Erik Jones entered Saturday's fred's 250 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with a four-point lead over Matt Crafton in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship standings and had a primary goal of keeping his Toyota Tundra in one piece and leaving the Alabama track with the lead in tract.
Mission was accomplished for Jones. The talented youngster ran inside the top five for the majority of the day and when the race ended under caution during the lone attempt at a green-white-checkered finish he had passed the final timing loop in the fourth position. With Crafton getting caught up in multiple incidents and relegated to a 24th-place finish, the No. 4 team left Talladega with an 18-point lead on Tyler Reddick.
"It was just exciting, typical of Talladega - green-white-checkered there for the last lap or so," Jones said of his 11th consecutive top-10 finish this season. "I kept asking, 'Are we on the white flag or not?' I don't even remember if we got the white flag - no we didn't. I saw them all wrecking and I saw the 23 (Spencer Gallagher) get free down the backstretch and start to lose it and just went to the bottom and hoped nobody was going to come down and tag us and we got out of it. Really, really great day for this No. 4 Tundra team in the points. Never would have thought that we could have come out of this race that far ahead. Everything from the best to the worst can happen here and fortunately the best happened for us."
Jones earned Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) best-ever Talladega starting position of third in Saturday morning's two-round qualifying session. On the initial restart, the Michigan native moved up to the second position, where he remained until the first caution of the race occurred on lap 13. Crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned his young driver to pit road for what he thought was going to be a fuel-only stop, but after the front tire changer started taking off the right-front lugnuts audibled to a four-tire and fuel stop. The unusually slow pit stop left Jones in the 22nd position for the ensuing restart on lap 18.
Slowly but surely, the No. 4 Tundra weaved its way back through the field. Jones was scored in the 13th position when a one-truck accident slowed the field for the second time on lap 36. Having already received fresh tires on the first stop, this time around the NASCAR Next alum came down pit road for a fuel-only stop and returned to the track scored in the fourth position for the lap-43 restart.
During the next green-flag run, Jones settled into the runner-up position tucked behind Matt Crafton. As the run progressed, Crafton's grill became covered with debris and he was forced to duck out of the draft. After leading four laps, Jones visited pit road for the final time to get right-side tires and a full tank of fuel.
When pit stops had cycled through, KBM's young gun emerged in the third position. He was able to pick up one more spot before the third caution of the day slowed the field on lap 81. After another quick caution, Jones got caught on the outside lane and was shuffled back to the fifth spot when the fourth caution occurred with seven laps remaining.
With three laps to go, The Big One struck and the field was red flagged. Jones was sixth, but after teammate Christopher Bell was penalized for pushing and sent to the back of the field moved up to the fifth spot. As the field approached the frontstretch for the green-white-checkered finish, third-place runner Brad Keselowski ran out of fuel and Jones moved up a line to the third position.
The green flag flew for the final time and Jones gave Brandon Jones a series of bumps in an effort to push him to the front, but the outside lane got a better run down the backstretch. Timothy Peters moved up a lane to block the progress of Spencer Gallagher, who had a run on the outside, and as Gallagher tried a crossover he lost control of his truck and the race ended under caution.
Timothy Peters collected his first Truck Series win of 2015 and the ninth of his career. Brandon Jones finished in the runner-up position. Mason Mingus finished third, while Jones and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top-five finishers. Jones KBM teammates Christopher Bell and Matt Tifft finished 13th and 23rd, respectively.
The 19th race of the 2015 season featured six cautions for a total of 25 laps. There were 15 lead changes among nine drivers, including Jones who led once for six laps
With four races remaining on the 2015 schedule, Jones leads Reddick by 18 points in the Truck Series championship standings.