Even when Kyle Busch doesn’t show up for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, he still wins.
Busch, a winner of all five truck races he’s entered in 2014, didn’t make the trip to Iowa Speedway for Friday night’s American Ethanol 200, but watched from afar as Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Erik Jones held off Ryan Blaney to score his second career win.
Jones, who is sharing the No. 51 KBM Toyota with Busch this season, took the lead from Blaney on pit road under the race’s final caution with just under 75 laps left, and then withstood a stiff challenge from Blaney in the closing laps to deliver the seventh win for KBM in nine races this season.
Jones, who last November at Phoenix became the youngest winner in truck series history at 17 years, five months and nine days old, became the seventh different truck winner at Iowa in his ninth career series start.
With Blaney holding on for second, reigning series champion Matt Crafton, Joey Coulter and German Quiroga completed the top five, as Crafton took over the series championship lead from teammate Johnny Sauter, who fell to third in the standings and seven points out of first. Sandwiched between them, and two points in arrears of Crafton, is Blaney, who with his runner-up finish on Friday night made it seven top-10s in nine starts this season.
It was Jones — making just his fourth start of the season — who was celebrating in Victory Lane, however.
"That was awesome," said Jones, who turned 18 years old on May 30. "We definitely drove it hard and there was nothing left in that thing there at the end."
Blaney, the son of Sprint Cup Series veteran Dave Blaney, never led after losing the top spot on pit road under the final round of stops, but made a furious bid for the lead with just over 15 laps remaining as Jones negotiated heavy lapped traffic.
The two drivers went side-by-side momentarily, even bouncing off one another but holding on, before Jones inched back ahead and drove away never to be challenged again.
"If I would have come out of the pits with the lead, it might have played out a little bit differently," said Blaney, who was seeking his third career truck win and first of the season. "Erik was really good on the short run, and I knew that. I got really loose under him trying to make a move."
Jones, likewise, chalked up the contact with Blaney to little more than a typical short-track battle.
"Great race there with Ryan," Jones said. "He’s great competitor and a great guy to race against. He raced me hard and raced me clean and I thought we showed a lot of respect for each other.
"Finally got side-by-side with him and held him off. We made a little contact, but it was nothing more than a little short-track racing."
Blaney, a Brad Keselowski Racing driver, was disappointed to see Kyle Busch Motorsports’ dominance continue, even as the organization’s owner watched from New Hampshire Motor Speedway where he is on hand for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race.
"I’m tired of seeing that truck back in Victory Lane," Blaney said of the No. 51 being shared by Busch and Jones. "We’ve got to get a Ford back in there and we’ve got to get one for Brad Keselowski Racing."
While Blaney and Jones were on good terms after dualing it out for the win, the same couldn’t be said for Timothy Peters and Ron Hornaday — two drivers who have tangled on multiple occasions in the still-relatively young season.
Racing for position in the top 10 on Lap 62 of 200, the two veteran truckers locked together on the frontstretch, with Peters squeezing Hornaday into the outside wall.
Clearly upset about the contact, Peters sped to Hornaday’s inside, and drove straight up into Hornaday’s left-rear quarter panel, spinning the four-time series champion and bringing out the caution.
Afterward, Peters was still fuming about the initial contact that sent him behind the wall for repairs.
"Lap 60 my spotter said clear," Peters told FOX Sports 1. "Whether I was or not, I don’t know whose fault it was. Really don’t care. All I know is we had two tore-up trucks. I feel like sometimes in the past when I’ve race with Ron I’d cut him a lot of slack early in the run when I feel like he may crowd me. Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve — it doesn’t matter. I didn’t like it. I hated that both of our trucks got tore up, and that’s that."