Categories
Trucks

Erik Jones, Daniel Hemric Show Speed But Get Derailed on Pit Road

HAMPTON, Ga. — Erik Jones appeared to have the only truck capable of hanging with a dominant Matt Crafton on Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway but a pair of pit road problems eliminated his track position and ultimately cost him the chance to battle for his first win of the season.

Jones led twice for 37 laps and was the only driver able to keep pace with Crafton over the course of a long run. However, he slid through his pit box twice during the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 and he finished seventh.

He accepted blame for his first issue but placed the second on Daniel Hemric — who prevented him from making a clean entrance into his stall.
Hemric had run out of fuel on the final round of pit stops and was unable to get on the throttle. His No. 14 Chevrolet had cut off, forcing Jones to slide through his own pit box as a result.

At the end of the day, Jones was happy with the speed of his truck, especially given his relative inexperience on intermediate speedways like Atlanta.

“It doesn’t take away from what we really did today,” Jones said. “We had a good Tundra — one that I felt like could win the race. We just had two mishaps, battled back from it and the second one under green was too much to overcome.

“It’s unfortunate but we’ll come back at Martinsville here and keep getting better.”

Hemric started the race in 12th and quickly worked his way inside the top-10 in just his fourth career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start. It was by far his best overall performance in the Truck Series and a clear improvement from his first intermediate start last November at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Hemric said his team just made a slight miscalculation on their fuel mileage.

“Based on our fuel mileage from that first run, we should have been good for at least another lap,” Hemric said. “But it shut off coming off of Turn 2 and I hit pit road a lap early. I had to check up for a guy (Jones) coming in his stall and it died completely.

“It took a little bit to get it refired — a 10-12 second delay and that put us several laps down. It’s not an obstacle you can overcome that late in the race.”
Hemric finished four laps down in 19th. Ever the optimist, Hemric says he learned from the experience, especially when he was running in the top-10 with the likes of Crafton and Hemric.

“It was cool there to run with those guys early in the run and figure out how to make our truck better,” Hemric said. “The only way you’re going to learn is be around those guys. We had a really fast California Clean Chevy but it’s just unfortunate that we ran out of fuel there.

“We were off a little bit with our fuel mileage but that’s a part of it.”

Jones left Atlanta with a similar perspective, pleased with the intermediate speed of his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota

“I’m still learning, trying to get better on the mile and a half stuff,” Jones said. “I’m trying to figure that out. So hopefully we’ll be a little bit better next time and be up there contending for the win.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
Trucks

Jones’s Journal: Meet Erik Jones

Hello to anyone taking the time to read this! Thanks to the great people at POPULAR SPEED I have been given the opportunity to give you all a little insight into the 2015 season. This year I will be driving the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), as well as select races in the No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS).

For my “Driver Diary,” I will write something a few times each month giving you a little insight into what is happening in my world. I will hit on a few hot topics in the racing world, and I will also take the time to answer some of the questions you all have for me! You will find out how to ask those questions at the end of this blog. That’s right… I’m going to make you work for it 😉 Enjoy!

To kick this thing off I should probably tell you a little more about myself.

The name is Erik Jones, I’m 18 – birthday is on May 30th (if you want to send a gift I have an address on the contacts page of my website – www.erikjonesracing.com- that would work 😉 ((I’m totally kidding about that)) and I’m from the great village of Byron, Michigan. Yep, I came from a village… population of 565 according to Wikipedia! It sits east of Lansing, almost to Flint.

Outside of racing I like to scuba dive and golf – although I should probably get some golf lessons here soon.

The way I got into racing is kind of a funny story. My grandpa, on my mom’s side, did a little drag racing and he was really into cars, so my mom was always around cars growing up and I guess I showed an interest in cars when I was younger too. One day, while she was flying back home from a nursing conference, she picked up a magazine on the plane and read an article about this thing called Quarter Midget Racing. I guess after that she had it set in her mind that this was something she wanted me to be a part of because after my dad shot down the idea, she told him “We are going racing with or without you!” and so it began!

I really enjoyed those years in quarter midgets. It was something we did as a family. My younger sister, Lindsey, even raced for awhile. I loved having so many friends at the racetrack, friends I still have today! It was always cool to have something that I would look forward to on the weekends as much as I did with racing.

After quarter midgets I started racing at Owosso Speedway, in Owosso, Michigan. I started out in, what was then, the pure stock division, which was just their 4-cylinder class. After one race in that series, my family was politely asked to move up to the next division higher. I then started racing a street stock for the rest of the year and we won one race and ended up as rookie of the year.

The next year I started racing in the ASA Late Model Series, which at the time was a crate late model series. I learned a lot at this level. I started racing longer races, about 100 laps, and had to figure out how to manage tires during a race that was long enough to wear them out. I moved from ASA into the CRA/JEGS All-Star Tour for its inaugural year and ended up winning the championship! I was only 14 at the time. From there I continued to race around in late models, and dabbling into super late models at the end of the 2011 season, won the Governor’s Cup and then in 2012 I continued to race a few late model races and some ARCA races.

If you would have asked me how my 2012 season was before the Snowball Derby in December, I would have said it was my worst season to date. I went from winning races and a championship to winning nothing. It was a tough pill to swallow. However, I suppose all that was worth it because the 2012 Snowball Derby was a game changer!

People ask me a lot, “What was it like to beat Kyle Busch,” and I’ll admit it was pretty awesome. I mean the guy is a beast in anything he jumps into, especially a late model. We share a common love for those types of cars, so winning in them is a lot of fun.

So, because my 2012 season was stale, I had nothing going into 2013 after the derby. I was planning on once again racing late models for my family. After the derby and a series of meetings with a couple of team owners, we met up with Kyle and the people over at KBM. We worked out a deal to run five races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I was pretty excited and really saw it as my break at the time into the top three levels of NASCAR. I also knew I would be in top-tier equipment, so the pressure to perform was high. This would truly show if I had what it took to be successful.

I would describe my first year, and even to this year, my third year in the Trucks, as “Learning.” That’s really been the biggest thing for me over the past couple of seasons, the amount of information I have taken in from Kyle and just seat time has been amazing. I have learned more over the past two seasons than I have my entire career. I got a break and we were able to make something happen out of it.

For up-and-coming drivers I will tell you this, it has a lot to do with just being in the right place at the right time. I think the way that I have done things the last two years has really prepared me to make a solid run for the driver’s championship this season. I have never really just jumped into a full season in anything in NASCAR. I’ve practiced and worked at things to make sure I am ready for when the time comes to win Championships.

Now enough of that boring past information, lets dive into the here and now!

I’m writing this sitting on my couch in North Carolina reflecting over the past weekend and the hot topics that are surrounding us today.

Before this weekend I had never ran a lap around Daytona International Speedway. So Kyle and my crew chief on the truck team, Rudy, sat me down and told me a thing or two.

Kyle made sure to mention to be the best teammate that I could be this year.  I have always somewhat struggled with having great relationships with my teammates, as I look at everyone on the racetrack as a competitor, I have had trouble separating that from outside life as well. You can’t always look at someone who is going to be working with you side-by-side as a threat.  He also made sure to mention just to be smart, because points racing is a lot of give and take… maybe even when you don’t want to sometimes.

Rudy told me to start the year right and not give us a hole to dig out of.  If you wreck at Daytona, it really makes for a long couple of races after that, you will have to play catch up with everyone else, which is exaggerated with our short 23-race schedule.

Kyle and Rudy are two guys I really look up to, so I made sure to keep those words in the back of my mind while on the track.

The truck race was really uneventful for me, thankfully. We were fortunate to start up front and be able to stay up front for most of the night.  We tried to fight for a win at the end, but really didn’t have enough trucks left at the end to try and make anything happen.  On Tv, it may look like you need to make a move right away, but no one could get the top line going at all during the race.  I think if we had been second at the end we could have challenged Tyler Reddick. Yet, all in all it was a solid start to our season and hunt #4thechampionship.

Then the XFINITY race… man was that intense!

We qualified well and stayed towards the front for most of the race. Watching Regan Smith flipping in my mirror was pretty wild, to say the least. It really looks like a video game when you look behind you. I had no idea how close we were to being involved in that wreck and I’m thankful it wasn’t me flying through the air.

Anyways, I slid through my pit stall at one point and fell back to 11th under caution, but we were able to roll right back up to third in about three laps, which really showed me just how strong our GameStop Toyota Camry was. Towards the end of the race, everyone started pushing harder and harder. I felt like I had positioned myself in the best spot that I could have. Unfortunately, with a few laps to go, I got a little free through the tri-oval and after some contact, went around. This triggered a pretty big wreck. It was disappointing for sure, but the superspeedway races are always unpredictable no matter how good of a spot you believe you’re in. I was really concerned for Kyle.

I didn’t know how hard of a hit he had, but I knew he wasn’t in the infield care center with the rest of the drivers. Then all of a sudden I get the word that I’m being summoned back to my car! I guess it wasn’t in as bad as shape as I thought and the field was red so I wasn’t losing any laps. I wish I could have driven the car back up through the field, my adrenaline was pumping and I was ready to go race again, but all the tires were flat after the wreck.

If I take a step back and really looking at where I am today I couldn’t be more pleased. My dream was to get to NASCAR, but it always seemed so far away. Now actually being here, being 18, and running full time in the truck series, is about all I can ask for. I have made some great relationships with a lot of great people, and that has been able to propel me even further in the sport. I am so thankful for all the great people at Toyota and for Kyle and Samantha Busch. Now I know that might sound like a sponsor plug, but it’s not, it’s the truth. They are the ones who have believed in me and have given, and continue to give me a shot at making my dreams come true. I am truly having the time of my life, and really can’t wait to see what the future is going to bring.

Editors note: Erik Jones will drive the No. 54 for Kyle Busch in this weekend’s XFINITY Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Now, that was quite the story! How about for the next one we tell you a little bit about what is happening in my life and I answer some questions from you! Feel free to ask me anything using the @POPULARSPEED #askErikJones. I’ll look back through the questions and pick a few of my favorite and give you a shout out.

Until next time.

Erik Jones,

ej

Categories
Trucks

Why Truck Series Drivers Waited So Late to Jump Out

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Why didn’t anyone try to win? That was the question fans were asking after Tyler Reddick won the NexEra Energy 250, seemingly unchallenged, in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opener on Friday night at Daytona.

Reddick and his Brad Keselowski Racing teammate, Austin Theriault, were seemingly unstoppable when running nose-to-tail. The pair worked their way to the lead early in the event, rarely giving up the top two spots, and were there with one lap remaining.

The top nine cars were all single-file on that last lap, and remarkably, rookie Daniel Suarez was the only driver willing to jump out of line — doing so in the midde of Turns 1 and 2. No one else went with him however and the leaders remained single-file until coming out of Turn 2 when second on back fanned out.

At that point, there was no catching Reddick, as he cruised to his first career victory in the NASCAR Truck Series.

Following the race, Reddick says he was not suprised that his pursuers didn’t jump out sooner, citing the two major crashes earlier in the night that wiped out over half of the field.

“I really wasn’t that surprised,” Reddick said. “When you consider all the carnage earlier and the number of trucks that fell out of the race, it really makes it difficult to get a bunch of trucks together to make a real strong run from the back.

“All the things that happened early in the race worked in our favor from lap one and everything that happened, happened for a reason, and it made the race easier for us as a team.”

Theriault also contributed to his teammate’s victory, making a thoughtful effort in the closing laps not to make a decision that could keep both BKR Fords out of Victory Lane.

“My fear was either, one, we were going to screw Tyler up — and we both were going to get messed up,” Theriault said. “The other fear was, if I went, were they going to gang up on me and I would just go backwards. There were a lot of decisions to make and it could have worked out but I was a little conservative.”

Suarez regrets jumping out in Turns 1 and 2 and wishes he had waited until Turns 3 and 4, but ultimately justified that his lack of track position worked against him in the closing laps.

“That was inexperience, I think,” Suarez said of his move. “Our truck was a winning truck but we just didn’t have the track position to get to the front. It’s sad because I just ran out of patience. It was just a half lap too soon.

“But I learned a lot for tomorrow (in the XFINITY Series race) and for the future. That was fun.”

His teammate Erik Jones was told that Suarez jumped out behind him but the 19-year-old decided that it was ultimately best to stay on the bottom and wait for the final run coming out of Turn 4. As it turned out, the decision was almost a success as he finished second in his full-time debut for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“You always want to jump out on the last lap and make the last lap pass for the win but we didn’t have the track position in fourth,” Jones said. “If I had been second, I think we could have made the pass for the win because I practiced that move earlier in the race and it worked out.”

Jones said he would have jumped in front of Suarez if someone went with him but no one else did.

“I saw him back there but unfortunately no one went with him. If a few of them had jumped behind him, there would have been some serious consideration if he had been coming, but it never worked out.”

READ MORE: Speedweeks Momentum Ends for Austin Hill, Justin Boston 

Scott Lagasse had damage from a previous wreck and was running third. He says he felt like he could have won if he received a big push on the outside line but the cosmetic damage to his nose made it a risk not worth taking.

“In our case, it was simple, we had a beat in nose and no one was going to go with us,” Lagasse said. “You know you are wounded so wait until the last minute and see if you can beat them in a drag race with our RCR power in open air. The BKR cars did exactly what they were supposed to do and Theriault did a great protecting the spot.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
Trucks

Truck Drivers Reveal What They Would do to Win at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FL :: Back in 2013, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Clay Greenfield famously stated that he would do anything in order to win a NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway — including spinning out his own mother.

As it turns out, Greenfield isn’t exactly a radical amongst his peers in the garage.

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do to win this race tonight,” Greenfield said at the time. “I will be as aggressive as I can … I would turn my own mother. I’ve been trying to get to this level for 12 years and I have spent every day working towards this opportunity. I’ve faced a lot of adversity and this is my chance to prove that I belong.”

The declaration was made a year removed from journeyman John King winning the 2012 season-opener by wrecking several leaders on a frantic late race charge from third to first that saw him win his only career victory. While the King approach represented one extreme, his tactics provided a sincere snapshot of just how far an underdog was willing to go in pursuit of Daytona immortality.

A similar Daytona underdog, Jordan Anderson, is making his Daytona debut on Friday night and has to be considered a long shot at best. Understanding his predicament, the Mike Harmon Racing driver says he would be tempted to follow in King’s footsteps if the opportunity arose on Friday night in the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

“I’m pretty sure that I would want to do the same thing,” Anderson said. “Truthfully, you never know what you will do until you find yourself in the situation but this is Daytona. You don’t want it to come down to that but these races are often decided by who wants it more — and I want to win this more than I can express.”

Conversely, Erik Jones is one of the favorites of the event, driving for the powerhouse Kyle Busch Motorsports organization.

So while Jones can relate to an inherent desire to win at the World Center of Racing, he doesn’t share the same desperation as Greenfield or Anderson. Jones plans to be aggressive on Friday night but he would like to save his all-or-nothing strategy for an eventual Daytona 500 triumph at some point during his career.

“I don’t know if I’d wreck my mother to win a race at Daytona,” Jones said. “I definitely want to win. A bunch of us were talking about what I would do to win the Daytona 500 and I think I would have to give a little boot to win that race. But this is the Truck Series race at Daytona and we’ll give them a little extra to win this race as well.”

Ben Kennedy has perhaps the most famous mother in NASCAR in Lesa France Kennedy — the CEO of International Speedway Corporation and thus Daytona International Speedway. Needless to say, wrecking his mother wouldn’t exactly be the best career choice but that is about the only thing that is off the table according to the 23-year-old.

“I would do just about anything to win this race,” Kennedy said. “I’d wreck about half the field if I had to but I don’t know. It would be really cool just to be there. In an ideal world, you’d like to win it like Kyle Busch did last year — with the late shove off Turn 4. But you have to win when you find yourself in that position because this is such an important race.

Lastly, Spencer Gallagher had perhaps the most jocose response to the question.He took the question in looked at the sky and said —

“I’d wreck Clay’s mom too,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I would wreck Clay Greenfield’s mom to win at Daytona. Yep.”

Other Responses

“Basically the same thing. I have a new sponsor, Bitpay, on my Toyota Tundra. I think I would do pretty much anything to get these guys into Victory Lane. They deserve it and I want to be there as well.” – Justin Boston

“It’s really unspoken. I think all of us know what we are willing to do and that’s key knowing what you’ll do when that time comes.” – Daniel Hemric

“Man, I don’t know. There is no telling. I’m always prided myself on being a sportsman. I’m not here to lose respect but when the time comes, I’m willing to do what has to be done.” – John Wes Townley

“As a rookie, I won’t wreck my mother.”

“So you would as a veteran? (laugh)

“Maybe! (smiles)

“Right now, I’m just starting off and this is just my second start and you make it harder on yourself when you make enemies right from the start. I want to have fun and work hard and to be seen as a good driver.” – Daniel Suarez in a conversation with the author

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
Trucks

Team Approach Already Fueling Jones, Boston at KBM

(EXCLUSIVE) If Erik Jones and Justin Boston have it their way, the recent dominance of Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is just getting started and will continue for years to come.

The team that won 14 of 22 races last season will double-up on their title chances next season, supplying full-time rides for both Jones and Boston in their efforts to win the first driver championship in KBM history. The organization just announced its crew chief and number assignments earlier in the week, pairing Jones with Ryan Fugle in the No. 4 truck, Boston with Shannon Rursch in the No. 54 and Jerry Baxter directing the flagship No. 51 with drivers Kyle Busch, Matt Tift and Daniel Suarez.

Despite having a new crew chief for his first full season, Jones says he has no concerns or hesitations whatsoever and believes he should be considered one of the favorites for the championship.

“I feel like I have enough experience from the past couple of years to contend for a championship,” Jones told Popular Speed over the weekend at the Snowball Derby. “Obviously, that’s our main goal — to go out and win a championship. We won the owner’s championship last season with Kyle and that experience is definitely going to pay off.

“We’ve always had fast (Toyota) Tundras and I don’t see any reason why that would change. This is a great organization with a lot of talent. I have never looked more forward to a season in my life.”

Boston had been working on a deal with KBM ever since making two Nationwide Series starts for Joe Gibbs Racing last season and believes that he won the lottery by finalizing an agreement to drive the No. 54 that finished third in the standings last season with Darrell Wallace Jr.

A two-time winner in the ARCA Racing Series, Boston has always worked with championship-caliber car owners in Gibbs and Billy Venturini. He says that signing with KBM is a continuation of that trend.

“We’ve been talking to KBM since Dover but it didn’t start to come together until Kansas, once the ARCA season ended,” Boston told Popular Speed over the weekend at PRI in Indianapolis. “That is when we were able to hash everything out. This is the team that I targeted from the start. I wanted to drive these trucks and this is a dream come true.

“I’m going to spend the next few months studying film, working out and making sure that I am completely prepared for Daytona.”

Both full-time drivers are former teammates at Venturini Motorsports and Jones believes their common background will lead to instant chemistry. Jones explained that he respected Wallace and enjoyed having him as a teammate the past two seasons but conceded their differences in approach prevented them from sharing information as closely as they should have.

“Darrell and I just had two different ways of working and doing things,” Jones said. “It didn’t help that I was part-time too. I think Justin and I are more similar in both our approach and driving style. He’s a talented driver and I look forward to working with him, competing with him, and becoming a better driver alongside him.”

Boston agreed with Jones and believes they will quickly gel at KBM, citing that they still do things the Venturini Way.

“I think we’re going to work well together,” Boston said. “Everyone seems to think we drive the same way and that’s a product of us both working at Venturini — you just learn to drive cars a different way. So I think we were both cultivated in a similar environment and it influenced how we both go about our business.”

Like Jones, Boston says he hasn’t concerned himself with concerns or worries entering the New Year. It’s not that he is overly-confident, but Boston has been so focused on mentally preparing himself and communicating with his new team that he hasn’t had time to entertain nervousness.

“I haven’t had time to think about concerns,” Boston said. “I’ve learned on the fly before in ARCA. I’ve been to half the tracks on the Truck Series schedule over the past two years and I’ve seen the success that Erik has had in winning at Phoenix in his first start or winning the pole at Eldora in his first start.

“I’m going to have the best equipment and the best people around me… If Shannon and I can come together really quickly and get on the same page after the first handful of races, I really believe I can be right there with Erik and Matt (Crafton) and chase the championship. That’s why I wanted to come here.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
News

Jones Promoted to Full-Time Truck Series Ride

By Kayla Darrow – @Erik_Jones’ 2015 season just got busier.

Jones announced today that he will compete full-time in next year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in one of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Toyota Tundras. He is also scheduled to run multiple Xfinity Series races for Joe Gibbs Racing.

The primary sponsor on Jones’ NCWTS ride reportedly will be AutoTrader.com. His Xfinity Series sponsors reportedly will include JGR staples GameStop, Reasor’s and Toyota.

“We’ve been working hard over the past probably three months now to get this deal done and it’s finally come together to where I’ll be in the full season next year for Kyle Busch Motorports in the Truck Series as well as Joe Gibbs Racing for some Nationwide races too,” said Jones.

“Definitely an exciting year ahead for me.  It’s been a long time — I felt like it was coming, but we all worked hard for it and to finally have it come together and get to run a full season in one of the NASCAR series is pretty special for me.  Happy to see it all come together and really looking forward to it.”

Jones will continue to run with Ryan “Rudy” Fugle as his crew chief. Fugle acted as the crew chief during Jones’ first Camping World Truck Series win at Phoenix International Raceway in 2013. The pair are already being deemed as a threat to the championship.

“Obviously my relationship with Rudy (Fugle, crew chief, 2015) is one of the strongest I’ve ever had with a crew member of crew chief.  I’ve had a great run with Eric Phillips (crew chief, 2014) this year on the box and we’ve had a lot of success and I enjoy working with Eric,” said Jones.

“Rudy was the crew chief in 2012 and this year he’s been on the team as an engineer still.  We have a great relationship and definitely looking forward to working with him again as a crew chief.”

Jones has run part-time in the Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports for the past two years. In his 16 starts, Jones has racked up three wins, six top-fives and 12 top-10 finishes.

“Erik is more than ready to take the next step in his career and compete for a championship running full-time in the Truck Series next year,” said @KyleBusch, owner of Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“Towards the end of this season, he had a stretch where he was behind the wheel for five of six races on all types of tracks and each week he went out, ran up front and showcased how talented he is at such a young age.”

Jones also raced Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota Camry in the Nationwide Series at both Chicagoland Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this year. He earned a top-10 finish at both tracks.

All this experience will come in handy next year when Jones will have his first real chance to win a championship.

“This is obviously a huge step for me and my racing career in general – a step towards even having a shot at a championship really, so this is my first opportunity to go out and race for a championship in any of the three NASCAR Series, so it’s obviously one of the bigger steps I’ve taken in my career and I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge it’s going to bring.”

“Obviously it’s a new challenge, not one that I’ve had before and I’m looking forward to learning from it.  I’ve got a great position at KBM and I feel like I’m in the best position I’ve been in my career.  Just looking forward to it all, it’s going to be fun and I’m looking forward to chasing down a championship.”

Catch Jones in his final races of the 2014 season this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, as he competes in the truck race on Friday and Nationwide race on Saturday.

EMAIL KAYLA AT kayla.darrow@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW KAYLA ON TWITTER: @kayla_darrow

Categories
Trucks

Kyle Busch Praises Erik Jones after Restrictor Plate Debut

By Matt Weaver (TALLADEGA, Ala.) — Erik Jones finished sixth in his restrictor plate debut at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday afternoon in the Fred’s 250, drawing praise from car owner Kyle Busch in the process.

Jones ended-up where he started the day and remained in the top-10 for the entirety of the event. He believes he had a Truck capable of winning but simply got bit by the randomness of Talladega. Stuck on the outside line behind Ryan Blaney on the green-white-checkered, Jones could not close up to push his tandem-mate and could not coax anyone to join the group in an effort to chase down the leaders.

Ultimately, Jones was satisfied to finish with an undamaged Toyota Tundra and called the afternoon a learning experience.

“I just wasn’t able to close up to (Blaney) and we had (John Wes Townley) behind us and he couldn’t close up either,” Jones told Popular Speed after the race. “When these trucks are two-by-two, you have a harder time getting to the bumper without any help.”

Busch was the first to meet Jones when the youngster climbed out of the truck and said that Jones did a good job, reminding the 18-year-old that “drivers can’t control everything” at Talladega.

“I thought he did well,” Busch said. “I feel like things went really well. I wish the circumstances were different at the end. He got shuffled back and made a real good recovery coming to the line. But I’m proud the effort and it’s a positive for us heading into the off-season and towards Daytona.”

What did Busch specifically tell his junior driver?

“I just told him that he did a good job,” Busch said. “He did all he could do there. It was a tough fight at the end. Guys were going four-wide and it’s hard to know where to go, especially when you lose your momentum.

“He did a nice job and gave us a finish that we needed.”

Categories
Trucks

New Place but Same Old Feel for Erik Jones

EXCLUSIVE By Kelly Crandall (LOUDON, N.H.) – The Camping World Truck Series hasn’t competed at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since 2011 while @Erik_Jones had never seen the facility prior to Friday afternoon.

The 18-year-old took to it right away.

Jones led the first practice session of the day and ended up third in the final session. He was also the best in both when it came to 10 consecutive lap average. The second session saw the No. 51 Toyota team ninth on the board.

“It’s good. We had a good truck from the pretty much the time we unloaded,” Jones told Popular Speed on Friday.

“We made a lot of adjustments trying to get it acquainted to the higher speeds that are here this time from when they were here in 2011. We’re consistently two, three-tenths faster than they were here a few years ago. There’s been definitely a change to kind of get to that threshold and the tires to handle it. It’s been good. I like the track; it’s one I kind of took to right away and just felt comfortable on it. Hopefully, we can keep staying fast into tomorrow.”

Saturday will be the eighth start of the season for a driver who saw both his career wins come on the smaller tracks. Last year Jones was victorious at the 1-mile of Phoenix International Raceway and then the smaller oval of Iowa Speedway earlier this year. New Hampshire is more of the same and also fits his background.

Jones compared the facility to Milwaukee, which he’s seen plenty of times before. It made Friday feel very familiar with a long corner where a driver has to try and carry speed. Once he got into that rhythm it seemed to be game on.

“I tried to transfer some stuff I learned in the late model races up there to this, and I feel like it helped me out quite a bit just feeling more comfortable,” he said.

“Obviously the big stuff is quite a bit different here but I felt comfortable with it right away.”

The Kyle Busch Motorsports team, who has won at New Hampshire on three occasions with @KyleBusch, ran the most laps in final practice. Jones admitted that was not by design, however, during the course of the day and previous sessions, felt every run he was making needed to be longer.

Plus, he felt as if it was taking about 10 laps for the tires to settle in where they wanted to be. As such, the only appropriate way to for the team to understand and get a good reading of the changes they had been making was to be continually on track.

The Truck Series will qualify for the UNOH 175 on Saturday morning (10:10 a.m. ET). The green flag for the 175-lap event will fall shortly after 1:00 p.m. ET.

“Hopefully contending for a win,” Jones said of his outlook.

“I think we come to the racetrack every week trying to get a win and this is no different. I feel like we’ve got a great shot and a great truck to go out and contend for one tomorrow. Hopefully, we can go out and just run a good race and have as good a truck as we do today and be up front and racing for it.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

Categories
Trucks

Loudon Lowdown: Five Points Separate ThorSport Teammates

By Vito Pugliese – Saturday’s UNOH 175 at Loudon, NH marks the 16th race of the season, and seven to go as the Camping World Truck Series Championship looks to be decided between @Matt_Crafton and @JohnnySauter. Crafton edged ahead of ThorSport teammate Sauter by five points following last week’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. While @KyleBusch had to fight from the back twice, Crafton’s second place finish was reminiscent of his performance a year ago which garnered him his first Truck Series championship, after 13 years of full-time competition.

Absent from the Truck Series schedule the past two seasons, New Hampshire returns as a bright spot for Crafton. His last three finishes there are two fourth place finishes and a sixth place run in 2011. Teammate and points shadow Sauter has essentially the same record – two fifth place runs in 2009 and 2011 book-ending a seventh place run in 2011. Third place points driver @RyanBlaney22 trails by just 16 markers, but has yet to visit The Magic Mile. The series other flat one mile track in Phoenix produced results similar to those of his two points rivals – a seventh and fifth place finish.

While Kyle Busch added to his win total at Chicagoland winning for the sixth time in seven starts, he will not be in the field this weekend, given the rest of the regulars pause for reflection on how they might actually win this race. Erik Jones will in the No. 51, he has proven to be just about the equal to the boss should he not get caught up in anything not of his doing. Jones had a win this year at Iowa and finished third in his last start in this truck at the road course in Ontario. It’s worth noting that Jones did indeed score his first career win last season at Phoenix, which is also a flat one-mile track – at the ripe old age of 17.

Jones isn’t the only driver ineligible to drink in victory lane this weekend. @GrayGaulding, the 16-year old who has impressed in each of his starts this season will be in one of two Bob Newberry trucks this season. Gaulding finished fourth at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in his last start. Gaulding has two starts at Loudon in the K&N East Series, finishing 8th both times, but like @Erik_Jones, has a win at Phoenix a year ago in the K&N West Series – at 15 years of age. While Austin Dillon drove this No. 20 truck to a win at Pocono this summer, crew chief Chris Rice will not be. He was suspended for one race and fined $7,500 after the No. 20 failed post-race inspection at Chicagoland. Rice was already on probation from an infraction earlier in the season for a P3 level penalty. Owner Bob Newberry was fined ten owner’s points as well.

There are also other happening within the NTS team, as @RonHornaday is back in action next Saturday with his former NTS Motorsports team. The No. 9 Chevrolet will wear the Rheem colors that he started the year in the No. 30 at Turner Scott Motorsports. It is a two-race deal for now that will see the four-time champion in the seat for next weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and next month at Texas Motor Speedway. Hornaday was fourth in the point standings before the events unfolded that saw the Steve Turner-owned portion of the team dissolve while the teams were en route to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park last month.

This weekend’s coverage begins at 1: 00pm Saturday on FOX Sports 1.

Categories
XFINITY

NASCAR Notebook: Nationwide, Jones and Duno

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — @Erik_Jones will make his first ever start at Bristol Motor Speedway when he starts the Food City 300 on Friday but may prove to be a fast learner thanks to his experience at tracks similar in design to the World’s Fastest Half-Mile.

While competing in the ARCA Racing Series from 2012-2013, Jones thrived at Salem Speedway and Winchester Speedway in Indiana — two high speed, high-banked short tracks similar to the one rooted in northeast Tennessee.

In addition to a third-place finish at Winchester and a fifth-place at Salem in 2012, Jones also won the prestigious Winchester 400 Super Late Model race in 2013 — one of the most daunting events in short track racing. While nothing in the world can simulate Bristol, Jones explained that there were several little things that should carry over from his short track background when he makes his Thunder Valley debut on Friday night.

“A few things do carry over,” Jones told Popular Speed on Friday morning. “I haven’t been to those places in a heavier car but the same short track approach that gives you success at a Winchester or Salem should apply here.

“So yeah, I think there were a few things that I took from my Late Model background and I applied them when I took my first few laps.”

Jones was 12th on the speed charts after the final practice session on Thursday afternoon and was only three-tenths behind the fastest time set by Kyle Larson. The KBM rookie described his first few laps in just a single word — different.

“I’ve been figuring it out more and more as the weekend goes by,” Jones said. “It seems that the high line is the dominant line but you can work the bottom too. We have a good Reser’s Toyota Camry and we’re going to make it better.

“We’re getting close but we’re going to have to keep up with Kyle (Busch) which is something I think we are capable of doing.”

Former ARCA Rivals Welcome Milka Duno to Nationwide

@MilkaDuno is hoping to make a little history on Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, becoming the first Hispanic female to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. However, the controversial Venezuelan will have to first qualify her RAB Racing No. 29 and also has some past baggage to overcome in the process.

It’s no secret that Duno has battled consistency concerns over the years, getting ran out of the Verizon IndyCar Series and displaying a slow learning curve in the ARCA Racing Series while drawing the ire of several rivals.

Nationwide Series championship leader Chase Elliott raced against Duno in ARCA as did the division’s most recent winner in Chris Buescher. Those two plus current ARCA driver John Wes Townley say they have no hesitation sharing the track with her on Friday should she manage to make the race.

“I passed her a few times during practice and didn’t think anything of it,” Townley said. “I don’t have any hesitation with her being out there. Bring it on, I say.”

Elliott raced against Duno from 2011 to 2013 in ARCA and says he doesn’t have any qualms but admitted that he hadn’t put a lot of thought into it when asked on Thursday afternoon.

“Who knows what this weekend will bring for them,” Elliott said. “I wish them the best of luck though.”

Buescher was crowned the 2012 ARCA Racing Series champion and likely has the most experience of running against Duno. They had a brief scuffle at Salem during his championship winning season but he didn’t bring it up when asked. He explained that as an acquaintance, he would make himself available to Duno for advice or feedback if she ever approached him.

“It’s a challenging track but I think she’s going to have a lot of fun learning this place,” Buescher said. “It’s very similar to some other places she’s run at in the past like Winchester or Salem … We’ll help her in any way if she were to ask for it.”

For her part, the former IndyCar driver admitted that she is in for a difficult challenge on Friday. She was 36th fastest during the final practice session on Thursday, good enough to make the field if that were qualifying.

She says that every race of her career has led to this moment and that she believes that her experience will see her way through these five races this season with an eye towards running for Nationwide rookie of the year honors.

“Our mission in practice was to improve our time and we did that,” Duno said. “It was a good practice. The car is good. We made a few changes and I’m learning with (crew chief) Bruce (Cook) a lot because you know it’s my first time at Bristol and first time with the car. I have so many things to learn but I’m a fast learner.

“It’s a wild place. My ARCA experience at Salem and Winchester helped me to handle this. Everything I learned in ARCA has helped me for this. Everything happens faster though. We have to go fast to qualify, so we’ll try and do that.”