The Finish Order: Jones & Wallace Give Kyle Busch A One-Two At Las Vegas
BY DAVE GRAYSON
If a driver is destined to win a major event in one of NASCAR’s three national series, then Las Vegas, a city made for celebrating literally anything, is the place to be. Eric Jones certainly must have experienced that celebratory feeling after winning the September 27th Rhino Linings 350 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
However, Jones is only 18 years old. That’s two young to buy his winning pit crew a drink in a Las Vegas casino. It’s also too young to bring his good luck at the race track to a casino slot machine. That is, of course, assuming he even has any previous experience with the art of gambling.
Fortunately for the young race winner, crew chief Eric Phillips does have some experience with gambling and he used that knowledge to help his driver win the race. With approximately 40 laps remaining, race leader Darrell Wallace JR led a contingent of trucks down pit road for a final, green flag, stop that would set up the final stretch run of the race. In short order, Wallace quickly recycled to the race lead again.
Meanwhile Jones had been battling an extremely loose condition and was having to seriously work to keep his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota under control. During his final pit stop, Eric Phillips made what can only be described as “aggressive adjustments” to his truck. That gamble turn out to be the first, of two, race winning moves.
That second race winning move came with 13 laps remaining in the race. Jones, now driving a Toyota Truck with improved handling, ran down his KBM team mate and passed Wallace to take the lead for good. He sailed under the checkers with a margin of victory of 1.329 seconds.
Jones led a total of 19 laps in this race and scored his second series win of the season and third career win. By the way, Eric “The Gambler” Phillips scored his 35th career win as a NASCAR crew chief.
Wallace easily held on to the runner up spot to give KBM a one-two finish. Matt Crafton, Timothy Peters and Brian Ickler completed the top five. Rounding out the top ten were: Ryan Blaney, Ben Kenndey, Jeb Burton, Taylor Malsam and Joey Coulter.
In victory lane Jones was understandably over joyed and called the night “awesome to win on a 1.5 mile oval.” Commenting on the final pit stop of the race, Jones said: “we were way, way too loose in traffic but we still had a strong Toyota Tundra. It was a perfect adjustment. We made a big swing at it and it just worked out.”
Meanwhile on pit road, a clearly dejected Darrell Wallace JR, who led a race high 84 laps, showed a great deal of class and congratulated his team mate on his win. He was also proud of the race dominance displayed by Kyle Busch Motorsports that led to the team’s one-two finish. “We just got beat, flat out,” Wallace said after the race adding “We need a win. It’s frustrating, I hate finishing second so bad.”
In the series championship points standings, reigning champion and current points leader, Matt Crafton’s third place finish, compared to team mate Johnny Sauter’s 14th place finish, now elevates his lead in the standings to 16th points which continues his quest to become the first driver in series’ history to win back to back titles. Ryan Blaney is third in the rankings, 27 points from the leader.
The series will take a bit of a break in their racing scheldule. They return to action on October 18th at the “home of the big one”: the Talladega Super Speedway.