After some tough luck in Saturday morning's qualifying session, Erik Jones found himself in a hole at the start of the Kroger 200 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. As the 18-year-old has displayed early in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career, he took what his ill-handling ToyotaCare Tundra would give him and slowly but surely maneuvered forward from his 15th starting position as the day progressed. When the checkered flag waved, Jones clocked out from his hard-fought day with a fourth-place finish and helped the No. 51 team maintain a four-point lead in the owner's point standings with just three races remaining on the 2014 Truck Series schedule.
"This ToyotaCare Tundra just wasn't as good as we needed it to be all weekend and we had to battle to finish where we did," said Jones of his second top-10 finish in three career starts at Martinsville. "Never really found it, but fought hard and even had a shot there at the win for a little bit. Just a good overall point's day and we did what we needed to keep this No. 51 up front in the owner's standings with three races remaining."
The No. 51 team elected to wait until later in the morning's qualifying session to make their first attempt in the first of two knockout qualifying rounds. Jones made his first of what was scheduled to be three laps around "The Paperclip," but a truck spun and brought out the caution before he completed his second lap. After coming down pit road and returning to the track, he posted the ninth fastest time. Late in the first round, his time didn't stand as one of the top-12 times, so the talented youngster took to the track one more time in an effort to advance. The attempt was unsuccessful and the team would have to settle for the 15th starting position for the 200-lap event.
A loose-handling Tundra plagued Jones during the first half of the event, but he was able to advance into the top 10 on lap 89. He had moved up one more spot, to ninth, when the field was slowed for the fifth time for a four-truck accident on lap 102. Crew chief Eric Phillips summoned his driver to pit road for four fresh tires, a trackbar adjustment and a full tank of fuel.
With teams on varying pit strategies, the No. 51 ToytoaCare team restarted from the 13th position when the field went back green on lap 107. He quickly advanced up to the eight spot by the time the next caution occurred on lap 109 and by the time the field was slowed again on lap 128, he had maneuvered his way up to the third position.
Jones would remain inside the top three with just under 20 laps remaining, but fell back to the fourth position with 15 circuits remaining. After losing another spot, the Michigan native took the lap-188 restart fifth. When the field came across the stripe for the final time, he had advanced up to the fourth position to end the day.
KBM driver Darrell Wallace Jr. led four times for a race-high 97 laps en route to back-to-back Kroger 200 wins. It was Wallace Jr.'s third win of 2014 and the fourth of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. The triumph was the 11th for KBM across 19 races in 2014. Timothy Peters finished 0.495 seconds the No. 34 team in the runner-up position. Matt Crafton, Jones and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five finishers.
The 19th race of the 2014 season featured 11 cautions for a total of 71 laps. There were nine lead changes among five drivers. The No. 51 maintained the lead in the Owner's point standings and the reigning champions now sit four points ahead of the No. 88 team with three races remaining.
KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch returns to the wheel of the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on Oct. 31. Live coverage of the WinStar World Casino 350 will air on Fox Sports 1 beginning with the Truck Series Setup Show at 8 p.m. ET.