Erik Jones capped his long and busy day by blistering the field in Friday’s WinStar World Casino and Resort 350 at Texas Motor Speedway.
After qualifying sixth earlier in the day as a replacement driver for Matt Kenseth in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, Jones jumped in his No. 4 Toyota Tundra and made quick work of his competitors.
He affirmed his status as front-runner for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season title with an almost three-second victory over Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Daniel Suarez.
The season here at Texas has been good. I really didn’t like here at first, but I got better and better and now it’s one of my favorite mile-and-a-halves to go to.
Erik Jones, who won the Xfinity race in April and the Truck race on Friday night.
By the time he had finished thanking his sponsors, Jones had increased his lead in the season standings to 17 points over two-time defending champion Matt Crafton and 22 over Tyler Reddick.
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Those two finished fourth and fifth to Jones, who won for the second time overall at TMS this season and first time in three Truck starts at the track.
In April, the 19-year-old drove to victory in his first start in the Xfinity Series at TMS.
“The truck being as good as it was and being able to take the lead early set the precedent for the night. We really didn’t have to make many adjustments,” said Jones, who captured his third victory and 18th top-10 finish in 2015.
“The season here at Texas has been good. I really didn’t like here at first, but I got better and better and now it’s one of my favorite mile-and-a-halves to go to.”
That Jones conquered Crafton, his closest competitor and considered the series’ maestro on 1 1/2 -mile tracks, made the result all the more impactful.
This will definitely make the other two [races] go a little easier starting off on this foot.
Erik Jones, who will race in all three races this weekend at TMS.
The race, completed in 1 hour, 23 minutes, was the fastest on record at TMS in the Truck Series with an average speed of 158.002 mph, the second fastest in the history of the circuit.
The race also featured the fewest cautions in a Truck race at TMS, one for five laps.
The race was the first of three this weekend for Jones, who will run in Saturday’s Xfinity O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge and take over in the No. 20 for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
If he finishes all three races as expected, he’ll have racked up 681 laps at TMS.
“This will definitely make the other two go a little easier starting off on this foot,” Jones said. “In the Xfinity race, I think we’re all excited … we have a good car for that. The Cup race, for me, not having a lot of experience, we’ll go with the flow on that.”
On Friday, he became only the third driver to win Xfinity and Truck Series races at TMS, joining his boss, Kyle Busch.
In doing so, Jones faced little resistance in appearing to solve some of the problems that have plagued him the past six weeks. Those struggles were quantified by the 647 laps led in the first 10 weeks of the season and only 55 in the last 10.
He led 117 of the race’s 147 laps.
Suarez earned his second consecutive runner-up finish in as many starts at TMS.
“It’s a tough racetrack, honestly,” said Suarez, a native of Monterrey, Mexico. “It’s been pretty good for me, so far. Hopefully, we can get a win before the season is over.
“My first second place I was happy. I’m not happy anymore.”
The circuit next heads to Phoenix, where Jones has won the past two years.
“We needed this to get back on track,” Jones said. “To win the way we did and lead as many laps as we did. That’s a really nice statement for us.”