Odds in favor of Jones as No. 51 visits Area 51

26 Sep 2014 NASCAR Wire Service
1252 times

NASCAR Next member Erik Jones leads the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team to its owner’s hometown of Las Vegas for his first-career start at the track in Saturday’s Rhino Linings 350 (10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

And the odds are quite good there will be a No. 51 Toyota Tundra “sighting” in Victory Lane.

The No. 51 team has been dominant at 1.5-mile tracks this season, scoring four victories in five starts. Busch, who splits seat time with the 18-year-old Jones, has piloted the truck in all four victories, but his protégé has gained valuable experience at intermediate tracks since his 11th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in June. Jones turned in a seventh-place performance in the NASCAR Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway in July and ran the truck for Busch at Chicagoland practice earlier this month where he posted the third-fastest time in the first session.

“Erik was able to get a little more mile-and-a-half experience by practicing the truck for Kyle at Chicago and I think it really helped his confidence,” said Eric Phillips, the No. 51 crew chief. “He was fast in practice and then Kyle was really happy with the truck in the race and went on to win. I think with those extra practices and running the Nationwide race at Chicago, Erik has a better understanding of what he needs on the bigger race tracks now.”

No stranger to Victory Lane, Jones won the NCWTS race at Iowa in June and claims three top-10 finishes in four races since then. The Michigan native will try to give KBM its first victory at Las Vegas, one of only five tracks on the current schedule where the team has yet to earn a win.

Owner points are also at stake for Jones and KBM. The No. 51 truck ranks third in the owner standings, trailing ThorSport’s No. 88 (Matt Crafton) and No. 98 (Johnny Sauter) Toyotas by eight points and one point, respectively.

“Our mile-and-a-half program here at KBM is obviously very fast right now, hopefully we can go out and have another strong run this weekend at Las Vegas and bring home Kyle his first win at his home track,” Jones said.

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