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Jul 29, 2014 - 05:41 PM
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2014 Pocono: Eric Jones NASCAR Truck Race Preview
Posted by: newsla on Jul 29, 2014 - 05:36 PM
2014 Pocono: Eric Jones NASCAR Truck Race Preview

When Erik Jones found out what 12 races would make up his 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule, the Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway was one that he immediately circled. The 18-year-old will be making his first Truck Series start at the "Tricky Triangle" after two heartbreaking starts last season in the ARCA Racing Series.


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Jones started fifth in his first visit to the 2.5-mile tri-oval last season in the ARCA Racing Series, but was able to work his way to the front of the field on lap 23. The Michigan native had a nine-second lead when he ran out of fuel on lap 43 and had to coast down pit road to the attention of his crew. As he was coasting back a caution occurred, which meant after making his stop under caution he was placed at the back of the field for the ensuing restart per the rule book. The talented youngster maneuvered his way back to the second position with 10 laps remaining, but was five seconds behind leader Chase Elliott. In the closing laps Jones closed to within a half-second of Elliott, but was left with a disappointing runner-up finish.

The racing prodigy was once again in the field when the ARCA Racing Series returned to Pocono in August and this time around he qualified fourth. Jones led a race-high 25 laps and had a five-second lead on the field in the closing stages of the race when heartbreak struck again. His No. 15 Toyota brushed the wall and moments later experienced an issue with the engine, sending him to the garage for the final two laps and leaving him with a disappointing 12th-place finish.

Jones' is now handed the task of getting Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) its first win at Pocono Raceway. In the four Truck Series events at the Pennsylvania track, KBM drivers have twice posted runner-up finishes - Kasey Kahne in the inaugural visit in 2010 and Kyle Busch in 2011. With Darrell Wallace Jr.'s win at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio last week, Pocono is one of just three tracks currently on the Truck Series schedule that the team has yet to conquer. Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario and Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway are the other two.

Jones will have a fast Tundra underneath him as he returns to the "Tricky Triangle" seeking redemption for his two heartbreaking finishes in the ARCA Racing Series last season. Crew chief Eric Phillips and his No. 51 team will be unloading a Toyota that has won in each of its two starts this season. KBM-15 visited victory lane with Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Not only did the truck win those races, it dominated. Busch won both events from the pole and led 254 of the combined 367 laps between the two.

Erik Jones, Driver of the No. 51 NCWTS ToyotaCare Tundra:

You came so close to winning both of your ARCA starts at Pocono last year only to have heartbreaking endings. Do you feel like Pocono is a track that owes you one?
"A little bit -- when you come that close, you feel like you should really have a win at a track. You just have to move on from that and concentrate on going out this time around and doing everything that you can to finally get that win. I know that Eric (Phillips, crew chief) and the guys will unload a fast ToyotaCare Tundra for me this weekend. Hopefully, we can continue the success that Toyota, KBM and this No. 51 team has achieved all year and I can go out and pick up that elusive win at Pocono."

Although the ARCA cars drive differently, do you feel the strong runs you had last year will give you confidence going into this weekend's Truck Series race?
"We were really fast in both ARCA races last year and that gives me a lot of confidence heading into Saturday's Truck Series race. I feel like a lot of things will be similar between racing the ARCA car and racing my ToyotaCare Tundra at Pocono. I just can't wait to get on track for practice on Friday and see what we have."

Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 51 NCWTS ToyotaCare Tundra:

How will adding 10 laps affect this year's race?
"It will probably change the fuel strategy and take it from being a one-stop race to a two-stop race. When it was 50 laps, once you got into your fuel window it was really easy to make just one stop knowing you can go just over 30 laps on fuel. Depending on how things play out, you may still be able to make it on one stop, but it would be really tight with a green-white-checkered finish. You are going to see people trying to save fuel as soon as the engines are fired."

Erik Jones' No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra:

KBM-15: The No. 51 ToyotaCare team will unload chassis KBM-15 for Saturday's Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The Tundra has been perfect this season, winning twice from the pole with Kyle Busch behind the wheel and leading 254 of the 367 total laps combined between the races at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (5/9/14) and Dover (Del.) International Speedway (5/30/14). In 2013, the Toyota had three top-three finishes in five starts, including a win with Busch at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

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