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Tracking the Trucks: WinStar World Casino & Resort 350

In a Nutshell: Erik Jones took the checkered flag 2.855 seconds ahead of teammate Daniel Suarez to win Friday night’s WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 at Texas Motor Speedway. Jones survived losing nine seconds to Matt Crafton on pit road and recovered to take his third win of the year. Ryan Blaney finished third, followed by Crafton. Tyler Reddick rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Erik Jones was easily the class of the field, leading 117 of 147 laps. After running 14th and 13th-quickest in the two practice sessions on Thursday, Jones followed up with a fifth-place qualifying run and spent just 12 laps working his way to the front. But it wasn’t smooth sailing for the No. 4 team. After a freak accident saw a lugnut get lodged in the jack under a green-flag pit stop, Jones cycled from more than two seconds ahead of Matt Crafton to more than five seconds behind. But the lone caution that flew for debris allowed Jones to close that gap and take the lead again. He led a total of three times, including the final 12 circuits en route to victory lane.

Race Rundown

Erik Jones Seals Up Championship

With his win Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway, Erik Jones walks away with a 17-point lead over Matt Crafton, and while anything can happen mathematically, there’s no reason to believe that victory didn’t seal up the championship for the rookie. With just two races remaining, there’s very little chance that Jones will lose the lead, especially given that he’s the two-time defending winner at Phoenix and has dominated in both outings at the track.

Obviously with a potential 36-point swing each week, it’s certainly possible for the No. 4 team to crumble, but considering the freak incident they suffered with a random lugnut lodged into the jack that still turned into a win, it’s highly unlikely Crafton or Reddick will be able to mount enough of a charge to take the point lead.

Let’s play with some numbers for a moment.

Jones has two Truck Series starts at Phoenix and a perfect record to go along with it. He went to Victory Lane in both of those starts, leading 198 of 276 combined laps along the way. You can’t really get much better than that, and I would be shocked if he didn’t make it three in a row next weekend.

Assuming he wins and lead the most laps and Crafton finishes second while leading at least one circuit, Jones would walk away with a 21-point advantage headed into the final race of the year, and if Crafton were to lead the most laps and take the win at Homestead, he would have to hope for disaster for the No. 4 team as Jones would have to finish 23rd or worse for Crafton to take the championship on a tie-breaker, something that has happened just once (Gateway – electrical problems).

In all fairness, if we were to switch those numbers around in Crafton’s favor for a dominating win at Phoenix, things would tighten up a little. Assuming the same scenario with both roles reversed, Jones would walk away with a 12-point lead, leaving the advantage still squarely in his hands as a finish of sixth or better, regardless of any laps led would lock up the championship.

Even with those numbers being hypothetical, simply put, at this point, the championship is Jones’ and the No. 4 team’s to lose, and frankly, that’s just not going to happen in the next two weeks.

Tyler Young Struggles to 23rd-Place Finish at Home Track

Tyler Young, who has shown steady improvement throughout the season in his family owned No. 02 Chevrolet, came his home track of Texas with high hopes for a solid run. But it wasn’t meant to be for the 25-year-old. When Young took the No. 02 out for qualifying, smoke poured from the back end, signaling a blown motor and forcing the team to scramble to change it in time for the race.

The Midland, Tex. native and his crew got the replacement engine into the truck and even gained nine positions after the green flag flew, but an early flat tire sent him to pit road for an extended stop under green just five laps in. After spending extra time on pit road to ensure there were no further issues with the truck, Young returned to the track, but the damage was already done as he had lost six laps to the leaders. He went on to finish a disappointing 23rd, 11 laps off the pace.

“The guys really worked hard this weekend, and I hate it that we don’t have results to show that. The engine issues in qualifying put us behind from the beginning,” Young said. “Then, I blew a tire early in the race, and it knocked the tow out, I don’t know how, but afterwards we were just along for the ride. We also had more engine issues with the backup motor we put in for the race. We’ll go back to the shop and figure it out though. It’s just unfortunate. We come here twice a year and want to put a good show on, but we didn’t. We’ll regroup, and hopefully run a lot better in Phoenix next week.”

Quick Hits:

Multiple drivers struggled with green-flag pit stops Friday night, sliding their tires as they attempted to slow down to pit road speed. John Wes Townley got the worst pit road entry, though, as he suffered a commitment cone violation and took the commitment cone for a ride along with him. He had to pit for a pass-through penalty under green, which trapped him off of the lead lap. He ended up 17th, three laps down to the race winner.

Friday night’s race was the fastest ever Camping World Truck Series event run at Texas Motor Speedway. With just one caution to slow the field for five laps, the official race time was one hour, 23 minutes and 48 seconds.

Jesse Little returned to Truck Series competition for his third career start behind the wheel of the No. 97 ThorSport Toyota. After suffering a pair of 30th-place DNFs at Dover and Chicagoland earlier this year for a crash and engine failure, respectively, Little brought home a career-best 15th-place result.

“It was finally good to be able to finish a NCWTS race, get some pit stops under our belts, run in dirty air, and really just gain a ton of experience. That makes it a good day. The truck is in one piece and we learned a lot. We’re leaving Texas (Motor Speedway) with a big, thick book of notes. I feel a lot more confident to come back, and run here again next year. Plus, finishing a NCWTS race gives me more confidence for the next race.”

Truck Rookie Report
2015 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 4 Erik Jones
No. 07 Ray Black, Jr.
No. 08 Korbin Forrister
No. 8 John Hunter Nemechek
No. 13 Cameron Hayley
No. 14 Daniel Hemric
No. 23 Spencer Gallagher
No. 94 Wendell Chavous

No. of Rookies in the Race: 15 (add Jordan Anderson, Christopher Bell, Cameron Hayley, Brandon Jones, Jesse Little, Caleb Roark, Dexter Stacey and Tyler Tanner)

No. of Rookies in top 10: 5; Erik Jones, finished first; Daniel Suarez, finished second; Brandon Jones, finished seventh; Christopher Bell, finished eighth; Cameron Hayley, finished 10th

Rookie of the Race: Erik Jones, finished first

Points Update: The top 23 in the point standings remains unchanged; Timmy Hill moved up one spot to 24th over Austin Theriault, who has been sidelined since his Las Vegas crash and is expected to remain out of the seat until at least the season finale at Homestead.

Erik Jones answered Matt Crafton’s Martinsville win with a Texas win of his own and expanded his point lead to 17 over Crafton with two races remaining. Tyler Reddick now sits 21markers behind Jones, who won in dominating fashion at Phoenix (the next track the Truck Series visits) last season. Johnny Sauter is 71 markers behind, and Timothy Peters rounds out the top 5 with a solid 20-point cushion over sixth.

Rookies Cameron Hayley and Daniel Hemric sit sixth and seventh, respectively. John Wes Townley remains eighth, followed by Ben Kennedy and Spencer Gallagher to round out the top 10. Little movement can be expected in the remaining two weeks with each position from fourth through 11th separated by at least 20 points.

Quotable:

“Getting the win here, that’s a nice boost for everybody, not just myself but everybody at KBM. We needed this to get back on track. We’ve struggled a little bit the last month, month and a half and worked hard to get back to this point. And now, to go out there and win one the way we did, and lead as many laps as we did, that’s a really nice statement for us. Hopefully, we can go to Phoenix and do the same kind of thing we’ve done the last two years. It’s nice to have that points lead back up closer to the 20 range than the 10 range, but we still have two more weeks, and we have to hold onto it, be strong and close this deal out.” Erik Jones

“It definitely was a strong run for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Everyone did an amazing job. My truck was fast. I really feel like we had a shot. We just were a little bit off in the first part of the race, and without a caution, we weren’t able to close that gap. That’s part of racing. We have to keep learning and keep working. I really feel like if we keep doing what we are doing, we will be able to win soon.” Daniel Suarez, finished second

“I can’t thank Brad Keselowski and Cooper Standard enough for having me back in the Cooper Standard Careers For Veterans Ford F-150. Hopefully Austin Theriault will be back soon. It was a lot of fun. We got progressively better throughout the night. We qualified 15th, but we were able to get through the field fairly quickly. Chad Kendrick did a good job getting us better throughout the night. Our guys did a great job in the pits and we got a couple of spots on that last pit stop which was really good. It was tough to run with the two guys that finished ahead of us because we struggled on long run speed. We could hang with ’em for 10-15 laps but after that they started to pull away.” Ryan Blaney, finished third

“We were a little too free on the first few runs and just over adjusted on the last one, and got pretty tight at the end. All in all, not a bad day for our Menards Toyota Tundra. It was decent, but not quite as good as we needed it to be. We’ll go on to Phoenix and go from there.” Matt Crafton, finished fourth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway next Friday night. Last season, Erik Jones dominated, leading 114 of 126 laps (race shortened due to power outage) en route to the victory over Matt Crafton under caution. Coverage for the Lucas Oil 150 begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 13-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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2 comments

  1. And now NASCAR is trying to ruin this series with a Chase type championship. NOOOOOO!!!!!!

  2. I know that the trucks have been going to Texas twice since 1999 and I do love the truck series but a race like this one is making me confused on why we go here twice a year. I think there are better options out there but I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon.