Erik Jones made his way to victory lane in Canada on Sunday afternoon after late misfortunes for Alex Tagliani, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick allowed the teenager to capture not only the race win itself but also the top of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship standings with eight races remaining in 2015.
"It was a blast,” Jones said. "It was nerve-wracking. It's a little intense when you've got a guy like [Tagliani] running you down for 15 laps!
"We had a good truck last year, and we were able to do some improving on our Tundra to get it to where it needed to be for this year,” he added. "I was able to improve on myself and fix some of my mistakes this year as well and get a little bit better."
Full race results from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and updated Camping World Truck Series championship standings.
Veteran racer and road course specialist Alex Tagliani succeeded in taking his second pole in two Truck outings with a lap of 80.084s (110.539mph) during Saturday afternoon qualifying at the 2.459-mile, ten-turn asphalt Canadian Tire Motorsport Park road course in Bowmanville, Ontario.
Starting the Chevrolet Silverado 250 alongside the Brad Keselowski Racing driver was Kyle Busch Motorsports' Erik Jones, while reigning champion Matt Crafton lined up in the ThorSport Racing #88 alongside Tagliani's team mate Tyler Reddick on the second row for the green flag.
Tagliani duly led for the first six laps of the race until he made a strategically early green flag pit stop that allowed Jones to take over at the front, soon building up a large lead of more than three seconds over Crafton. Both men made a dive for pit lane on lap 14 just as the caution flags came out for Josh Reaume stalling in turn 8 in the Lind Racing #44.
The pit stops meant that ThorSport's Cameron Hayley was promoted to the front with Tagliani in second, but a poor start for the Canadian home hero saw him drop back and opened the door for Jones to apply some serious pressure on Hayley for the lead. Hayley held up well and refused to allow Jones to get the upper hand, and instead it was the JGR #4 that came out of the clash with some left front damage just before a new caution on lap 18 after series newcomer Daniel Brown buried the MB Motorsports #63 into the tyres at turn 8.
At the restart, Hayley again rebuffed Jones' advances, and Jones lost momentum and dropped back to fourth place as a result, allowing JR Motorsports' Cole Custer to momentarily take up second place only for the #00 to get loose and promptly hand the position back to Tagliani who then carried the fight to Hayley. As the two trucks ahead of him bumped and clashed for the lead, Custer was able to take advantage and capture the lead for the first time on lap 26 with Tagliani having to settle for second again after Hayley dropped to 19th following a visit to pit lane.
Custer picked up the lead again after a round of green flag pit stops cycled through on lap 40, with Erik Jones having been boosted into second by his stop ahead of Red Horse Racing' Ben Kennedy, dropping Tagliani back to fourth. A heavy crash in turn 2 for GMS Racing's Brandon Jones brought out the third caution of the day on lap 44, and Custer and Jones stayed out to lead the restart despite a rapid return to caution for Matt Tifft hitting the wall.
With the #00 once again getting loose and then spinning while trying to fight off Tagliani, Erik Jones was able to spring to the front at the next restart with 12 to go with Tagliani in second and Kennedy, Crafton and Johnny Sauter some way back. A caution for points leader Tyler Reddick hitting the wall in turn 8 after clashing with Gray Gaulding (Kyle Busch Motorsports) set up a two-lap sprint showdown to decide the race.
Tagliani wasn't able to capitalise on the opportunity presented by the restart, and in any case it became academic when the #29 lost a gear on the final lap causing him to drop down the running order and leave the road to the chequered flag wide open for Jones to pick up his sixth victory in 32 Truck races and his second win in 2015.
"It was pretty much good all race," said Tagliani. "I felt a couple of times it was kind of scratchy on the downshift, but no sign it was going to be bad. As soon as I put third gear on the back straight, it just went ... I put it in fourth and it just kind of limped all the way back home."
Behind Jones, wily campaigner Matt Crafton benefited from Tagliani's late misfortune to pick up second ahead of Kennedy, with Daniel Hemric (NTS Motorsports_ in fourth. Tagliani was able to hold on to fifth ahead of Sauter, and the top ten was rounded out by Hayley, Spencer Gallagher (GMS Racing), John Hunter Nemechek (SWM-NEMCO Motorsports) and Custer who recovered to cross the line in tenth.
Reddick's late accident saw him classified in 19th place, and as a result he loses the lead of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings. Erik Jones assumes control in his stead, albeit by just three points over Crafton, with Reddick dropping back to third place heading into round 16 of the 2015 season - the American Ethanol E15 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 18.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Camping World Truck Series championship standings.
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