Phoenix, Jones became the youngest winner in truck series history, winning at 17 years, 4 months on the mile track. The race at Texas came a week after his 18th birthday, making him eligible to race on the bigger tracks.
''Ever since about first grades, all he's wanted to do is race,'' said Dave Jones, the driver's father. ''To get to this point and have the two, graduate and get is diploma at a race track, is beyond his wildest dreams. He would have quit school in the first grade to go racing if that had been an option.''
Jones has 10 more races this season in the truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
In December 2012, when Jones was 16, he caught Busch's attention by beating the NASCAR driver and everyone else in the Snowball Derby late-model race in Pensacola, Florida.