Erik Jones channels Kyle Busch, wins Trucks race at Iowa

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Kyle Busch wasn’t at the Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway Friday night, but one of his drivers Erik Jones, did a great job of channeling his boss in the American Ethanol 200.

The 18-year-old Jones dominated the 200-lap event, leading 131 laps at the 7/8-mile track in Newton, Iowa, for his second career win in the Truck series.

“That was awesome,” Jones told Fox Sports 1. “We definitely drove hard and there was nothing left in that thing.”

There was a close call with about 16 laps left when Jones got stuck behind lapped traffic and bumped fenders with eventual runner-up Ryan Blaney, but both drivers were able to continue on with minimal damage to their trucks.

“Ryan is a great competitor and great to race against,” Jones said. “He just raced me hard, raced me clean, we showed a lot of respect to each other.”

It was the ninth straight win in the Truck series for Toyota and the seventh in the season’s first nine races by Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers.

Ryan Blaney finished second, followed by Matt Crafton, Joey Coulter, German Quiroga Jr., Ben Kennedy, Jeff Choquette, Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek.

Finishing 11th through 20th were Spencer Gallagher, Chase Pistone, Darrell Wallace Jr., Jeb Burton, Justin Jennings, Mason Mingus, Tyler Young, Johnny Sauter, Chris Eggleston and Justin Lofton.

The race only had a handful of cautions. Due to the second practice being postponed due to rain earlier in the day, NASCAR scheduled a competition caution at Lap 40.

The race almost got there, before a wreck on Lap 39 brought out the yellow.

Then on Lap 62, Ron Hornaday Jr. inadvertently put Timothy Peters into the outside wall. Peters retaliated by spinning Hornaday a half-lap later, which could lead to post-race penalties by NASCAR officials.

Jones led at the halfway mark (100 laps), leading Blaney, Crafton, Wallace Jr. and Coulter.

As for the NCWTS points standings, Crafton moved back into first place, Blaney moved up to spots into second (two points behind Crafton), previous points leader Sauter fell from first to third, Quiroga climbed from sixth to fourth and Hornaday remained in fifth place.

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Check out KBM’s Vine video of Jones pulling into victory lane at Iowa:

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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