HAMPTON, Ga. -- Some people laughed when Roy "Buckshot" Jones arrived on the NASCAR Busch Grand National scene a couple of years ago.
Who was this youngster trying to kid with that name?
Despite his Georgia upbringing, he's no country bumpkin. In fact, the 27-year-old Jones is a graduate of the University of Georgia.
The nickname came from his grandfather, who decided the little kid was "as tough as buckshot" after he got knocked down and bounced right up again.
"It just sort of stuck," Jones said. "I really don't think about it much anymore. Some people call me Roy; some call me Buckshot. I don't really care."
What he does care about is racing and on Sunday, barring problems in qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jones will make his first Winston Cup start in the season-ending NAPA 500.
"The more I run, the more confident I get," said Jones, who has run laps above 190 mph on the new 1.54-mile quad-oval configuration at the track. "I tried to go faster and got uncomfortable going through turns one and two. Once we get the setup down, we'll get faster. I just don't want to risk the car right now."
That kind of thinking makes Jones different from other youngsters trying to make their mark in stock car racing. Except for some bursts of on-track anger that got him in trouble with NASCAR, Jones has been using his head and making headway in his quest to become a star.
"Last year was kind of a learning curve for us," he said of 1996, when he took his one and only Busch Series win at Milwaukee. That was his 18th start in the steppingstone series.
"It was hard being a rookie in this series, dealing with the chassis and stuff," said Jones, who switched from Ford to Pontiac in 1997. "I'm happy with the way this season has gone. There are always some races you wish you could take back, but that's racing.
"As long as you learn from it and improve, you're advancing. That's what I think we're doing. We'll be back in the Busch Series in 1998 and the championship is going to be our goal. This year, we were trying to be consistent in every race. I think the majority of races we have run are pretty good."
Jones, who finished seventh in the Busch Series points, says the major thing he learned this season is patience.
"Sometimes I've raced like I did last year and it cost me in a wreck," he said. "The big deal is being patient and trying to figure out what the car is doing so you can make improvements on it by the end of the race. We've run a lot of races in the back, but ended up most of them in the front."
Billy Jones, Buckshot's father and car owner, is proud of his son's improvement.
"Our intent is to get to Winston Cup," he said. "If we had known Buckshot was going to make as much improvement from last year to this year, we would have already prepared to go Winston Cup full time. We were not prepared for the big jump he made.
"Really, we're trying to prepare for 1999 now, not 1998."
The elder Jones also said they're looking to buy land in Spartanburg, S.C., to build a new shop and already have started added people to their team.
Although still young, Buckshot says he's ready for whatever comes.
"If we get to run some Winston Cup races next year, I'll just try to do the best I can and learn what I can," he said. "The same is true for 1999. If we go Winston Cup full time, I'll just try to learn and improve. Eventually, I think we can be pretty successful. We're sure going to give it a try."
STEELE OUT: Tim Steele, injured during testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, withdrew from this weekend's stock car races after determining he was hurt worse than originally thought.
Steele, who already has wrapped up his third ARCA stock car title this season, crashed at the newly configured Atlanta track on Nov. 5 while testing a Bud Moore-prepared Winston Cup Ford in preparation for Sunday's NAPA 500.
He also was scheduled to try for his sixth straight ARCA win in Saturday's Reese's 500.
The withdrawal prompted Moore's team to skip the Winston Cup season finale, meaning it will be the first season since 1960 the cash-strapped team will have failed to make a race.
Steele was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for a sprained left ankle and released.
The 29-year-old driver also had planned to run in last weekend's NASCAR Winston West race at Las Vegas but withdrew from that as well.
NEXT GENERATION: Seventeen-year-old Adam Petty represents the fourth generation of the North Carolina family hoping to make a living from NASCAR stock car racing.
The youngster is the son of Winston Cup star Kyle Petty, grandson of stock car king Richard Petty and great grandson of NASCAR pioneer Lee Petty.
He's learning the trade in late model stocks, but his father says it probably won't be too long before Adam is ready to take his shot at the top circuit.
"He might latch on and go for another 30 or 40 years," Kyle said. "It won't be unheard of for the sport to have been around 60 or 70 years and have a Petty in each one."
IN PRINT: Joe Gibbs Racing's teams in NASCAR and the NHRA's top fuel and funny car divisions will have an unusual sponsor in 1998.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hot Rod Magazine, Petersen Publications will be part of the sponsorship package for Gibbs' teams, along with Interstate Batteries.
The Hot Rod Magazine logo will appear on both drag racing cars, as well as on Gibbs' Pontiac stock car for three races, including the Daytona 500.