(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Tracking the Trucks: Brandon Jones Scores 1st Career Victory at Pocono

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In a Nutshell: Brandon Jones scored his first career victory in Sunday’s rain-delayed Pocono Organics 150 at Pocono Raceway. Jones edged Austin Hill by nearly a second in a two-lap dash to the finish in a race filled with nine cautions and two red flags. Sheldon Creed, Todd Gilliland and Ben Rhodes rounded out the top five.

Race Rundown:

Matt Crafton, Codie Rohrbaugh Tangle on Lap 1

Just like the 2019 version of the Truck Series race at Pocono, the field didn’t even complete lap 1 before the caution flag flew. Last season, it was Stewart Friesen but this time around it was Codie Rohrbaugh and Matt Craton, and both of their trucks were heavily damaged to the point where they retired on the spot.

While Rohrbaugh did, in fact, hook Crafton, he had some help in doing so when Austin Wayne Self dove to the low side of the track.

For Rohrbaugh, it means damaged equipment for a team that’s running on a minuscule budget. For Crafton, though, it puts him even deeper in the standings as the series creeps toward its playoffs. Despite expanding this year’s Truck Series playoff field to 10 drivers, the defending champion currently finds himself 31 points below the cutoff line.

While that’s not disastrous by any means, especially with stage points that are available throughout the race, it’s not a hole any driver wants to be in. That’s not to say Crafton won’t find victory lane this season, but it’s also important to note that he hasn’t won since Eldora in 2017.

Pair of Red Flags in Stage One

After the Crafton/Rohrbaugh incident, the field took the green flag but still wasn’t able to complete an entire lap before another caution flag flew. This time, Raphael Lessard and Austin Wayne Self tangled, forcing both drivers to retire early from the race.

But instead of running several laps under caution to clean up the mess that followed, the field was stopped on the track for a short cleanup. It was the first of two red flag periods in stage one. The second came when Ty Majeski crashed hard after the field ran just three laps under green-flag conditions.

A poorly timed block on Grant Enfinger sent Majeski spinning into the outside wall before he went across the track and slammed the inside SAFER barrier. Thankfully, despite the heavy contact, he got out of his truck on his own and was able to walk to the awaiting safety vehicles.

Christian Eckes Wrecks While Leading

On the restart following the seventh caution, Christian Eckes took control of the field and started driving away when suddenly, he spun and back the No. 18 Toyota into the outside wall.

“Yeah, it sucks for sure. Probably done by me. We had a little contact on pit road – it might have created a rub or something. I don’t know. They said everything was clear, but who knows. We had a really fast Safelite Toyota Tundra; we could just never get track position. We finally got there at the end and blew a tire, so I guess we will go to Kentucky.”

Eckes also blew out his eardrum in the crash, something that was likely the combination of the sinus infection he’s been battling this week and the hard contact with the wall.

It’s yet another race where the result isn’t representative of the actual race effort for the rookie. Given the performance he’s shown on the track in his starts when he finally puts together a strong truck with a full race, he’ll turn into someone who’s unstoppable.

Quick Hits:

  • It’s been a while since a single race showcased the importance of the addition of SAFER barriers to NASCAR’s safety repertoire. But Saturday’s race saw several drivers slam into the wall and walk away rather than needing to be carted away because they hit the old concrete walls that used to be in place. I think we can all agree we’re grateful for that safety innovation.
  • The race from Pocono saw 17 drivers make their first Truck Series start at Pocono. That’s nearly half of the field, and based on the wrecking we saw, NASCAR needs to consider bringing practice back to the series as soon as it’s reasonably feasible. With drivers who have little NASCAR experience at all, it’s imperative to get them on-track for at least a little while without being in race conditions so they can familiarize themselves with it.
  • Officially, 29 of Sunday’s 60 laps (48.3%) were run under caution at Pocono. According to Racing Reference, the average green flag run was just 3.1 laps.
  • Just a little over an hour after scoring his first career Truck Series win, Brandon Jones didn’t even get to complete a single lap in his Xfinity Series car. On lap one, he was turned by Austin Cindric hard into the inside SAFER barrier and done for the day.
  • Sheldon Creed became the first Truck Series regular not named Grant Enfinger to snag playoff points with a pair of stage wins Sunday. Prior to this race, Enfinger had 11 playoff points, courtesy of a pair of victories and a single stage win. Creed swept both stages before settling for a
  • Natalie Decker was forced to skip her scheduled start at Pocono Raceway after being hospitalized for bile duct complications related to having her gall bladder removed in December. In her place, Bayley Currey piloted the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet to a 16th-place finish after starting at the rear of the field.

  • Angela Ruch’s planned full-time 2020 schedule has been put on hold due to sponsorship issues related to the COVID-19 restrictions NASCAR and most states have in place. In her place, Josh Reaume piloted the No. 00 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet to a 23rd-place finish in his second start of the 2020 season.

Rookie Report

2020 Rookie of the Year Candidates

Tate Fogleman – No. 02 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet
Raphael Lessard – No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Spencer Davis – No. 11 Spencer Davis Motorsports Toyota
Zane Smith – No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet
Tanner Gray – No. 15 DGR-Crosley Ford
Christian Eckes – No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Derek Kraus – No. 19 McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Toyota
Ty Majeski – No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet

Number of Rookies in the Race: 8

Number of Rookies finishing in the Top 10: 1; Derek Kraus, finished 10th

Rookie of the Race: Kraus

Pocono was rough on the rookie class as Kraus was the only driver to make it out of the weekend unscathed when he posted another top 10. Spencer Davis was running inside the top 10 with just a handful of laps to go when he had contact with the outside wall. Zane Smith led some laps before late-race motor troubles plagued him and relegated him to a 14th-place finish. Meanwhile, Raphael Lessard, Tanner Gray, Christian Eckes, Tate Fogleman and Ty Majeski all suffered wrecks. Of that group, Gray was the only one able to continue racing and run to the finish.

Points Update: Austin Hill holds a 51-point lead over Ben Rhodes. Grant Enfinger sits third, followed by Sheldon Creed, who’s just three points behind. Todd Gilliland rounds out the top five. Despite wrecking from the lead, Christian Eckes is sixth, just two points ahead of fellow rookie Zane Smith. Tyler Ankrum, Brett Moffitt and Johnny Sauter round out the top 10.

Series-regular winners this season: Grant Enfinger (Daytona, Atlanta)

Up Next: The Truck Series will take next weekend off before heading to Kentucky Speedway on Friday, July 11. Coverage for the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 begins at 6 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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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 15-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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