Erik Jones Ready to Take Over the Leading Role
For the first time in his young career, Erik Jones will enter Friday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 225 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. as the points leader. On the strength of seven consecutive top-10 finishes, including a victory in the series' last stop at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Jones has erased a 33-point deficit in the championship standings and now leads two-time reigning champion Matt Crafton by three points with eight races remaining.
Friday night's 150-lap race will mark Jones' first Truck Series start at the 1.5-mile D-shaped oval, but he has made two NASCAR XFINITY Series starts there. The talented youngster made his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut at the track last July, qualifying fourth and leading two laps en route to an impressive seventh-place finish. Jones returned to the stand-alone event this year and despite not getting to practice the Monster Energy Camry due to competing in the Truck Series race at Iowa, he led 94 laps en route to his second-career XFINITY Series victory.
In addition to two XFINITY Series starts in the Windy City, Jones participated in both practice sessions for last September's Truck Series event, despite not competing in the race. While Kyle Busch was tending to Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup media obligations during practice, the No. 51 team turned to Jones to get the Dollar General Tundra dialed in for the race. Having never turned a lap in a truck at the venue, he finished third in the opening session and eighth in final practice.
When qualifying was rained out and subsequently the race was postponed, Busch was forced to start from the rear of the field for making a driver change. Jones' setup for the Dollar General Tundra must have been a good one, as his boss was able to lead 66 of 154 laps en route to the victory. Busch's victory in last year's event was Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) second consecutive and third overall at the Illinois track in its five-year existence, all with its owner-driver behind the wheel.
The No. 4 Tundra team has showed a lot of speed in the four Truck Series races on mile-and-a-half tracks this season, but victory lane has eluded them thus far. Jones has led 42.7 percent of the 581 total laps at the 1.5-mile venues in 2015 and brought home runner-up finishes at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta in July. In addition to his success in the Truck Series, both of his NASCAR XFINITY Series wins have come on mile-and-a-half tracks (Texas Motor Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway) this year.
Jones was part of the supporting cast that helped Busch deliver a winning performance in last year's Truck Series race at Chicagoland. This year he is ready to take over the leading role and is eager to produce KBM's first mile-and-a-half victory of the season as he aims to maintain his spot atop the Truck Series championship standings.
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