Erik Jones Looking to Put the Icing on the Cake

Already having scored a record-breaking five NASCAR National Series victories in advance of his 19th birthday, Friday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 200 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway will present Erik Jones with his final chance to tally another win before the 19th candle is added to his cake on Saturday. Padding his record-breaking win total will be a tall task for the talented youngster, as Friday's 200-lap race will be his first start in any series at the treacherous Monster Mile, but he's proven time and time again to be a quick learner. The savvy 18-year-old has recorded three of his five wins in his inaugural visit to a venue and will be carrying the momentum of two strong Truck Series runs into this weekend's event.


While Jones may be a rookie at the Monster Mile, he's racing for a Kyle Busch Motorsports team that has been dominant at Dover since debuting in the Truck Series in 2010. Team-owner Kyle Busch has collected three victories at the concrete oval (2011, 2013-2014) and was on the cusp of victory in 2010, leading 172 of the first 197 laps, before experiencing a fuel pump issue with two laps remaining. Jones' current crew chief, Ryan "Rudy" Fugle was on top of the box for Busch's victory in 2013 and was the race engineer for last year's win. KBM's 630 laps led at the one-mile venue across the five races they've competed in are the most they've led at any track on the circuit.


Jones may rank second in the Truck Series championship standings after five races this season, but statistics show that he has been the most impressive driver in the series. Despite not tallying a victory in NASCAR's third division this season, the 18-year-old leads the series in almost every statistical category, including Driver Rating (125.8), Laps Led (278), Miles Led (284.53), Average Running Place (2.816), Average Starting Position (3.2), Average Mid-Race Position (2.6), Green Flag Speed (2.000 Average Rank), Fastest Laps Run (212), Laps in the Top 15 (792), Fastest Early in Run (2.400 Average Rank), Fastest Late in a Run (1.600 Average Rank), Fastest on Restarts (3.800 Average Rank) and Fastest Speed in Traffic (4.800 Average Rank).


The racing prodigy also leads the Truck Series in heartbreaking defeats, as he is 0.183 seconds and a half-gallon of gas away from having three wins this season. In the season-opening race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway he made a late charge to the finish, but crossed the stripe 0.173 seconds behind race winner Tyler Reddick. At Kansas Speedway he led 151 of the first 161 laps, but the race was decided by fuel mileage and he surrendered the lead with six laps to go when he ran out of fuel and coasted down pit road. Equally as heartbreaking, Jones was leading at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway when a caution came out as he approached the white flag off Turn 4 and set up a green-white-checkered finish. The resilient youngster battled side-by-side with Kasey Kahne for two laps, but crossed the stripe 0.005 seconds behind the Sprint Cup Series driver in what turned out to be the second-closest finish in Truck Series history.


Collecting a "Miles the Monster trophy" at the end of Friday's Truck Series race at Dover would be a great way to break a string of heartbreaking defeats for Jones and would make for a nice early birthday present. Another trip to victory lane would also be icing on the cake to the record-breaking number of National Series wins that the talented youngster has collected before his 19th birthday.


Speedway Digest Staff

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