Date: July 28, 2018
Event: Gander Outdoors 150 (Race 14 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS)
Location: Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. (2.5-mile tri-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 15 laps/15 laps/30 laps
Start/Finish: 31st/2nd (Running, completed 60 of 60 laps)
Winner: Kyle Busch of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)
After Noah Gragson was not cleared to race by NASCAR following a trip to the infield care center during qualifying to address a stomach virus, 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Erik Jones strapped into the Safelite AutoGlass Tundra on short notice and produced a runner-up finish for the No. 18 team in Saturday’s Gander Outdoors 150 at Pocono Raceway. Jones started from the 31st position but quickly maneuvered his way through the field and nearly ended the day in victory lane with a strong Tundra that Gragson was fastest with in Friday’s final practice session.
The Safelite AutoGlass Tundra was scored in the third position when the Final Stage went green but after a hard-fought battle to get into the runner-up position, Jones found himself over two seconds behind his teammate and owner Kyle Busch with 19 laps remaining. The pupil ran down the teacher and was able to attempt a pass for the lead with nine laps remaining but his momentum was impeded by a lap truck and after having to fall back in behind Busch ended up finishing 1.469 seconds behind him.
Despite missing the race, Gragson remained second in the Truck Series regular season point standings and will be granted a medical waiver from NASCAR to remain eligible for the playoffs.
Stage One Recap:
- Jones started from the 31st position but was inside the top 10 by lap eight. Before the end of Stage One, the former series champion maneuvered his way all the way up to the fourth position.
Stage Two Recap:
- When pit road opened, crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned the Safelite Tundra to pit road for four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel.
- Jones was scored in the seventh position when Stage Two went green on lap 19. He worked his way into the second spot on lap 22 and passed Busch for the lead on lap 27.
- Working the strategy backwards from the end of the race, Fugle elected to make the final pit stop of the day one lap later. Once again the Safelite over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop and retuned the No. 18 Toyota to the track in the 18th position to complete Stage Two.
Final Stage Recap:
- With the top-12 trucks hitting pit road between stages, Jones moved up to the third position when the Final Stage went green on lap 35.
- Jones had to battle Dalton Sargeant for several laps to make his way into the runner-up position. Once he worked his way past the rookie, he was left with the task of chasing down Busch, who was over two seconds ahead with 19 laps remaining.
- The Safelite Tundra slowly narrowed the gap and with nine laps remaining closed to Busch’s bumper. After the two exited Turn 1, Jones moved to the inside of Busch and the two raced side-by-side into the Tunnel turn. Jones’ rear bumper was even with Busch’s front bumper, but a lap truck forced Jones to move up the track and to avoid making contact Jones had to take his foot off the accelerator and settled in behind Busch.
- Jones would end up finishing in the second position. It was his 20th top-five finish across 40 career Truck Series starts.
Erik Jones, driver of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
How was it jumping in the Tundra on the fly?
“Yeah, I mean, it was definitely a surprise, you know? I didn’t think that I’d be running a Truck race today, but it was fun. Hoped in after final practice and got the final fitment done in the seat and everything and it – it was a little snug. Noah’s (Gragson) a little smaller than me I believe, but it was close and we went out and the truck was great. I mean, I asked Rudy (Fugle) – I said, ‘You know, driving this thing today, did you at least give me a pretty good truck,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I think it’s pretty fast,’ so definitely had good speed and I think really if we could have gotten out front at the end, we would have – we probably could held Kyle (Busch) off, but just got stuck on the bottom on that restart and lost a couple spots and just took too long to get through traffic to go up and challenge, but it was a fun day.”
How difficult is it to mentally prepare for a race in a hurry?
“I think I first found out maybe after the first practice – just before second practice, final practice today – but, I mean, yeah. You’re definitely changing your mindset getting into a Truck race. I was planning on probably going back and taking a nap and catching the end of the Truck race, so, you know, had to really kind of reset and try to think back. I don’t really have any notes with me here on Truck racing and had to think back to what I did here I guess three years ago in the trucks, so just trying to remember that and, you know, talked to Kyle (Busch) a little before the race, looked at some old data that I had from a test here a few years ago and just tried to refresh my memory and get in the mode of what we had to do. I knew it was going to be a little challenging coming from the back and obviously not being in the truck all day I didn’t know how it drove. I don’t know how Noah (Gragson) drives his trucks and so it was a lot of things that go through your head, but we had a great truck. We fired off and it was very quick and we were able to get up to the front pretty fast.”
Gander Outdoors 150 Recap:
- Busch collected his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2018 and the 51st of his career. With the win, he moved into a tie with Ron Hornaday Jr. for most wins in Truck Series history. Jones finished 1.469 second behind Busch in the runner-up spot. Sargeant finished third while Stewart Friesen and Justin Haley rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured two cautions for a total of eight laps. There were nine lead changes among six drivers. Jones led once for one lap.
How Jones’ KBM Teammates Fared:
- Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished first
- Todd Gilliland, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished seventh
NCWTS Driver Championship Standings:
Despite missing the race, Gragson remained second in the Truck Series championship standings, 65 tallies behind championship leader Johnny Sauter. Gragson has earned 12 playoff points this season.
Gragson will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action Aug. 11 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Pa. Live coverage of Corrigan Oil 200 begins Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on FS1.