After Noah Gragson was not cleared to race by NASCAR following a trip to the infield care center during qualifying to address a stomach virus, 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Erik Jones strapped into the Safelite AutoGlass Tundra on short notice and produced a runner-up finish for the No. 18 team in Saturday's Gander Outdoors 150 at Pocono Raceway. Jones started from the 31st position but quickly maneuvered his way through the field and nearly ended the day in victory lane with a strong Tundra that Gragson was fastest with in Friday's final practice session.
The Safelite AutoGlass Tundra was scored in the third position when the Final Stage went green but after a hard-fought battle to get into the runner-up position, Jones found himself over two seconds behind his teammate and owner Kyle Busch with 19 laps remaining. The pupil ran down the teacher and was able to attempt a pass for the lead with nine laps remaining but his momentum was impeded by a lap truck and after having to fall back in behind Busch ended up finishing 1.469 seconds behind him.
Despite missing the race, Gragson remained second in the Truck Series regular season point standings and will be granted a medical waiver from NASCAR to remain eligible for the playoffs.
Stage One Recap:
- Jones started from the 31st position but was inside the top 10 by lap eight. Before the end of Stage One, the former series champion maneuvered his way all the way up to the fourth position.
Stage Two Recap:
- When pit road opened, crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned the Safelite Tundra to pit road for four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel.
- Jones was scored in the seventh position when Stage Two went green on lap 19. He worked his way into the second spot on lap 22 and passed Busch for the lead on lap 27.
- Working the strategy backwards from the end of the race, Fugle elected to make the final pit stop of the day one lap later. Once again the Safelite over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop and returned the No. 18 Toyota to the track in the 18th position to complete Stage Two.
Final Stage Recap:
- With the top-12 trucks hitting pit road between stages, Jones moved up to the third position when the Final Stage went green on lap 35.
- Jones had to battle Dalton Sargeant for several laps to make his way into the runner-up position. Once he worked his way past the rookie, he was left with the task of chasing down Busch, who was over two seconds ahead with 19 laps remaining.
- The Safelite Tundra slowly narrowed the gap and with nine laps remaining closed to Busch's bumper. After the two exited Turn 1, Jones moved to the inside of Busch and the two raced side-by-side into the Tunnel turn. Jones' rear bumper was even with Busch's front bumper, but a lap truck forced Jones to move up the track and to avoid making contact Jones had to take his foot off the accelerator and settled in behind Busch.
- Jones would end up finishing in the second position. It was his 20th top-five finish across 40 career Truck Series starts.