Erik Jones becomes youngest winner in truck series history
"This is all I ever wanted," Erik Jones exclaimed as he crossed the finish line at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway in Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 becoming the youngest winner in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) history. In just his fifth career Truck Series start, the 17-year-old wheelman put his No. 51 Wake up Narcolepsy "Awake at the Wheel" Tundra out front for a race-high 84 laps, including the final eight, en route to a 1.66-second victory over runner-up finisher Ross Chastain.
"I don't think it's even set in yet, but just couldn't be happier here to get in victory lane with our Wake Up Narcolepsy Toyota," the talented youngster continued. "This is just amazing, can't thank Rudy (Ryan Fugle, crew chief) enough for all he's done for this year and all these five races. It's really amazing. KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports), Kyle (Busch, owner), Samantha (Busch, owner) for all they do. They've been so big in my career this year for letting me get in this truck and letting me prove myself to the NASCAR world. I can't thank Joe Gibbs engines enough, Camping World for all they do for the sport and just couldn't be happier right now. This is it -- this is what it's all about."
On Thursday the Byron, Mich. native kicked off the weekend by becoming the fastest Tundra in practice. Missing the pole in qualifying by .046 seconds, Jones started the 150-lap event from the second position. Running in the top five for the first quarter of the race, Jones would hit pit road for the first time during the second of seven caution periods. After getting left side tires and fuel, he returned to the track in the second position.
The third caution would come out as quickly as the track returned green, but before it occurred Jones was able to get the nose of his No. 51 Tundra ahead of race leader Ross Chastain. Maintaining the lead after the field resumed racing on lap 45, Jones stretched his lead by more than three seconds. The fourth yellow flew on lap 87 and every lead-lap truck hit pit road. Crew chief Rudy Fugle called for right side tires and fuel for what became the final stop of the race.
Restarting in second on lap 93, Jones fired off and was clear for the lead going into Turn 2. The restart after the fifth caution on lap 119 would be when Jones lost the lead for the final time. Extremely confident in the speed and handling his Wake Up Narcolepsy Toyota, Jones reported to his No. 51 KBM team, "We're good, We're good, I'll get him."
Shortly after the lap-141 restart Jones delivered on his called shot. He raced side-by-side with Chastain through Turns 1 and 2 and dove to the inside as the field approached the tri-oval. Chastain pinched the No. 51 Tundra down the track, forcing Jones to use the apron to complete the pass. KBM's young driver completed the pass before entering Turn 3 and began to check out on the field. By the time the field crossed the stripe, the margin of victory was 1.66 seconds.
Chastain (second) posted his first top-10 finish in two races at PIR. It was his sixth top-10 finish in 2013. Brendan Gaughan (third) posted his second top-10 finish in 11 races at PIR. Ryan Blaney (seventh) was the highest finishing rookie.
Jones' teammates, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Joey Coulter, both were running inside the top five before experiencing problems, they finished 20th and 26th, respectively.
The field was slowed seven times for 42 laps. Six different drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead eight times, including Jones who led three times for 84 laps. Ten drivers failed to finish the 150-lap event.
This was Jones' fifth and final race on his KBM schedule. He completed the season with one win, two top-five and five top-10 finishes. He will be behind the wheel of the No. 51 Camry for the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. on Sunday, Dec. 7. The Michigan native is the defending winner of the event.
The No. 51 team, which leads the Truck Series with five wins, remains second in the owner's championship standings with one race remaining. The team now sits 23 points behind the series-leading No. 88 team.
Owner-driver Kyle Busch returns to the seat of the No. 51 Tundra next Friday Nov. 15 at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway for the Truck Series finale. Live Television coverage on Fox Sports 1 beings at 8 p.m. ET with the NCWTS Setup Show.