CLICK: Full race results and Camping World Truck Series championship standings.
Just hours after team boss Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover in Delaware, the two drivers competing for his Kyle Busch Motorsports NASCAR Camping World Truck team delivered a one-two, with Erik Jones beating team mate Darrell Wallace to the flag by 1.329s to claim his third win in 14 series starts and the 18-year-old's second of the season.
“That was a blast,” said a delighted Jones in victory lane after the Rhino Linings 350 under the floodlights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday night. “Getting a win on a mile-and-half, that's awesome. I couldn't ask for any more than this right here. I wanted to win here so bad.”
With the Cup and Nationwide regulars absent from the field competing across the other side of the country, Ryan Blaney succeeded in clinching pole position for the second time this year (and the fourth time in his 48-race Truck Series career) after posting a lap of 30.722s (175.770 mph) at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, 0.041s faster than Darrell Wallace Jr. in second place on the grid. That was after a red flag late in the second round caused by John Wes Townley had earlier led to confusion and caused half the field to not set a time before the end of the session.
The initial start had been quickly aborted when Mason Mingus got loose and spun in turn 4, and Wallace used the restart to get ahead of Blaney for the early lead. A second caution of the night for Bryan Silas spinning on lap 12 enabled Timothy Peters to edge ahead with Jones slipping into second and setting himself up for a successful play for the lead himself on lap 28 shortly before a pre-scheduled competition caution to enable teams to check track conditions with their first round of pit stops of the night.
Jones dropped to seventh after slightly overshooting his pit stall and having to back up, meaning that the green flag for the restart on lap 36 was taken by Peters, Wallace and Blaney, followed by championship leader Matt Crafton and German Quiroga. Jones wasted no time in recovering his lost positions and just six laps later he was already battling his team mate Wallace for second spot once again, the top three soon more then three seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Wallace led Jones past Peters to take the lead on lap 50 shortly before Jason White crashed into the wall in turn 4 on lap 56 to close the field up again; White had got into Tyler Reddick's truck as the field had compressed unexpectedly behind Quiroga who had been seeking an urgent unplanned visit to pit road to address a serious vibration issue. Another round of pit stops saw Jones once again lose positions and he was 13th when Wallace and Peters led the field to the green flag to get the race back under way again on lap 61.
Once again the setback proved purely temporary for Jones, who was challenging Crafton for third place as soon as lap 66. By the halfway point of the race, Wallace and Jones had reestablished their 1-2 dominance of the race followed by Peters, Crafton and Brian Ickler. Jones fell back a couple of spots toward the end of the stint as the field prepared for its final round of pit stops on lap 105, but after the cycle had completed it was the familiar pair at the front once more and it was clear that they intended to resolve the race win as a purely KBM in-house matter with no interference to be permitted from the outside.
Jones pulled up ever closer on the back of the #54, and on lap 133 with 14 laps to go he passed his team mate and immediately started to pull away at the front to deny Wallace a chance to respond. Jones' lead stabilised at around a second and he made sure there was no return chance for Wallace to counter-attack, while Wallace himself was under no threat for second place from Crafton who had succeeded in edging ahead of Peters and Ickler, and with no further cautions in the offing the running order stayed the same until the chequered flag came out confirming Jones' victory and leaving Wallace once again the runner-up in what he called "a bittersweet moment" despite his having led 84 of the 146 laps on the night versus just 19 laps that had been paced by Jones.
"Just got beat; I gave it my all and that was it," he admitted afterwards. "I was trying my hardest not to let him by. Lapped traffic was big here. We were just a little bit free and this thing would act wicked when you got around other cars and he just got around me, simple as that. I tried to keep it on his door and I just got loose up top. Just got beat."
"Darrell and me were talking about it in the elevator, just second and third it's good, don't get me wrong, but it's just aggravating to sit here and finish second," concurred Crafton. "I know how he feels. My team mate beat me here about four years ago; passed me right at the end of the race. I know what he's feeling right now. He's probably not going to sleep very well tonight, I can promise you that."
Third place in Vegas was more than enough to allow Crafton to retain his lead in the NASCAR Camping World Truck championship over his ThorSport Racing team mate Johnny Sauter who was suffering from loose handling and could only manage a 14th place finish this week, which means that Crafton's points lead is now up to 19. In the owners standings, the ThorSport Racing #88 driven by Crafton narrowly retains a three point lead over Jones' #51 KBM entry.
This weekend's race also saw the return of four-time former series Ron Hornaday Jr. for the first time since a financial crisis forced the shutdown of the #30 Turner Scott Motorsport team that he had previously driven for. He could only manage a 20th place finish for his new team, but Hornaday is nonetheless still in tenth position in the championship standings despite a three-race lay-off; he was in fourth place after his last regular season appearance at Bristol last month.
"I want to say thanks to Bob Newberry and Rheem for working together to give me this great opportunity to get back behind the wheel of a NCWTS Silverado," said Hornaday, in charge of the #9 NTS Motorsports truck at Las Vegas. "We have a lot of family and friends on the West Coast that will be there." Hornaday should get at least one more race outing in the Truck Series before the end of the 2014 season.
Las Vegas is the last stand-alone event for the Camping World Truck Series field in 2014, with the championship now taking two weeks off before the next race at Talladega Superspeedway on October 18. That begins a five-weekend run with races at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix before the season finale at Homestead-Miami on November 14.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Camping World Truck Series championship standings.