Erik Jones becomes youngest Camping World Truck Series champion
Basically needing just to avoid disaster in Friday night’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 200 to clinch the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title, young Erik Jones took care of business.
With a sixth-place finish, the 19-year-old Kyle Busch Motorsports driver beat Brad Keselowski Racing’s Tyler Reddick and ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton in the standings to become the youngest champion in Truck Series history at just 19 years, 5 months and 21 days old.
While Crafton finished the season with a series-leading sixth win earned in dominant fashion, and Reddick crossed the finish line third on Friday night, their efforts weren’t enough to overtake Jones, who delivered the first truck drivers title for Kyle Busch Motorsports while helping secure the organization's third consecutive owner title, and fourth overall.
"We've got to move on to next year, and hopefully we can plug away at it and get a championship done for our team," Reddick said. "I know what second place feels like now, and I really don't like it too much. So if I didn't have enough reasons to win the championship, I've got one more."
"It's been awesome," the two-time champion said. "It's been like a dream season. We just had too many mistakes, but in 2016 we're going to be stronger from it."
Jones, a Byron, Michigan native and Joe Gibbs Racing development driver, first gained fame when he captured the prestigious Snowball Derby Late Model race in 2012 by outdueling Busch, his future boss, in the final laps.
"I never would have expected to get beat by him in that race," Busch said. "The last run of the race he did a great job, we raced clean, we raced hard and he scored the victory. I knew he was going to be good that day."
Jones' performance helped convince Busch to offer him a part-time ride with KBM in 2013, which led to another partial schedule in 2014 and then a full season this year.
"I'm thankful that he stuck with me and he believed in what our plan was for him to give him this shot and to give him this opportunity," Busch said.
Now with a truck title under his belt, Jones is headed for a full-time XFINITY Series ride with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2016.
"The XFINITY Series is completely necessary," Jones said. "I have no problem with running a year, as long as I need be there. I don't know what the exact career path is for me down the road, and at some point, yeah, I want to race in the Cup Series every weekend, and I feel like there's a plan in place for that opportunity to arise, and I'll just keep taking what's given to me every week and go out and try to win races."