Jones and ToyotaCare Team 'Manage' to Finish Sixth at Pocono
The combination of race management by driver and crew chief allowed Erik Jones and the ToyotaCare team to advance from the 13th starting spot to the third position when the Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway came down to a green-white-checkered finish. Unfortunately, when the leader selected the outside lane for the final restart, Jones was stuck in the slower moving inside lane and went from being in position to compete for his second win of the season to being shuffled back to a sixth-place finish over the final two laps.
"Our ToyotaCare Tundra definitely got better as the race went on -- we just came up a bit short," said Jones, who was making his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Pocono. "It was a good day overall, I just wish we would've been on that outside line on that last restart. Eric (Phillips, crew chief) did a great calling the race and getting us good track position for the end. We probably should've run third -- don't know if we had anything for the win, but you never know what can happen if you're in the right place at the right time on a restart at the end of the race."
Jones battled a Tundra that he described as "inconsistent in Turn 3" for the majority of the 60-lap event. One lap he would be loose into Turn 3 and the next lap he would be tight. The Michigan native was scored in the 12th position when a one-truck accident slowed the field for the first time on lap 17. Crew chief Eric Phillips and the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew got their first attempt at improving the handling of their Toyota when pit road opened. Phillips called for a right-side and fuel stop and returned his driver to the track scored in the eighth spot for the lap-21 restart.
As race reached the halfway mark, several teams began to employ varying pit strategies. Some teams pitted as soon as they reached their fuel window to make it to the end of the race and others elected until farther into the race to pit for the final time. On lap 30, Phillips summoned Jones to pit road for fresh left-side tires and a full tank of fuel under green-flag conditions.
Jones returned to the track scored in the 20th position. By the time the second caution of the race occurred on lap 46, the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra had advanced up to the 11th position. Phillips communicated to his driver that the team was going to stay out when pit road opened and asked him to "save all the fuel you can."
After several trucks came down pit road, Jones took the lap-53 restart from the fourth position. One lap later he advanced into the third spot, where he remained until the final restart. When the slow line got off to a slow start, Jones drove low to try to protect his position and several trucks went by on the high side. By the time he was able to tuck back in line, he had been shuffled back to the sixth spot.
Austin Dillon picked up his first win of 2014 and the sixth of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. Johnny Sauter crossed the stripe 1.975 seconds behind him in the runner-up position. Joey Coulter, Clint Bowyer, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five finishers.
The 11th race of the 2014 season featured four cautions for a total of 16 laps. There were 10 lead changes among seven drivers. The No. 51 remained second in the Owner's point standings and are now two points behind the No. 29 team.
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