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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Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/