erik jones wins ncwts at iowa

Erik Jones takes first career Truck pole — and does it in first time racing on dirt — for MudSummer Classic at Eldora

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Before Wednesday, the only dirt Erik Jones ever raced on was back in the tiny rural town he grew up in, little Byron, Mich., population 561.

And that was typically racing on two feet – as in foot races.

But Jones has taken to racing on dirt – on four wheels – quite nicely, thank you.

Not only was he the fastest driver in Wednesday’s first of two practices, he also earned the pole for that evening’s main event, the MudSummer Classic at Eldora Speedway with a speed of 90.393 mph, one of only two drivers to exceed 90 mph.

In addition, not only is the MudSummer event the first experience on dirt for the 18-year-old rookie, it also marked his first career pole in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition.

When asked by Fox Sports 1 what would he think the chances would be of his earning his first pole on a dirt track, Jones was frank.

“Pretty low. I had no idea,” Jones said.

Things didn’t go so well on his first of two qualifying laps: he and his Toyota Tundra went for a 180-degree spin.

He quickly recovered, came back around and got it right on his second run around the half-mile track in western Ohio in his Kyle Busch Motorsports truck.

“We spun out on the first lap and then came back and made another lap and it was good enough for the pole,” Jones said. “We were pushing hard for that one lap, the track was good early, so we took the most that we could out of our Toyota Tundra and it worked.”

There will be five 10-lap heat races, followed by a “last chance” heat, and then the 150-lap main event (split into 60, 50 and 40 lap segments) will take the green flag tonight around 9 pm ET.

Jones is looking for his second straight NCWTS win. He won in the last race on the schedule nearly two weeks ago at Iowa Speedway.

As for the rest of Wednesday’s qualifying, 34 drivers took to the track.

Mason Mingus, who was second-fastest in both the first and second practice sessions earlier in the day, was also second-fastest in qualifying, the only other driver to exceed 90 mph (at 90.312 mph).

Ron Hornaday Jr. (89.888 mph) was third-fastest, followed by NWCTS points leader Matt Crafton (89.557), Ken Schrader (89.508), Darrell Wallace Jr. (89.423), Jeb Burton (89.410), Chase Pistone (89.308), Timothy Peters (89.052) and Bryan Silas rounded out the top 10 at 89.030 mph.

Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson was 11th-fastest (88.766 mph), followed by John Wes Townley (88.744), Tyler Reddick (88.951, Ryan Blaney (88.426) and Tyler Young (89.274).

Last year’s MudSummer Classic winner, Sprint Cup rookie Austin Dillon, qualified 19th (86.613 mph), while brother Ty was 24th-fastest (86.990).

The slowest driver of record was 31st-fastest Michael Affarano (81.389 mph). Jennifer Jo Cobb made two runs but they were not scored. Two other drivers failed to take qualifying runs: T.J. Bell and Jared Landers.

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DiZinno: Engine drama dominates 2015 silly season thus far

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So it’s mid-October, and in both Formula 1 and IndyCar, the story of silly season 2015 is not about the drivers behind the wheel, but more about the lumps giving the drivers the power with which to do so.

The war in IndyCar has gone on more behind-the-scenes between Honda and Chevrolet as it relates to performance clauses and what can or can’t be updated for 2016.

However F1’s engine battle has been a very public spat, and been the dominant silly season storyline this fall.

F1’s driver silly season never really got going for next season. As my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith has chronicled, the one potential domino that could have made things interesting – Kimi Raikkonen’s status at Ferrari – will go unchanged into 2016.

As such, it leaves with a grid where the lineups at Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Force India, Sauber and most recently McLaren are confirmed to stay the same for 2016.

The only driver switch at present is Romain Grosjean leaving the unsettled, fluid situation at Lotus to lead Haas F1 Team’s charge in its maiden season.

This brings us then, simply, to the Red Bull teams.

Red Bull may give you wings, and wings right now are all that’s confirmed to power the teams into 2016.

A season-long row, spat, disagreement or whatever word you want to call it has occurred between Red Bull and Renault to the point where Red Bull has threatened to pull out of Formula 1 – which would leave its quartet of talented youngsters, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. – all sidelined. Let alone all its talented mechanics and crew.

Mercedes has already moved its fourth engine supply from Lotus to Manor, and Ferrari has proposed offering a 2015 power unit, neither of which were really feasible solutions for Red Bull and by default, Toro Rosso as well.

It’s then left the two parties in a proverbial stalemate, where Red Bull needs Renault more than Renault needs Red Bull.

And in social terms, it’s a case of Red Bull needing to go back to the girl they want to dump, because it’s their only option. Perhaps it’s no coincidence the term “F1 booty call” was occasionally used on social media over the weekend to describe the situation.

The Red Bull quit threat, unfortunately, continues to persist. Adrian Newey, the sport’s most successful designer, has reiterated the concerns in an interview with Reuters over the weekend.

“Unfortunately, our relationship with Renault is pretty terminal — there’s been too much of a marriage breakdown, so we have no engine,” Newey told Reuters while in Abu Dhabi to judge the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy.

“Red Bull should not be put in a position where they’re only there to make up the numbers,” he added, noting the desired need for improvement from Renault.

One could argue, of course, that Newey’s departure has had a psychological effect on the team, perhaps as much if not a greater impact than Renault’s engine woes. And easy as it is to forget, Ricciardo still won three Grands Prix a year ago and was in mathematical championship contention until the final few races of the season.

Think in Renault’s case as well, that as a sole constructor and owner of Lotus as it is shaping up to be next year, it would behoove them to have a second set of data at its disposal, rather than going solo without another team. See Honda and McLaren for how that’s gone this year…

The fact that Red Bull has opted to go for the nuclear threat in print of quitting when all it’s really had is a bad year – something it’s experienced plenty both early in its own team lifespan, and in its prior guises as Jaguar and Stewart dating to the Stewart team’s inception in 1997 – really smacks of poor professionalism, unbecoming of the brand.

Red Bull didn’t get the top of the mountain in the business world, and in F1, without a desire to be the best.

But in the interest of becoming a true fabric of the F1 community through both thick and thin – as teams like Ferrari, Williams and McLaren have done for decades – it needs to take a step back, chalk 2015 up as a year to forget and figure out a way to bury the hatchet so it doesn’t leave all the affected individuals high and dry.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Ryan Briscoe

Ryan Briscoe
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MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Ryan Briscoe. Despite not having a ride to start the year, Briscoe ended strongly courtesy of a series of strong runs at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Ryan Briscoe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

  • 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 18th Place (8 starts), Best Finish 5th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 17.8 Avg. Start, 12.0 Avg. Finish

For those who slag on Briscoe as being undeserving of top level equipment, his 2015 second half provided a friendly reminder of his overall ability level in what might be less than the best machinery.

Briscoe was thrust into the No. 5 car under trying circumstances to begin with, getting all of an hour’s worth practice replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe ahead of the Indianapolis 500. But subsequent drives on the ovals there, Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Iowa – even if the results were less than ideal – showcased a driver determined to show to the paddock he still had it, and then some. His defense against Juan Pablo Montoya in Sonoma was nothing short of brilliant, and courtesy of double points he actually finished ahead of full-season driver Stefano Coletti.

The Australian immediately gelled with the SPM team, engineer Allen McDonald and race strategist Robert Gue. He continues to prove he’s an asset, as he has enjoyed multiple opportunities to extend his career in various arenas of motorsport in both open-wheel and sports cars, the latter of which he won at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing this year.