Michigan's Erik Jones fills in, finishes second in Trucks race

By Dan Gelston
Associated Press
Erik Jones (18) drives past Grant Enfinger (98) in Turn 3 on Saturday. Jones, a Michigan native, made his first start in the Truck Series in two years.

Long Pond, Pa. — Kyle Busch stood on the window ledge of his truck, raised his arms in triumph and then slapped an appropriate number on the roof for a record-tying celebration.

Driving the No. 51 Toyota, Busch won his 51st career race in Trucks  matching the series record.

Busch held off Michigan native Erik Jones down the stretch to win the NASCAR Trucks race Saturday at Pocono Raceway and tie the record for most career wins in the series.

“It’s kind of funny the way the numbers work out, isn’t it?” Busch said.

Busch matched NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Ron Hornaday Jr. on the list with 51 wins. Hornaday needed 296 starts to reach his 51st win; Busch won his in just his 145th career start. Hornaday made 360 career starts and failed to win a race in his last three seasons.

Busch also won for the 191st time over the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series.

“It’s been a true testament just to the people I’ve worked with and the race teams I’ve been able to score wins with over the course of my career,” Busch said. “It certainly comes from a lot of great people and getting the job done.”

Busch’s burnout sparked flames on the front stretch and a crew was dispatched to put out the fire.

Busch, the 2015 NASCAR Cup champion, is not scheduled to race in Trucks for his Kyle Busch Motorsports team again this season.

He was pushed hard by Jones down the stretch and they battled side-by-side for the lead. But Busch shook off Jones  the two are teammates in Cup for Joe Gibbs  and pulled away over the final laps and won for the second time in the series this season.

“They had a better truck than us this weekend,” Busch said. “I knew Erik was going to be fast in that truck. I wish we were a tick faster. But being a little bit slower, we put on a better show. Erik was able to run me down and get there.”

Dalton Sargeant, Stewart Friesen and Justin Haley completed the top five.

Noah Gragson, who won this season at Kansas, was scratched because of a stomach virus. Jones subbed for Gragson and made his first start in the series in two years. He won the Truck Series championship driving for KBM in 2015.

“I normally wouldn’t say this but I felt very confident in my opportunity to go to victory lane today,” Gragson tweeted. “We were fastest yesterday in both race trim and qualifying trim during practice. Super bummed I cannot compete today.”

He also tweeted, “I DO NOT QUIT.”

Busch said he didn’t know much about the illness that sidelined Gragson and cracked he hoped he never got sick on race weekend.

“There’s more opportunity for people to hold you out of the race, which is scary,” Busch said.

Busch led 43 of 60 laps and finished a whopping 17.120 seconds ahead of Sargeant in third.