Making his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Erik Jones led a race-high 55 laps, including 12 of the last 13, but ended the night finishing second to Matt Crafton in the wreck-shortened UNOH 225.
Jones was in the lead when a two-truck accident slowed the field with nine laps remaining. On the ensuing restart, Jones had teammate Daniel Suarez lined up behind him, but Suarez was unable to match the push that Ryan Blaney gave Crafton and the No. 4 Special Olympics World Game Tundra fell back to the second spot. A three-truck accident, which saw Ben Kennedy slide across the wall and puncture a hole in the catchfence, ended the race prematurely with 145 of the 150 scheduled laps completed, denying Kyle Busch Motorsports' young driver the chance to recapture the top spot.
"Our Special Olympics World Games Tundra was pretty good," Jones said. "It didn't start off exactly where we needed it. We started off pretty free and kind of tightened it up throughout the night and then got to a point when the sun went down and I was pretty comfortable with it. Didn't quite have the speed that Matt (Crafton) had, but we got in clean air a couple times and we were able to hold them off behind us. Just kind of taking the air away from them and that whole game, but Matt got a good push on the restart, cleared us and got the right push at the right time and that's how it's going to go sometimes. I wish we could have another restart to at least have a shot, but it was a good night overall. Just proud of these guys, it's not easy to unload from the truck and go racing by any means and we got pretty close with it, which is pretty impressive for any team."
The Truck Series was scheduled to have four hours of practice on Thursday morning, but the session was washed out. After an all-day rain, qualifying was also cancelled and the field was set by Truck Series owners' points per the NASCAR rule book. Jones took the green from the third position, but had advanced to the second position when the competition caution slowed the field on lap 21.
Jones communicated that his Special Olympics Tundra was "free" before bringing it to the attention of his over-the-wall crew. After a four-tire and fuel stop with a trackbar adjustment was administered, the No. 4 team returned their driver to the track scored in the fourth position for the lap-25 restart.
The talented youngster was able to wheel his way to the lead for the first time on lap 31, where he remained until visiting pit road under caution on lap 45. Communicating to crew chief Rudy Fugle that his Tundra was "still so loose," he came down pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and multiple chassis adjustments. With teams on varying strategies, the Michigan native took the lap-48 restart from the eighth spot.
During the middle stages of the race, Jones described his Tundra as "neutral" as he ran just inside the top five during a long green-flag run. He was summoned to pit road on lap 97 for four tires and fuel with no adjustments. When the pit stops had cycled through on lap 101, the NASCAR Next Alumnus was the leader.
The No. 4 team made one more visit to pit road under caution for right-side tires on lap 128. The talented youngster restarted third on lap 132, but one lap later was back out front. He held off a strong charge from Crafton for the next 12 laps as the race approached the finish, but the seventh caution of the night bunched the field on lap 139. On the ensuing restart, Blaney locked the front bumper of his truck to Crafton's rear bumper and pushed him past Jones entering Turn 1. One lap later, a three-truck accident caused severe damage to the catchfence and ended the race prematurely.
Crafton picked up his fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win of 2015 and his ninth victory in 348 career starts. Jones finished in the runner-up spot for the third time this season. Blaney crossed the stripe in the third position, Suarez fourth and Timothy Peters rounded out the top-five finishers. Christopher Bell, Jones' KBM teammate, spent the majority of the event inside the top 10, before being involved in a late-race accident which relegated him to a 17th-place finish.
The 10th race of the 2015 season featured eight cautions for a total of 30 laps. There were 13 lead changes among seven drivers, including Jones who led three times for a race-high 55 laps. Jones has now led 50 or more laps in seven consecutive Truck Series events and at least one lap in nine of the 10 races this season.
With 10 of 23 races completed, Jones sits third in the championship standings - 29 tallies behind points leader Matt Crafton and nine behind Tyler Reddick.