In a field full of talented young drivers, 17-year-old rookie Erik Jones proved to be the "Cream of the Young Crop" in the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway on Saturday. In only his third start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), the rookie captivated the audience as he effortlessly danced with the veterans and out-dueled his rookie class as he powered his No. 51 Toyota Tundra to a solid second-place finish.
"We had a great Toyota Care Toyota Tundra all night long," Jones said. "Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) made the right calls in the pits. We got a little tight in the middle of the second run, but we got back out of it. At the end there we had to be a little aggressive on the restart and that's what we did - got up in the second position and actually started running Timothy (Peters) down there at the end. I thought we could have had a shot at him, but we couldn't quite get there. Overall it was a great day; we finished in the top-five and gained some points for the 51."
Starting the race from the seventh position, Jones held his ground until after the first of five cautions. The rookie brought his Toyota Tundra down pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments under caution at lap 56 in an effort to free-up his Toyota Tundra. When racing resumed at lap 59, the 51 machine was scored fourth.
Although Jones had advanced to the third position by lap 62, his No. 51 Toyota Tundra was aero-tight in traffic and the Byron, Mich. native slowed in the laps preceding the restart. However, his Tundra was extremely fast on its own and the young rookie made ground on the long green-flag run.
A second caution on lap 113 allowed crew chief Rudy Fugle and the KBM team to execute a four tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment. The changes assisted Jones enough to power his Toyota Tundra to the second position around Ty Dillon for the first time following the lap 118 restart. Dillon would regain the second position on lap 140 and it looked like he and the leader, James Buescher, had made too much ground for Jones to advance from the third position. However, a late race caution at lap 168 allowed all leaders to hit pit road for one last dash to the checkers.
The KBM team opted for two right side tires and fuel, giving Jones the opportunity to line-up third on the inside lane behind Dillon for the lap 173 restart. Jones made the pass for second by lap 175 and remained in the runner-up position through the sixth and final restart of the night.
In the closing laps, a challenge for the second position continued, but Jones prevailed when Dillon tried to make a pass on the high-side and scuffed the outside wall sending him limping around the .875-mile oval. No caution was displayed and Jones proceeded to run eventual race winner Timothy Peters down on the final lap. Jones would cross the stripe .225 seconds behind Peters in his Truck Series debut at Iowa Speedway - marking his first top-five and third top 10 finish in three series starts.
Timothy Peters won the 5th Annual American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen, his second win at Iowa Speedway. Jones (second) posted his first top-five finish in his first Truck Series start at Iowa Speedway and his third top-10 finish in three series starts. James Buescher (third) posted his third top-10 finish in six races at Iowa Speedway. Ron Hornaday Jr. and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five. KBM driver, Darrell Wallace Jr. (eighth) was the highest finishing rookie.
The field was slowed five times for 26 laps and the lead was exchanged five times by six different drivers.
Following its second-place finish, the No. 51 Toyota Tundra gained one position in the 2013 NCWTS owner's point standings and now sits second a mere 29 points behind series leader Matt Crafton.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio for the Inaugural Mudsummer Classic on Wednesday, July 24.
Jones is scheduled to make his fourth start for KBM when the series returns to Iowa Speedway in Newton for the American Ethanol 200 on Sunday, September 8.