Jones Becomes Youngest Series Winner
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on November 8, 2013 | 10:42 P.M. EST
Erik Jones scored his first Camping World Truck Series win Friday night, coming in his fifth series start. (Photo: Getty Images)
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Kyle Busch saw it earlier this year. NASCAR saw it Friday night.
Seventeen-year-old Erik Jones, driving one of Busch’s Toyota trucks, showed some of the flair of his boss, passing Ross Chastain with nine laps to go to win the Camping World Series Truck race at Phoenix International Raceway. Jones become the youngest winner in series history.
Matt Crafton finished fifth and needs only to start next week’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch his first series title.
Earlier this year, Busch brought Jones to a test at Kentucky Speedway and let the teen drive on the 1.5-mile speedway. It took Jones only four laps to come close to Busch’s lap time.
“Kyle came over to me and said,’’ crew chief Ryan Fugle said, “That’s the next Kyle Busch.’’
Jones, making only his fifth career start, led a race-high 84 laps Friday night and gained the attention of those he beat.
“Kid looked like Kyle Busch tonight,’’ said third-place finisher Brendan Gaughan.
Jones outdueled Chastain late for the lead late.
“On the last restart, we stayed with him through (Turns) 1 and 2 on the top side and he squeezed us up, but that’s racing with under 10 to go,’’ Jones said. “You can’t blame him for that. When something like that happens, it makes you more determined than you were before. I felt like we had a better truck. Really felt it was our race all day and didn’t want to let it slip away.’’
Jones completed the pass and won by 1.6 seconds to also help Toyota secure the manufacturer's championship.
Chastain walked away disappointed with an opportunity lost.
Chastain said he won’t be back with Brad Keselowsi Racing next season.
“This is a money-driven sport and I don’t have any money,’’ Chastain said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. If I can find a ride great. If not, I’ll go back to the watermelon farm and watch the races on TV.’’
Chastain said he couldn’t hold off Jones late, saying he should have called for a different adjustment before the last pit stop.
“I complained about the wrong thing,’’ Chastain said. “That’s on me a little bit. Only running 14 races this year, it’s hard to come to the racetrack each week and know how to respond to the characteristics the truck has. I’m out of it for a few weeks, sometimes a month at a time. I’m not racing anything else. I don’t have money to go run a Late Model. This is it. This is what I’m trying to do and it’s tough.’’
Crafton said it’s been tough the last several races maintaining his points advantage. Now, he won’t have to worry about it, as he holds a 46-point lead on Ty Dillon, who finished fourth.
“It’s going to feel good to go Homestead and just forget about everything and race like hell,’’ said Crafton, who admits points racing has not been fun. “It’s been tough. You can say it don’t bother you, but it does. It’s tough to deal with.’’
He no longer has to worry about because in a few days he will be known as a champion.