After taking the green-white-checkered finish in the UNOH 200 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway from the eighth spot, Erik Jones gained two positions over the final two laps to bring home a hard-fought sixth-place finish. Jones qualified fourth, but after pole sitter Kyle Busch had issues getting going on the initial start fell back to the eighth before things settled in single file. Battling a tight-handling Tundra and finding passing at a premium, the Michigan native ran just inside the top 10 for most of his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at the half-mile oval, but was able to finish in front of points leader Tyler Reddick and cut the deficit in the Truck Series championship standings from nine to seven points.
"Sixth was a good day for us overall and we made up some with our Tundra in the points - we made up two points and that's two more points closer than we were," said Jones, who registered his sixth consecutive top-10 finish. "Not a terrible day overall, but we definitely need to get better and figure out some of our stuff and what we need to do better, what we went wrong and just figure out how to be better."
The No. 4 Tundra was scored in the eighth position when debris on the frontstretch slowed the field for the second time on lap 79. Jones reported that his Toyota was "really tight, especially in the center," before being summoned to pit road by crew chief Rudy Fugle. The over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with a trackbar adjustment to try and improve the handling for their young driver.
Jones returned to the track scored in the eighth position for the lap-90 restart and quickly gained two spots when the field went back green. He lost one position as he got stuck on the inside lane after unsuccessfully trying to make a pass just before the field was slowed for the third time on lap 112. KBM's young gun reported "I'm trying everything," in regards to trying to advance positions. Knowing that track position was pivotal and having enough fuel to make it to the end of the race, Fugle elected to keep his driver on the track.
Unfortunately with two competitors ahead of Jones coming down pit road, it left him in the less desirable inside lane for the restart on lap 119. After losing two positions on the restart, he settled into line in the eighth spot. The NASCAR Next alumnus was able advance up to seventh before rain brought out a red flag on lap 166 and halted the event for just under an hour.
Once again on the inside lane, Jones lost a spot on the restart when the race resumed. A two-truck accident on lap 196 slowed the field for the final time and set up a green-white-checkered finish. The 19-year-old lined up eighth, a row behind Busch.
As his boss made a strong charge on the outside line heading into Turn 1, the youngster followed in his tire tracks. As trucks went four wide, Busch emerged second down the backstretch but Jones' progress on the outside was impeded and he was forced to dive to the inside around a slower truck. The No. 4 Tundra came out in the sixth position. Jones got a strong run off Turn 4 and was able to keep the nose of his Tundra ahead of fellow championship contender Matt Crafton as the field crossed the stripe.
"I was trying to go up and follow Kyle (Busch), but unfortunately the 33 (Brandon Jones) was trying to go the same way after Kyle went by so I couldn't get up there," Jones reflected on the final restart.
Ryan Blaney collected his first win of 2015 and the fourth of his Truck Series career. Busch finished 0.512 seconds behind Blaney in the runner-up position. John Hunter Nemechek finished third, while Daniel Hemric and Brandon Jones rounded out the top-five finishers.
Jones' KBM teammate Daniel Suarez retired from the race after experiencing overheating issues and was relegated to a 30th-place finish.
The 13th race of the 2015 season featured five cautions for a total of 41 laps. There were nine lead changes among six drivers.
With 14 of 23 races completed, Jones sits third in the Truck Series driver's championship standings - seven tallies behind points leader Tyler Reddick.
Jones will be back behind the wheel of the No. 4 Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action Aug. 30 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont. Live coverage of the 67-lap road-course event north of the border begins with the NCWTS Setup Show at 1 p.m. ET