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After two months of frustrating losses, Erik Jones finally found his way back to victory lane.
Erik Jones outpaced the field from the pole in his No. 4 Special Olympics World Games Toyota to win the American Ethanol 200, his fifth-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory, and the first of a tumultuous 2015 campaign. The Berne, Michigan native led 112 out of 200 laps in the victory, his second-consecutive triumph at the .875-mile track.
Brandon Jones scored a career-high second-place finish after electing to take two tires on the race’s final pit stop. A former winner at Iowa Speedway in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Jones led four laps in the runner-up performance, his first laps led in 2015.
Tyler Reddick and Matt Crafton came home in third and fourth, respectively, to continue a tight points battle. While Crafton finished a position behind Reddick, the two-time defending champion led 33 laps during the race to score a bonus point and draw the contenders even for the race.
Christopher Bell ended an impressive series debut with a fifth-place result. Driving the No. 51 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Bell methodically worked his way from the 10th starting position to claim a top-five finish.
Timothy Peters and Spencer Gallagher used the same two-tire call as Brandon Jones to finish in sixth and seventh. Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and John Wes Townley fought back after being lapped in the early stages of the race to round out the top 10.
Coming off a win in Tuesday’s Battle at Berlin 251 late model race, Erik Jones won the Keystone Light Pole Award to lead the field to green. After beating rookie John Hunter Nemechek at the race’s start, Jones quickly jumped to an early advantage, maintaining the lead through two early cautions for spins from Gallagher (lap 5) and Ray Black Jr. (lap 24).
The caution flag fell again on lap 40 when Jake Griffin spun his No. 63 Chevrolet into the turn 3 wall. The leaders all took advantage of the yellow, diving to pit road for Sunoco fuel and tires.
While the leaders pitted, a few drivers stayed out under the yellow for track position, including Johnny Sauter, who inherited the race lead. Sauter would jump out to a small advantage on the ensuing restart, but ThorSport Racing teammate Cameron Hayley slowly caught his teammate, passing him for the top spot on lap 58.
Hayley, who had previously only led four laps in his career, would hold the lead for 37 laps before surrendering the top spot to teammate Crafton on lap 95.
Working through lapped traffic, Crafton maintained a slim lead over Nemechek and Erik Jones while Hayley, Sauter and the others that had stayed out on lap 44 were forced to make green-flag pit stops.
Hayley would spin out on lap 120 while fighting Sauter for position, bringing out the race’s fourth yellow with 80 laps remaining. Hayley, 18, would bring home a 19th-place result after the incident.
The leaders dropped down to pit road under the ensuing yellow for a second round of pit stops. Crafton’s crew was able to help him maintain the lead, but Erik Jones topped Crafton on the ensuing lap 128 restart to regain the top spot.
Back out front for the second time, Erik Jones took off, building a 1.5-second advantage over Crafton until Travis Kvapil got into the turn 3 wall to force another yellow on lap 151.
That’s when things got interesting. The leaders all came to pit road for a third time. Brandon Jones, Peters and Gallagher inherited the top-three positions after taking two tires, with Erik Jones falling to fourth with four fresh tires. Brandon Jones took off from the outside lane on the following restart, with Erik following him through to second. However, the lead would be short-lived for Brandon, as Erik worked his way around the GMS Racing driver to regain the top spot on lap 157.
While Erik Jones jumped back into the lead, another contender’s day ended. Mired in traffic, Nemechek was working his way past Caleb Holman on lap 157 when his spotter cleared him too soon. Unaware that Holman was still to his outside, Nemechek drove up the track, causing contact between the two that left Nemechek in the outside wall and brought out the race’s final yellow. Surprisingly, Nemechek’s splitter came off during the incident, bouncing off of Townley’s No. 05 before sticking onto the splitter of Sauter, forcing the 10-time winner to come to pit road to have it removed.
Holman would bounce back to finish 14th, while Nemechek was with a damaged race truck and a 23rd-place finish.
On the final restart, Erik Jones shot out to the lead on the outside lane and drove off to take the victory.
There were seven lead changes between five drivers during the 200-lap race. The caution flag slowed the field six times for a total of 36 laps.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to action on July 9, when the field heads to Kentucky Speedway for the UNOH 225.
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