For the fourth time in 2018, JJL Motorsports driver Jesse Little produced a top-10 finish in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition hustling to a hard fought seventh-place performance in Saturday night’s Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power.
On the heels of a career-best sixth place run the weekend prior at Iowa Speedway, Little and his Matt Noyce-led team had high hopes to deliver another solid performance for new marketing partner Rustic Rub Co., a local Belleville, Ill.-based company.
From practice to qualifying, Little showed his family-owned team would be a contender for the 160-lap race.
After recording his second top-10 qualifying effort of the year, Little maintained his presence inside the top-10 throughout the first stage.
When pit road opened at the end of Stage 1, Noyce decided to use strategy for track position – putting two right side tires on Little’s No. 97 Rustic Rub Co. Ford – sending the driver first off pit road, but eighth in the rundown.
On the Lap 42 restart, Little blasted his Ford to fourth. Battling a tight-handling truck in aero-traffic, Little slipped three positions by the end of Stage 2 to seventh.
Still combating the tightness of his truck, Little persevered throughout Stage 3, including dodging several late-race incidents and fending off several laps of intense three-wide battles on restarts to find himself chasing down a top-five finish with 20 laps to go.
A late race caution for debris stacked the field again however, giving Little having another opportunity to gain track position on the restart. However, with the checkered flag near, the intensity also intensified.
Restarting the race with seven laps to go, Little’s momentum was stalled when the caution quickly waved again for a stalled truck on the race track. Still sixth, Little had two laps to hustle his No. 97 Rustic Rub Co. Ford to the finish.
On the restart, Little found himself in a nest of trucks and jockeying for a spot in the top-five. During the shuffling, Little made contact with the No. 16 of Moffitt entering Turn 1. Having to get out of the throttle, Little’s momentum was lost.
Sliding back to seventh for the white flag lap, the Sherrills Ford, N.C.-native kept Riley Herbst at bay to claim his fifth career top-10 Truck Series finish and a seventh-place result.
Additionally, the team’s performance Saturday night delivered the fifth top-10 finish for the 21-year-old phenom in the last seven races.