The long-run handling of his No. 4 Toyota kept Erik Jones from challenging for the win in Saturday's UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, but the talented youngster keep his Tundra in one piece and was able to battle his way to a seventh-place finish. The top-10 result was the ninth consecutive for Jones and allowed him to maintain a seven-point lead over Matt Crafton in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship standings with six races remaining.
"We missed it by a long ways and didn't get the finish we wanted, so we'll have to go back and make our Tundras a little bit better," Jones said. "We can't do that this late in the year -- we can't be that far off. We'll just have to work on it and figure out what was wrong and how to be better for the next six weeks. "
Jones started the race from the fourth position, quickly maneuvered his way into the second spot and then settled into the third position behind Kyle Busch. The 19-year-old driver communicated to crew chief Rudy Fugle that he needed his Tundra to turn better, before hitting road for the first time on lap 40. After getting four fresh tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, he returned to the track scored in the third position for the lap-44 restart.
The talented youngster was able to work his way into the second spot on the restart, but communicated that his Toyota was "free everywhere." On lap 86 Jones worked his way around Busch for the lead and picked up a valuable bonus point. His boss recaptured the lead five laps later and the No. 4 settled into the runner-up spot. As a long green-flag run continued, eventual winner Austin Dillon worked his way around Jones.
On lap 114, Fugle summoned his young driver to pit road where the over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment. Jones returned to the field scored in the 11th position as several teams were on varying pit strategies and had yet to hit pit road.
Jones had maneuvered up to the eighth spot when a one-truck accident slowed the field for the fourth time. He communicated that his Tundra was "way too tight," so Fugle once again called his driver down pit road for four fresh tires and several adjustments. Most of the top five did not elect to pit and others took two tires, leaving the No. 4 team scored in the 11th position for the restart with 35 laps remaining.
The Michigan native had gained three spots in the running order when the field was slowed for the fifth time on lap 144. Jones lost a spot on the ensuing restart, and was ninth when the sixth and final caution occurred on lap 160. When Busch hit pit road for a tire rub, it moved the No. 4 Tundra up one spot for the final restart of the day with nine laps remaining. Jones was able to gain one position before the checkered flag flew and picked up his second top-10 finish at New Hampshire in as many starts.
Dillon collected his first Truck Series win this season and the seventh of his career. Matt Crafton finished 1.054 seconds behind Dillon in the runner-up position. Johnny Sauter finished third, while Timothy Peters and John Hunter Nemechek rounded out the top-five finishers. Jones KBM teammates Gray Gaulding and Kyle Busch finished 10th and 11th, respectively.