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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2015 North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Kasey Kahne and Erik Jones started side-by-side on Friday night, and that’s the exact same way the duo finished the race. The pair qualified 1-2 but were forced to start from the rear after each had a pre-race issue (Jones – missed drivers’ meeting; Kahne – unapproved adjustments). As soon as the green flag dropped though, it was clear this duo was the class of the field, weaving their way through traffic and charging to the front within the race’s first 50 miles. The two frontrunners from that point on, a green-white-checkered finish gave Kahne one more shot against Jones. The duo ran door-to-door across the start/finish line, separated by a mere 0.005 seconds, but in the end, Kahne emerged the victor. Matt Crafton scored his fourth consecutive top-five finish with a third-place result, while Brad Keselowski Racing teammates Tyler Reddick and Brad Keselowski crossed right behind him.

Who Should Have Won: Simply put, Jones had the truck to beat. After starting at the back of the field, the driver of the No. 4 Toyota wasted little time showing the field his speed. By the time lap 10 rolled around, he had already climbed well inside the top 10, running sixth and charging. He took the lead for the first time on lap 26 and at times, jumped out to as much as a seven-second advantage. Jones led four times for a race-high 88 laps before being edged at the line by Kahne.

Race Rundown

Another Race, Another Heartbreak for Erik Jones

For the second week in a row, Jones had the strongest truck on the track, but once again, he did not end up in Victory Lane. Last weekend at Kansas, it was an empty fuel tank that dropped him from the lead to an eventual 11th-place finish in a race where he led all but 16 laps.

This week, after starting at the back of the field, the 18-year-old once again looked poised to snag his first win of the season. However, a late spin by Daniel Hemric set up the green-white-checkered ending that allowed Kahne to side-draft and edge the rookie by one of the closest margins in series history.

Following the race, Jones was clearly upset as he was seen on camera storming away from his truck to the No. 4 hauler. He did emerge and speak with the media but was clearly very upset and sounded almost on the verge of tears.

“I can’t believe that the lapped cars just can’t let us finish a race. It sucks when it has to come down to a green-white-checkered. The fastest truck loses the race again two weeks in a row,” Jones told FOX Sports 1. “I just can’t believe we lost it. I don’t even know what to say. It really, really hurts. I can’t believe it. It’s nice to have fast trucks, but I wish we could win. I really, really wanted this one and it’s hard to come up second.”

First of all, I have to applaud Jones and how he handled his disappointment. While the teenager was upset and the last thing he probably wanted was a camera and microphone in his face, he headed back to the hauler and took a few moments to collect his composure before answering questions like a professional. You can’t really blame him for being disappointed after working so hard to get to the front of the field after starting in the back.

With that said, a runner-up result is a pretty spectacular one to be that upset about. The performance is Jones’ fourth top 10 in five races this season and allowed him to gain ground on points leader Crafton. It just goes to show just how much winning means to Jones when he’s that upset about a second-place finish.

Kasey Kahne’s Winning Truck Fails Post-Race Inspection

Following a trip to Victory Lane in only its second Truck Series race, JR Motorsports has now been left to wait and see what penalties might await it come next week. During post-race inspection, Kahne’s winning truck failed for being too low on both sides and for being too high in the right rear.

NASCAR has made it a policy that it won’t strip a driver of their win despite failing post-race inspection, citing that fans should know when they leave the track who the winner is. That seems like a logical explanation for a casual fan, but in this day and age of social media, there would be little confusion anyway since there are now so many ways to get news as it happens. Aside from that, is it really the right call not to strip a win from a team whose car was deemed illegal?

For a team like JRM that is only running a handful of events and won’t even be in serious contention for the owners’ championship, there’s no other penalty that will hold any ounce of meaning. Sure, the organization will probably lose some points, pay a monetary fine and perhaps even find its crew chief on probation, but the bottom line is that each of those potential penalties is meaningless.

The real solution here is to create a no-tolerance rule that states if a driver fails post-race inspection, in particular due to a violation that is not related to potential race damage, that win should be stripped. Period. Sure, there may be a different winner in the record books than fans saw, but the message would be sent that bending the rules beyond the rulebook is absolutely unacceptable. And, as a bonus, it would bring back some of the integrity that the sanctioning body has lost over the years with a history of subjective calls.

Quick Hits

  • Kahne’s victory marks the 200th for Chevrolet in the Camping World Truck Series. Mike Skinner won the inaugural Truck Series race behind the wheel of a Chevrolet in 1995, a season where the manufacturer won 16 of 20 events.
  • For the second week in a row, James Buescher was initially entered behind the wheel of the No. 31 Chevrolet for NTS Motorsports only to have a late-week announcement come out that Scott Lagasse Jr. would be piloting the truck instead due to a lack of sponsorship. Owner Bob Newberry said late this week that he would have fielded a third truck for Buescher, even at the last minute, if financial backing were available.
  • Kyle Busch Motorsports put all three of its trucks inside the top 10 at Charlotte Friday night. The trio of Jones, Matt Tifft and Justin Boston finished second, eighth and ninth, respectively. Only Jones and Boston are running the full season; Jones is second in the standings and Boston sits eighth.
  • Seven drivers dropped to the rear of the field before the race began. Kahne, Spencer Gallagher and Boston were hit for unapproved adjustments, while Kyle Fowler, Jones, Jordan Anderson and BJ McLeod got dinged for being late to the drivers’ meeting.

Truck Rookie Report
2015 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 4 Erik Jones
No. 07 Ray Black Jr.
No. 08 Korbin Forrister
No. 13 Cameron Hayley
No. 14 Daniel Hemric
No. 23 Spencer Gallagher
No. 50 Cody Ware
No. 54 Justin Boston
No. 94 Wendell Chavous

No. of Rookies in the Race: 15 (add Anderson, Fowler, David Gilliland, Brandon Jones, Tyler Tanner and Tifft)

No. of rookies to finish in the top 10: 5; Erik Jones, finished second; Reddick, finished fourth; Tifft, finished eighth; Boston, finished ninth; Gallagher, finished 10th

Rookie of the Race: Erik Jones

Points Update: Matt Crafton maintains the top spot, now 16 markers ahead of Erik Jones. Reddick dropped to third, followed by Johnny Sauter. Townley, after a solid top-10 effort at Charlotte, rounds out the top five in series points. Timothy Peters sits just two points outside the top five in sixth, followed by rookie Hayley in seventh. Fellow rookies Boston, Gallagher and Hemric round out the top 10.

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a weekend off before heading to Dover International Speedway Friday, May 29. Last season, Kyle Busch dominated, leading 150 of 200 laps en route to the win over Ryan Blaney. Coverage for the Lucas Oil 200 begins at 5:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.