NCWTS: ERIK JONES Ready to Manage Another Solid Finish

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 24, 2015) – Eighteen-year-old Erik Jones started his first full-time season off on a positive note, avoiding several wrecks in his first career start at the “World Center of Racing” to bring home a runner-up finish in the season-opening event at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Now, Jones and his No. 4 Tundra team head to Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway, where the talented youngster hopes to manage another solid finish as he continues his quest to bring home Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) first-ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Driver’s Championship.

 

Saturday’s Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 will mark Jones’ first start in any series at Atlanta. After turning 18 last May and becoming eligible to participate on NASCAR’s larger tracks, the Michigan native made two Truck Series starts on mile-and-a-half tracks. After running inside the top five for the majority of the June race at Texas, a combination of the handling going away and the race turning to fuel strategy left him with an 11th-place finish at the end of the race.

 

Jones second and final Truck Series start last season on a 1.5-mile track came at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway in September. For most of the race, he ran in the second spot behind KBM teammate Darrell Wallace Jr., who led a race-high 84 laps. With 13 laps remaining, Jones worked his way around his teammate and crossed the finish line 1.329 seconds ahead to earn his second win of 2014 and KBM’s first at Las Vegas.

 

The win at Las Vegas was one of seven wins for KBM on mile-and-half tracks last season. Along with Jones’ Vegas win, owner-driver Kyle Busch was victorious at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway and the November race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, while Wallace Jr. earned his win in the season finale at Homestead (Fla.) Miami Speedway. The lone race on a 1.5-mile track that KBM did not win, was the June race at Texas, which was won by another Toyota Racing driver Matt Crafton.

 

Now Jones and the No. 4 Toyota team head to the first mile-and-a-half race of 2015 this weekend at Atlanta. The Georgia venue, which returns to the Truck Series schedule after a two-year absence, is one of just four tracks on this year’s schedule where KBM has not collected a victory since debuting in the Truck Series in 2010. Busch was on the cusp of a victory in the 2012 event, but after leading a race-high 75 laps the handling of his Tundra went away and surrendered the lead to Ty Dillon with six laps remaining. Busch held on to finish second, the same result he recorded in the 2010 event.

 

Jones developed a knack for taking care of his equipment and preserving his tires coming up through the Super Late Model ranks that allowed him to win some of the most prestigious races in the country. To manage another solid finish to start the 2015 Truck Series season, the racing prodigy will need to employ that same skill set this weekend at Atlanta on an aged surface that is known to chew up tires.

 

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 4 NCWTS Toyota Tundra:

 

Will your experience in managing your equipment in Super Late Models help you this weekend at Atlanta?

“With the speeds you reach at Atlanta being a mile-and-half it is definitely a lot harder on the tires than at the short tracks we race in late models, but I guess the concept of managing your equipment is the same, so hopefully I can apply some of it. Knowing that Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and the guys on this No. 4 Tundra team are going to give me a fast Toyota is going to help. Last year, I got my first taste of racing on the mile-and-a-half tracks and it was a pretty big learning curve at Texas, but by the time we got to Las Vegas, I felt like I had a much better handle on it. I feel pretty confident going into this weekend at Atlanta. KBM had a lot of success on these types of tracks last year and I’m looking forward to seeing how we stack up against the competition this year. I’m confident our Tundra will be really strong again this year and I’m ready to go out and compete for the win on Saturday.”

 

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 4 NCWTS Toyota Tundra:

 

With tire wear being an issue at Atlanta, does that lead to more or less strategy from the crew chiefs?

“It depends on how the cautions fall. Generally, because of the wear, you have to put four tires on if you pit. So, that eliminates thinking about taking just two tires. The strategy then shifts to when you pit and when you save your tires. So, it changes from a how many tires strategy to a when to put tires on strategy. From coming up through the late model ranks and winning some of the longer races, Erik knows how to take care of his equipment and save his tires, so that should help. He was really good about managing the race in his win last year at Las Vegas, but Atlanta is a little bit more abrasive on tires, so he’ll have to keep that in the back of his head.”

 

Erik Jones’ No. 4 Toyota Tundra:

 

KBM-15: The No. 4 Toyota Racing team will unload chassis KBM-15 for Saturday’s Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway. The Tundra collected two wins in 2014, winning twice from the pole with Kyle Busch behind the wheel and leading 254 of the 367 total laps combined between races at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (5/9/14) and Dover (Del.) International Speedway (5/30/14). Overall in nine career starts, KBM-15 has recorded three wins, six top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

 

KBM-15 Performance Profile:

 Date

Site

Driver

Start

Finish

Laps

Laps Led

Status

8/16/14

Michigan

Ky. Busch

11

5

100/100

14

Running

8/2/14

Pocono

Jones

13

6

64/64

0

Running

5/30/14

Dover

Ky. Busch

1

1

200/200

150

Running

5/9/14

Kansas

Ky. Busch

1

1

167/167

104

Running

4/20/13

Kansas

Ky. Busch

7

27

90/167

11

Accident

5/17/13

Charlotte

Ky. Busch

4

1

134/134

80

Running

6/27/13

Kentucky

Ky. Busch

6

3

150/150

42

Running

8/17/13

Michigan

Ky. Busch

7

2

100/100

33

Running

9/28/13

Las Vegas

Hackenbracht

10

17

146/146

0

Running

 

Notes of Interest:

 

Erik Jones @ Atlanta:

  • Entering this weekend, Jones has not made a start in any series at Atlanta 

Erik Jones 2015

  • With his runner-up finish in the season-opening NCWTS event at Daytona, currently ranks second in the driver point standings and leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year and Mobil 1 Driver of the Year standings
  • Qualified sixth and finished 18th in the Alert Today Florida 300 NASCAR XFINITY race at Daytona 

Erik Jones NCWTS Career Stats:

 

Year

Races

Win

Top 5

Top 10

Pole

Laps

Led

Earnings

AvSt

AvFn

RAF

Miles

LLF

2013

5

1

2

5

0

1017

84

$91,860

13.2

6.0

5

847.0

5

2014

12

3

5

8

2

1789

300

$240,336

6.1

9.2

11

2030.0

9

2015

1

0

1

1

0

100

0

$58,057

7.0

2.0

1

250.0

1

Totals

18

4

8

14

2

2906

384

$390,253

8.1

7.9

17

3127.0

15

 

Erik Jones 2014

  • Collected three wins (Iowa Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway), two poles, five top-five and eight top-10 finishes across 12 NCWTS starts
  • Despite competing in just 12 of the 22 NCWTS events, ranked third among all drivers in laps led (300)
  • Recorded top-10 finishes in all three of his NASCAR XFINITY Series starts for Joe Gibbs Racing

Erik Jones 2013

  • His victory in the November event at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway at the time made him the youngest winner in the history of the NCWTS at 17 years, five months and nine days old
  • Became the first 16-year-old to compete in a NCWTS race since KBM owner Kyle Busch in October of 2001, went on to finish ninth in his debut at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and recorded top-10 finishes in all five of his series starts
  • Collected first ARCA Racing Series victory at Berlin (Mich.) Raceway 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 in Pensacola, Fla., to register back-to-back victories after outdueling KBM owner Kyle Busch for the win in 2012 

Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Tundra:

  • The No. 4 team currently ranks second in the 2015 NCWTS Owner’s Championship point standings
  • Eight members of this  year’s No. 4 Tundra team, four primary crew members and four members of the over-the-wall crew, were a part of last year’s Owner’s Championship-winning No. 51 team
  • Erik Jones was a key contributor to KBM’s No. 51 Tundra team winning back-to-back Owner’s Championships while driving a part-time schedule each of the last two seasons 

KBM NCWTS Program

  • Has collected three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner’s Championships, 39 Truck Series victories and 18 poles across 204 starts since originating in 2010
  • 39 career Truck Series victories as an organization ranks third all-time behind Roush (50) and Kevin Harvick Inc. (43)
  • 14 victories as an organization during the 2014 season broke the Truck Series record of 12 set by Ultra Motorsports in 2001
  • Has won 5 of the last 7 races, dating back to Erik Jones win at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway last September
  • Six different drivers have won a race for KBM, led by owner-driver Kyle Busch with 26. Darrell Wallace Jr. collected five victories, Erik Jones has posted  four wins, Denny Hamlin produced two victories and Kasey Kahne and Brian Scott both collected one triumph
  • Has collected victories at 17 of the 21 tracks on the 2015 schedule, excluding Atlanta Motor Speedway, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Michigan International Speedway and Pocono Raceway

KBM NCWTS @ Atlanta Motor Speedway

KBM drivers have collected three top-five and three top-10 finishes across five starts at Atlanta resulting in an Average Finish of 8.2. The Georgia track is one of just four tracks on the 2015 schedule where the organization has yet to earn a victory. Team owner-driver Kyle Busch came home in the runner-up position in both the 2010 and 2012 events, while his second starting position for the 2010 race is also a team best.

 

The Fugle File:

Ryan “Rudy” Fugle will call the shots for Erik Jones’ championship campaign in the Truck Series in 2015. The New York native led KBM’s No. 51 Tundra team to a series-leading six wins, including Jones’ first-career victory at Phoenix International Raceway, an Owner’s Championship as crew chief in 2013. He also contributed to an additional 11 wins in his role as race engineer for the organization during the 2012 and 2014 seasons. Before coming to KBM, Fugle held crew chief positions in both the Truck Series and XFINITY Series with Germain Racing.

 

Saturday’s 130-lap event will mark the first time Fugle has called the shots for a Truck Series event at Atlanta. Michael Annett finished 21st in the 2010 XFINITY Series race at the 1.54-mile track with the New York native atop the pit box.

 

Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 4 Toyota Tundra 2015 NCWTS Box Score:

 

Date

Site

Driver

Start

Finish

Laps

Laps Led

Status

Driver Pts./Pos.

Money Won

2/20

Daytona

Jones

7

2

100/100

0

running

42/2nd

$58,057

2/28

Atlanta

Jones

 

-KBM-