By Aaron Burns
It’s easy to forget that Erik Jones doesn’t turn 20 until next May. Jones has been a part of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for three years, and he’s been a mainstay at the front.
But Jones’ run to the Truck Series title did more than confirm his legitimacy as a top driver. Jones also became the youngest champion in the Truck Series’ 20-year history on Nov. 20.
Five poles, three wins, 11 top-fives and an incredible 20 top-10 finishes in 23 races staked Jones’ claim to a historic championship.
Consistency was what pushed Jones ahead of two-time defending champion Matt Crafton and fellow upstart Tyler Reddick. He never led the standings until after 15 races, but Jones was in front when it mattered.
Crafton Comes Alive
Matt Crafton fell 22 points short of his third consecutive Truck Series championship, but nothing stopped him from ending the 2015 season on a strong note.
Crafton won the pole, led a race-high 93 laps and won the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He needed a miracle – or some major misfortune for Erik Jones – to claim a third title, but Crafton’s season still deserves major kudos.
He won only once in his 2013 title-winning season, and twice in his 2014 repeat. Crafton posted an incredible six wins in 23 tries this year, but his bid for another crown came undone after late-season crashes at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Phoenix Int’l Raceway.
The wins were in Crafton’s favor. The points, however, weren’t quite there.
5 First-Time Winners
The Truck Series played host to five first-time winners in 2015.
Tyler Reddick, who finished second in points, won his first race in the season opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway. Reddick also added a victory at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway in May.
For all his Sprint Cup and XFINITY success, Joey Logano had never won a Truck race until March 28 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Newcomer Christopher Bell opened his win account at Eldora Speedway in July, and John Hunter Nemechek scored a popular victory in September at Chicagoland Speedway.
No one could forget John Wes Townley’s emotional first win in October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Fortune frequently favors the bold in NASCAR competition. But in the Truck Series, it also favored the winless.
Erik Jones figures to contend for the NASCAR XFINITY Series title in 2016, so the top spot on the mountain is up for grabs.
Matt Crafton will be the early favorite to score his third championship next year, but John Hunter Nemechek, Tyler Reddick and Timothy Peters should be factors.
Additionally, Daniel Hemric landed a full-time ride with Brad Keselowski Racing. He’ll be another to watch.
Silly season often wreaks havoc on the Truck Series, so there’s also the possibility that a new driver could join the series and challenge the top dogs. The 2016 Truck schedule features the same tracks as 2015, so the guys who did the best throughout the season will have an inside track – no pun intended – on a hot start.
1-800-Car-Cash Mud Summer Classic at Eldora
John Wes Townley shocks the world by winning at Las Vegas