NASCAR race at Gateway honors linemen

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NASCAR racing driver Erik Jones (second from left) talks racing with some electrical line workers at Gateway Motorsports. From left are Billy Timpe of IBEW Local 1439, Jones, Kevin Young of Ameren, Rod Howard of IBEW Local 309 and John Farris of IBEW Local 1439. – Labor Tribune photo

Madison, IL – It’s a big enough deal when NASCAR brings a race to Gateway Motorsports Park. It’s even bigger that the race this month honored some of our world’s unsung heroes – the electrical linemen.

The Drivin’ for Linemen 200 was held for the second straight year at Gateway June 13. It immediately followed a demonstration of pole climbing by some 40 linemen in the track’s infield.

The race is part of NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, and the drivers raced in pickup trucks. The race was the eighth out of 23 in the series this year.

Ameren Corp. sponsors the race. Company President Richard Mark said it provides a great way to honor the company’s workers.

“There are many parallels between a professional truck race and the work utility crews do every day,” he said. “Effective communication, utilization of the latest technology and a commitment to safety are all critical, whether it’s winning a race or keeping the lights on.

“That’s why we think the Drivin’ for Linemen event is the perfect way to recognize all Ameren employees and the industry professionals for their hard work and dedication.”

MEETING WITH LINEMEN

Three local linemen were at Gateway prior to the race to meet with one of the youngest and brightest of NASCAR’s drivers, Erik Jones, who just turned 19 on June 20.

2048_Gateway_ID_Prod R3b_HrzntlJones chatted with Billy Timpe and John Farris of IBEW Local 1439 and Rod Howard of Local 309, plus Kevin Young and Robb Hunter of Ameren.

Jones recalled having a great time here a year ago, when he was leading late in the race before getting bumped by another driver, German Quiroga, and spinning out of contention. The two drivers’ teams then fell into a brawl in the pits.

“It made for an exciting day,” Jones said. “We were all fine, and we moved on.”

Jones was in the pole position to start June 13 and led most of the laps until a wreck late in the race dropped him to 23rd at the finish. The race was won by Cole Custer.

THE KID

The friendly, soft-spoken native of Byron, MI, near Flint, seems barely old enough to have a driver’s license, but he has been racing since he was 7 years old. He is a front-runner for NASCAR Rookie of the Year, and was the first to win five national series races before age 19, including four in the truck series and one in the XFINITY series. He currently ranks third among drivers in the truck races.

Jones races trucks for Kyle Busch Motorsports and cars for Joe Gibbs Racing. He gave himself a big boost in 2012, at age 16, by defeating Busch himself in the Snow Ball Derby Super Late Model race in Pensacola, FL. He had his first truck series win at age 17 in Phoenix, AZ in 2013.

Jones said the Gateway race is special to him because of its connection to electrical linemen.

“It’s awesome that we get to represent them. And it’s definitely a track that we all love to come to,” he said.

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