STOCKTON, Calif. -- After two successful years of driving for Edgecomb Racing, Top Alcohol Dragster (formerly Federal Mogul Dragster) driver Paul Jones announced today that he will be filling the seat vacated by Brandon Bernstein in the Darien & Meadows A/Fuel Dragster for the 2002 season. The team made a hard run for the World Championship with Bernstein at the wheel, and plans to take another shot at the title with continued backing from Western Stabilization.
Jones, from Stockton, Calif., learned at this year's AAA Auto Club Finals in Pomona, Calif., that Bernstein was going to move up to his father Kenny's Top Fuel team for the 2002 season. Jones was quick to jump on the golden opportunity, and contacted Jerry Darien shortly after that race. After several meetings, both parties reached an agreement for the 2002 season.
"There were a lot of rumors floating around the pits at the end of the year," said Jones. "I heard that Darien and Meadows were looking for a driver for next season. Shortly after Pomona I got on the phone and got a hold of [Jerry] Darien, and we did some talking. I let him know what I had to offer in the deal, and to my surprise, we came up with an arrangement that seems to work for the both of us. I'm really looking forward to being a part of a team that is very capable of winning like this team is."
Not only was the performance of the team influential to Jones making the move, the fact that the car has been a virtual springboard to the pro ranks for such Top Fuel drivers as Gary Scelzi and Melanie Troxel made the position all the more lucrative.
"Like many drivers, I have aspirations of being a Top Fuel driver one day," mentioned Jones. "I think that being involved with the Darien and Meadows team is definitely a place where I want to be, with the history of their drivers moving up into the pro ranks."
Bernstein finished fourth nationally in his rookie season at the wheel of the Darien & Meadows ride, in addition to winning the always-tough Division 7 [Pacific Region] Championship. Jones finished third in Division 7 standings in the Edgecomb car. With neither party being estranged to success, they look for 2002 to be a fruitful year.
"After speaking with Jerry, he definitely wants to run for the World Championship," cited Jones. "We sat down and ironed out a schedule while I was down in L.A. for the Specialty Fasteners Christmas Party this past weekend. I got a chance to sit down and meet with Jerry and Debbie Darien, Ken [Meadows] and the team, so that was a good weekend. We're going to run the full 16 races (eight national/eight divisional) that we are allotted to run."
"We're going to go test in Phoenix, and it will be my first time in an A/Fuel car," stated Jones. "I should be able to get in there and adapt to it pretty quickly. I'm really looking forward to it."
Jones also is quick to cite that NHRA's new series sponsor POWERade will not only open doors for their team, but for drag racing as a whole.
"I think the POWERade sponsorship is going to be a great deal for drag racing," commented Jones. "It is definitely a good change, and I think that the fact that they have cut it (the Top Alcohol cars) down from 24 to 16 races is a good deal because it is boosting our payout, since they are taking the money from the cut races and rolling it over to the remaining 16."
"The fact that all 16 races are going to be televised on ESPN2 is a big plus as well," Jones added. "That is going to give us some great exposure for our sponsors Western Stabilization, Specialty Fasteners, and Plumbing Concepts. It also opens the door for us to find additional sponsors as well."
Western Stabilization, who came on board with Jones in the middle of this past season, is putting their full support behind Jones' move, and look forward to this season as well.
"The support I am recieving from Western Stabilization and Ashley Jeffery Motorsports has made this deal possible," explained Jones. "Ashley Jeffery, his wife Judy, and his daughter Justine have really been supportive of me since I hooked up with them in the middle of last season. I am very appreciative of their generosity; every time I turn around, the deal just gets better. Ashley is adding a second car to their Super Comp team for his daughter, so with the power of a three car Western Stabilization team, I hope that next year's winner's circles will see a lot of Western Stabilization and Ashley Jeffery Motorsports."
In addition to his excitement about his new ride, he is also quick to thank the Edgecomb family for giving him the opportunity to drive two years ago.
"I feel really fortunate to have been a part of Edgecomb Racing," Jones said. "They
are the ones that gave me the opportunity to get involved in racing at this level.
I have nothing but good things to say about those guys. They had an amazing car to
drive, and there is no doubt in my mind that they will come out next year and win
some races with a new driver. There are plenty of drivers looking to get in that
car for next season."