2014 Eldora: Erik Jones NASCAR Truck Race Preview
18-year-old Erik Jones will ride the momentum of an already exciting July into his first career start on dirt when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series invades famed Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio for Wednesday night's 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic.
Jones is coming off an impressive NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. on Saturday. The talented youngster earned the fourth starting position for his first series start and kept his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Camry solidly inside the top 10 all night. He was able to put his Toyota out front for two laps and ended the night with a solid seventh-place finish.
The last time the Michigan native was behind the wheel of the ToyotaCare Tundra, he was purely dominant. He led a race-high 131 laps of the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway in Newton en route to his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in just his ninth series start. The win marked the sixth of the season for the No. 51 team and the seventh overall in nine races for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM).
Now the talented youngster heads to the famed half-mile dirt oval for his first start in any series on dirt. To prepare for his first dirt start, Jones and KBM teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. tested earlier this month at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va. When the test was completed, he made over 200 laps and left confident that he will be able to continue riding high in July and be one of the drivers to watch in Wednesday night's race.
Erik Jones, Driver of the No. 51 NCWTS ToyotaCare Tundra:
This is your first race on dirt, what did you do to prepare for it?
"That's true - I've never raced on dirt before. We went to Wythe Raceway up in Virginia a few weeks ago and tested. I'd say I made about 200 laps and got more and more comfortable as we went along, but could've probably used about 200 more. The team felt happy with the adjustments we made throughout the test and we feel like we are bringing a fast ToyotaCare Tundra to Eldora. Kyle Larson was also there testing that day, so I tried to pick his brain a little about racing on dirt since he's pretty good on it."
How special is the race at Eldora and what would it mean to win there?
"Well, I think it's cool just in the sense that we get to go to a dirt track and especially a place like Eldora that hosts a lot of really prestigious dirt track races throughout the year. For us to get a shot to race there and really put our mark down at Eldora is pretty special. I think it would be pretty cool to pick up a win there and definitely think we've got a good shot at it. I think it's something that NASCAR and the Truck Series should continue to do. I think it's a great show for the fans and brings a lot of people out to watch the trucks that maybe necessarily wouldn't watch them every weekend. I think it's a great thing all the way around for drivers, teams and fans, and it really puts on a good show."
Where does Eldora rank in the pecking order among Truck Series races?
"Among Truck Series races I would definitely say it's probably right around the Daytona level, probably second or third. I wouldn't really see too many other races there that would really be much higher than it. Maybe on a personal level, there may be an opinion that some people would have, some races higher than it, but I'd definitely put it high up on the list because it's something so different. It's at a track that's so well known in the dirt world. I've never raced dirt, but I definitely still know about Eldora."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 51 NCWTS ToyotaCare Tundra:
How did your team's test at Wythe Raceway go a few weeks ago?
"It was a good opportunity for both Erik (Jones) and myself to get acclimated with the dirt since neither of us were involved with last year's race. For me, it was a chance to see what happens when you make a change on the dirt compared to the asphalt and learn what changes you need to make for certain circumstances. In the end it's still a stock car and you need to treat it like a stock car and not a dirt car. Erik had never driven on dirt before that test, so it was good for him to make a lot of laps. It took him about 15 to 20 laps to get up to speed and then he was really good -- it should be interesting."
Erik Jones' No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra:
KBM-012: The No. 51 ToyotaCare team will unload chassis KBM-012 for Wednesday night's 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. It will be the first start of the season for the Tundra, after making five starts for the No. 18 team with Joey Coulter last year. Coulter produced two top-10 finishes with the chassis in 2013. The Toyota also finished inside the top 10 in each of its four starts in 2012, including a runner-up finish with Kyle Busch at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.
Erik Jones 2014:
Led a race-high 131 laps en route to victory in the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, picking up his second career
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) victory in just his ninth career start
Across four NCWTS events this season has registered an Average Starting Position of 3.5, Average Running Position of 4.1, Average Mid-Race Position of 2.8 and Average Finish of 13.2
Despite running just four of the nine events, ranks fourth among all NCWTS drivers in both Laps Led (135) and Fastest Laps Run (94)
Finished seventh in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut for Joe Gibbs Racing at Chicagoland Speedway (7/19/14)
In his lone Super Late Model start of 2014, won the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 ARCA Midwest Tour race at the Milwaukee Mile (6/8/14)
Erik Jones 2013:
At 17 years, five months and nine days old, became the youngest winner in the history of the NCWTS with his victory in the November event at Phoenix International Raceway (11/8/13)
Became the first 16-year-old to compete in a NCWTS race since KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch in October of 2001, went on to finish ninth in his debut at Martinsville Speedway (4/6/13) and recorded top-10 finishes in all five of his series starts
Collected first ARCA Racing Series victory at Berlin Raceway (8/10/13) and registered two top-five and three top-10 finishes across four starts
Became just the third driver in the 46-year-history of the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway to register back-to-back victories (12/8/13)
With a victory in the Winchester 400 Super Late Model race at Winchester Speedway, became the sixth driver in history to post victories in both that race and the Snowball Derby (10/13/13)
Erik Jones 2012:
Won the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., outdueling KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch in the closing laps to secure the victory (2/2/12)
Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 51 Tundra:
Erik Jones picked up his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) victory in the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa
Speedway in Newton (7/11/14) and has registered an average finish of 13.3 across four starts this season
Kyle Busch has won all five of his NCWTS starts this season, capturing victories at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta
Has led 635 of the 1534 total laps this season (41.4%)
In 2013, produced a series-leading six wins (Kyle Busch -5, Erik Jones- 1), 505 laps led and 11 top-five finishes en route to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner's Championship
In 2013, Kyle Busch registered five wins, eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 7.0 across 11 starts
At the age of 17 years, five months and nine days, Erik Jones became the youngest winner in NCWTS history with his win in the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway (11/8/13)
In five starts in 2013, Jones led 84 laps en route to two top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 6.0
KBM NCWTS Program
Has won 10 of the last 13 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races dating back to Darrell Wallace Jr.'s victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last October, including seven of nine this season
Has collected two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner's Championships, 32 Truck Series victories and 14 poles across 175 starts since originating in 2010
Six different drivers have won a race for KBM, led by owner-driver Kyle Busch with 24. Erik Jones, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Denny Hamlin have produced two victories each, while Kasey Kahne and Brian Scott have all collected one win
KBM NCWTS @ Eldora
KBM Truck Series drivers have produced one top-five and two top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.0 across three starts at Eldora Speedway. Joey Coulter led the KBM charge in the inaugural Mudsummer Classic, finishing fourth and earning a team-best 11th-place starting position.
The Phillips File:
Eric Phillips, the winningest crew chief in Truck Series history, picked up his 33rd career series victory with Erik Jones at Iowa Speedway on July 11. The Illinois native has visited victory lane with nine different Truck Series drivers and 20 different tracks in his 10 seasons atop the pit box. He led KBM to a Truck Series Owner's Championship and series-leading eight wins in its inaugural campaign in 2010 and overall in four seasons at KBM has guided the team to 23 wins with five different drivers.
Wednesday night's race will mark the first time that Phillips has called the shots for a Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.