The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway will be an important one for drivers Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick. Not only are both drivers looking to capture their first national series championship, but also a shot of making history in the series.
The two drivers go into the season finale separated by 19 points in the driver standings. As they attempt to win the title, both drivers will have a shot at making NASCAR history by becoming the youngest Camping World Truck Series champion, a feat last accomplished by Austin Dillon in 2011.
With the opportunity to make history and to win the championship, both drivers look at the opportunity of bringing their respective race teams – Kyle Busch Motorsports and Brad Keselowski Racing -- their very first driver championship.
“I think it's definitely a pretty cool accomplishment, let alone winning the championship but being the youngest to do it,” said Jones in a press conference. “All along our goal at KBM has been for me to run for a driver's championship, and be able to get KBM its first driver's championship.”
“Obviously, I've been really wanting to come in here, and our goal this year was to win a championship, and hopefully we can do that,” said Reddick in a press conference. Being the youngest would be a bonus as well.”
When the season began in February at Daytona, it would mark of the start of the championship hunt for Reddick – who began the season as BKR’s primary driver. At Daytona, Reddick was the first driver to make his way to Victory Lane in 2015, in a season that featured numerous race winners throughout the year. The win at Daytona was Reddick’s first career win in the Camping World Truck Series and a win that would later put him in the championship picture.
As the season progressed, Reddick went on to capture his second win of the season at Dover. Throughout 22 races, Reddick has captured two wins, 13 top five, and 18 top 10 finishes. He has averaged a start of 8.8 and an average finish of 6.5.
For Jones, 2015 was his first full-time season with KBM and a contender for Rookie of the Year honors. While Reddick went on to win the first race of the year, Jones started out with a second place finish at Daytona. When the series made its way to the Midwest at Iowa, Jones made his first visit to Victory Lane in 2015. He went on to win two more races – at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Texas – which catapulted him to the top of the driver standings.
In the 22 races so far in 2015, Jones has three wins, 11 top five, 19 top 10 finishes and five poles.
While both Reddick and Jones look to win their first respective NASCAR championship, another challenge they faced along the way was the defending and two-time champion Matt Crafton. Crafton’s title chances diminished at Phoenix after some contact with Jones while racing for the lead in the closing laps. Reddick and Jones may be the final two championship contenders, but Crafton had been close to competing for the series title, as he was 10 points behind Jones in the standings at one point.
Going into Homestead, it will be Jones’s first truck series race at the 1.5-mile track. Reddick has only one start in the series at Homestead last season where he finished sixth after starting the race in fourth. Both drivers also enter the weekend looking to deliver an owner’s title.
In the clinching scenarios in the championship race, Jones can win the title by finishing 15th or better, 16th by leading one lap or 17th with the most laps led of any driver. That same scenario applies in the owners’ championship hunt as well.
On the optimism going into Homestead and his chances of winning the championship, Reddick said, “Well, obviously, we've just got to have a good weekend as a team. Fortunately last year there we had a good bit of speed and we were fast, so we just go in and continue to work on the things we did when we were last there, I think we'll be fast. Obviously, the situation we're in, we're going to have to run very good. We're going to have to win and leave as many laps as possible to try and put Erik in a situation where he has to run 15th or so better.”
With a 19-point lead over Reddick going into the season finale, Jones feels comfortable with the point’s gap.
“Well, it's nice to have a cushion for sure. It's way better than going into the race and leading by three points or five points or something like that. So it's fortunate we are in a situation where we don't have to win the race. We don't have to run top 5. We don't even really have to run top 10. So I think it's going to be somewhat conservative of an approach, but I don't think we need to change our approach by a whole lot,” said Jones.
Brad Keselowski Racing’s dominating Friday at Dover International Speedway ended with a sweet sunset. Tyler Reddick, 19, won his second race of the 2015 with a victory in the Lucas Oil 200 after making a pass on Erik Jones with eight laps remaining in the race.
With five cautions in the first 100 laps, a mere 21 trucks were running at the finish. Jones dropped to the third position after leading 50 laps. Daniel Suarez was able to pass his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate for the runner-up position in the closing laps after Reddick got around the No. 4 truck.
“I knew we had a top five truck starting the race, and we ended up being in position to put our Brad Keselowski Racing Ford F-150 into Victory Lane,” Reddick said. “It is great to get a win for everybody back home and it is a good way to get the season going for us.”
Cole Custer led 67 laps on Friday afternoon, which was the most in the field. However, the JR Motorsports entry had to make an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 185 due to the fuel can nozzle not opening properly on the final pit stop. He was regulated to a 13th-place finish in the No. 00 truck.
On Lap 34, rookie Jesse Little and Mason Mingus were battling for a spot inside the top 10 when Little’s No. 97 Toyota got loose on the exit of Turn 2. The mishap sent both into the inside wall on the backstretch, which led to a pile-up consisting of John Wes Townley, Justin Jennings and Brandon Brown.
On Lap 67, Brandon Jones, who wrecked during qualifying, hit Justin Boston’s No. 54 truck. Boston slammed the inside wall coming off Turn 2, and finished 25th with his first DNF since the season-opener at Daytona.
Matt Crafton continues to lead the championship standings over Reddick by 11 points. Jones is third, 14 markers behind the championship leader, with Johnny Sauter and Townley rounding out the top five.
Daniel Hemric recorded his first career top-five finish on Friday evening, finishing fourth for NTS Motorsports. The No. 14 truck was inside of the top 10 throughout the day, and capitalized on the final round of pit stops to gain track position.
Tyler Young finished 10th at Dover, which marks his first career top 10 in 39 career Truck Series starts. The 24-year-old is embarking on his second full-time season with his family-owned Young’s Motorsports team.