DARLINGTON, S.C. – Erik Jones’ intestinal fortitude goes well beyond the race track.
We learned that Monday morning after the 23-year-old became the second-youngest driver to win the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
That’s one impressive feat.
Here’s another: Roughly 90 minutes before the race’s 70th edition finally started after a four-hour rain delay, Jones scarfed down a couple of pieces of pizza.
No fruit. No yogurt or cereal.
Not even bread, although I hear there were quite a few Bojangles’ biscuits available at the track.
Jones even posted to Twitter, “Well ..” along with a photo of the pizza he was about to eat – and the proper hydration only a bottle of water can bring. After all, racing a car 500 miles on a summer night in South Carolina can make you thirsty.
It’s crazy to realize what all we share from our everyday lives through Twitter.
After Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent his first tweet in March 2006, “just setting up my twttr,” we eventually followed suit.
But with racers and other professional athletes, tweeting is just another step in enhancing their brand for fans.
According to Jones after his win, the story behind the pre-race snack was simple enough.
“… we were sitting in the bus ‑‑ we went to (the Florence) Mellow Mushroom the other night, so this is a nice little advertisement for them,” he said. “But we went there the other night for dinner with some friends and took home a bunch of leftover pizza, and I told my buddy Brandon (on Sunday), ‘I'm like, I'm starving.’ It was like 8:30.
“I said, ‘We need to eat something.’ So I threw some supreme pizza in the microwave and cranked it down, and Daniel Hemric (who eventually finished 37th in the race) said I was going to be hurting.”
But the pizza held on its own for as long as Jones did almost four hours later when he held off Kyle Larson and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch to take the checkered flag.
“So I guess I can still tell (Hemric) I have an iron gut, and I'm going to run on it as long as I can until it runs out,” Jones said with a smile. “It worked out good.”
But what if there was a burger or taco in that hauler fridge? Or maybe some fried chicken picked up earlier that weekend?
I don’t know if it would have mattered. Jones probably would have scarfed it down and then be talking about THAT pre-race snack.
There’s a sense of invincibility that goes with being young, and eating pizza before driving one of NASCAR's most prestigious races is a prime example of that.
It's even fearless.
But to race at Darlington Raceway, you had better be fearless or you’re doomed from the green flag.
Jones is 23, so that helps.
“I feel great. I feel great,” Jones said. “I don't expect I'm going to bed anytime soon.”
Good thing, because it was about morning, anyway – which prompted this announcement of goodwill by Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp in case Jones got hungry again:
“Bojangles’ opens in about an hour.”