Jones Delivers Runner-Up Finish in Daytona Debut
Making his first start in any series at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, 18-year-old Erik Jones showed veteran poise keeping his No. 4 Toyota Tundra up front all race long and putting himself in contention for the win on the final lap. The talented youngster took the white flag from the fourth position, but coming off turns three and four made a bold move to the outside and by the time the field reached start-finish line was able to advance two spots to bring home a runner-up finish. For his efforts, Jones was awarded both the Mobil 1 Driver of the Race and the Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards.
"I wish we could have won the race -- that's first off," Jones said. "Second is a great start to the season and we did what we wanted to -- we came in here and didn't get wrecked and put ourselves in a position not to be making up points all year. We had a fast Tundra. I tried to lay back through (turns) three and four thinking maybe if the -- the 29 (Austin Theriault) I think was in second -- if he made a move on the 19 (Tyler Reddick), hopefully it would break them up and I could pull off both of them and try to pass them all. It worked up to second, but just couldn't quite get to the lead. Just thankful to be running full time thanks to Toyota -- it's going to be a fun year."
Jones advanced through his group in the first two rounds of knockout qualifying and then posted the seventh fastest time in the final round. Two laps into the race, the Michigan native had advanced into the fourth spot, where he remained when the first caution of the race occurred on lap 14. When pit road opened, he brought the No. 4 Toyota Tundra to the attention of his over-the-wall crew who filled his Toyota with fuel and made a wedge adjustment.
The ensuing restart came on lap 19 with Jones in the fifth position. He quickly advanced into the third spot, where he remained until the field was slowed for the third time on lap 49. Crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned his young driver to pit road for right side tires and a full tank of fuel. When service was complete, the No. 4 Tundra returned to the track for a few laps and then returned to pit road to top off with fuel before the lap-58 restart.
Jones quickly made his way to the runner-up position when the field went back green until he surrendered that spot to top off with fuel again under caution on lap 66. When the race resumed, the teenager patiently rode around in the fourth spot as the event approached the closing laps.
Nine trucks were lined up single file when the field took the white flag, including the No. 4 Tundra in the fourth position. Off of turn four, Scott Lagasse Jr., who ran third, looked to the inside of Austin Theriault for the second position. The two knocked doors and Jones quickly darted to the outside lane, while Ray Black Jr. went to the bottom lane and made it a four-wide battle for the runner-up position. Jones was able to nudge the trio to the stripe and earn an impressive second-place finish in his first career start at the "World Center of Racing."
Tyler Reddick picked up his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. Jones finished .173 seconds behind Reddick in the runner-up position. Lagasee Jr., Theriault and Black Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers.
Jones' Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Daniel Suarez and Justin Boston finished ninth and 29th, respectively.
The opening race of the 2015 season featured six cautions for a total of 28 laps. There were 14 lead changes among seven drivers.
Jones and the rest of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors head to Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway for the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200. Live coverage of the 130-lap event begins with the NCWTS Setup Show at 5 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
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