Consistency is what 17-year-old Erik Jones proved during his return visit to Iowa Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS). What was thought to be a dominating truck after laying down the second fastest lap in qualifying proved to be a bear during the Fan Appreciation 200 at Iowa Speedway in Newton. Jones had his hands full, but managed to cross the finish line in the ninth position - his fourth consecutive top-10 finish in four career starts behind the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) No. 51 Toyota Tundra.
"We just missed it in the race," Jones said. "I was really confident after how strong the truck was on Saturday during practice and qualifying, but after the first few laps of the race, I knew I was going to have a long day. Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) did everything he could for me today. You'll have days like today and I'm thankful we were able to keep the top-10 streak going. We have one more shot in November at Phoenix. I've never been there but I've heard a lot about it and I'm really anxious to get back in this Toyota Tundra for KBM."
On Saturday, the Byron, Mich. native qualified his ToyotaCare Tundra in the second position - missing the pole by a mere .016 seconds - but his KBM team was confident they had a solid truck for the 200-lap event on Sunday. When the green flag dropped however, Jones quickly realized they might be in a little trouble.
Running within the top-five, but fighting an extremely tight Toyota Tundra, Jones didn't hesitate to file down pit road as soon as the first of six caution flags waved on lap 38. Crew chief Ryan Fugle called for four tires, fuel, and a trackbar adjustment in effort to aid in the handling on his No. 51 machine. Unfortunately, that wasn't the trick and Jones continued to battle with his ToyotaCare Tundra over the long green-flag run.
Jones' next opportunity for an adjustment came on lap 121 when the KBM pit crew was challenged to a green flag pit stop. Four tires including an air pressure adjustment was the call for the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra, but a minor hiccup during the stop placed Jones a lap down to the leaders and scored in the ninth position.
As the race continued, Jones battled a Toyota Tundra that he defined as "unbalanced", going from wicked tight to wrecking loose. Eight laps later, to his luck, a caution was brought out due to debris. Jones was the recipient of the "Lucky Dog" and with nothing to lose was commanded down pit road for a third time. Fugle and crew executed a four tire and fuel stop with another track bar adjustment.
Back on the lead lap in ninth, Jones made every effort he could to keep his No. 51 Tundra in the top 10. With its temper still on the tight side, especially on restarts, Jones was shuffled back as far back as 13th in the late stages of the race. When the fourth caution of the afternoon was displayed on lap 189 for a two-truck accident in Turn 2, Fugle opted to bring Jones to pit road for four tires, since he was the last truck on the lead lap, in a final effort to salvage what they could for the day. However, the team was penalized for jumping the wall too early and Jones was sent to the tail end of the longest line with less than 10 laps remaining in the event.
On lap 197 the caution was brought out for the fifth time allowing Jones to catch-up with the leaders. Scored 12th, the field attempted their first of two green-white-checkered finishes, but was quickly slowed for a sixth time when KBM teammate, Joey Coulter, and Brendan Gaughan collided entering Turn 1. When the green reappeared, Jones was able to claim one more position, crossing the line ninth after 212 laps. The solid finish was the rookie's fourth top 10 in four career NCWTS starts.
James Buescher won the 2nd Annual Fan Appreciation 200 presented by New Holland, his second win of the 2013 season. Ross Chastain (second) posted his first top-5 finish in four races at Iowa Speedway. Ty Dillon (third) posted his third top-10 finish in four races at Iowa Speedway. Johnny Sauter finished fourth and Jones' KBM teammate, Darrell Wallace Jr. was the highest finishing rooking in fifth.
The field was slowed six times for 35 laps and the race set a track record for the most lead changes in a NCWTS race at Iowa Speedway with 12.