After much success in Late Model racing in the recent month, Cody Coughlin was left with a tough decision. With a race at his home track conflicting with his regularly scheduled NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., the young driver was forced to decide between continuing his quest to become the only driver in history to win championships in both the CRA Super Series (Super Late Model) and CRA/JEGS All-Star Tour (Pro Late Model) in the same year or make his fourth of 11-scheduled starts this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
After discussing the weekend itinerary, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Coughlin agreed that the 20-year-old driver will concentrate on his quest for a pair of Late Models championships and not compete in the NCWTS event at Gateway. Pinch hitting for Coughlin this weekend behind the wheel of the No. 51 JEGS/Auburn Gear Tundra will be 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Erik Jones.
Last season, Jones became the first driver in Truck Series history to capture the Rookie of the Year award and a championship in the same season and in the process delivered Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) its first-ever Driver's Championship and the organization's record-breaking fourth overall and third consecutive Owner's Championship.Over the course of the Truck Series' 23-race season, Jones collected three wins (Iowa Speedway, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and Texas Motor Speedway), five poles, 925 laps led, 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.
Jones has been fast and challenged for wins each of the last two years at Gateway, but victory has eluded him. In 2014, the talented youngster made his way to the front in the closing laps, but got turned from behind coming out of Turn 2 with six laps remaining and was left with a disappointing 23rd-place finish. Last year the Michigan native captured the pole and led a race-high 84 laps, but while he was running second late in the race chasing down leader Matt Crafton he made contact with a lap truck caused electrical issues and relegated him to another 23rd-place finish.
Earlier this season, the St. Louis Cardinals became the first team in major league history to record three pinch-hit home runs in a single game. Within a stone's throw of the Cardinals home ballpark, Jones is hoping to follow suit this weekend and hit a pinch-hit home run for Cody Coughlin and the No. 51 JEGS Racing team and deliver KBM its record-tying 50th Truck Series victory.