Erik Jones will be back behind the wheel of the ToyotaCare/Project Pink Tundra for Saturday night's Rhino Linings 350 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway. It will be Jones ninth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start this season and his second on a mile-and-a-half track. Fittingly, the No. 51 team will be unloading chassis KBM-21, a Tundra that has won five times in seven career starts, for this weekend's event.
After a tough-luck start to the 2014 season, Jones has picked up top-10 finishes in four of his last five Truck Series starts. The talented youngster picked up his second career series victory at Iowa Speedway in Newton in June and has been in contention for wins in each of his last two starts. He finished third in his first-ever road course event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont. last month and after leading late in last week's event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, was victim of an three-wide incident in the closing stages and ended the day with a seventh-place finish.
This weekend's event on the 1.5-mile oval in the dessert will be the Michigan native's second Truck Series start on an intermediate track. He qualified fifth and ran inside the top five for the majority of his mile-and-a-half debut at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth back in June, but ended the day with an 11th-place finish after a combination of a loose-handling Tundra and other competitors stretching fuel mileage cost him several positions late in the race.
Since the Texas event, Jones gained intermediate track experience, qualifying fourth and finishing seventh in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Camry in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway in July. And while it wasn't race action, the Michigan native was behind the wheel of the Dollar General Tundra for both Truck Series practice sessions at Chicagoland earlier this month while Kyle Busch was tending to Chase for the Sprint Cup media obligations. The talented youngster was third fastest in the opening practice and was at the top of the leaderboard in the final session until several teams made mock-qualifying runs, sliding the No. 51 team to the eighth spot at the end of the session. After qualifying was rained out, Busch was forced to start from the back of the pack, but rebounded to lead a race-high 66 laps en route the victory.
Busch's victory in the "Windy City" was the fifth in seven starts for KBM-21, which is the Tundra that Jones will wheel this weekend in Las Vegas. The win was also the 34th for Kyle Busch Motorsports since originating in the Truck Series in 2010. Of the 20 tracks on the 2014 schedule, Las Vegas - which happens to be Busch's home track- is one of just four that the team has yet to find victory lane at. A victory in the "Sin City" has also eluded veteran crew chief Eric Phillips. Phillips, the winningest crew chief seventh-place finishes is the best his drivers have mustered across eight starts at the Nevada track.
Jones and five-time winning chassis KBM-21 will take to the 1.5-mile tri-oval in the dessert searching for the team's first win at owner Kyle Busch's home track. The No. 51 ToyotaCare/Project Pink team is hoping to play their cards right in the "Sin City" and at the end of 146 laps bring 'Blackjack' to victory lane for the sixth time.