Saturday, March 25, 2023

TRUCKS: Suspension issue prevents IndyCar’s Ed Jones from completing a lap of NASCAR debut

ALL PHOTOS: Jared Haas, @RealJaredHaas

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Ed Jones picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Saturday’s XPEL 225 at the Circuit of the Americas when his #20 Little Caesars Chevrolet suffered suspension issues without completing any of the 42 laps.

The finish came in Jones’ series debut. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 11th for the #20, the 15th from suspension problems, and the 431st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 51st from the suspension, the 56th for the #20, and he 1,877th for Chevrolet.

Among the international cadre of “road course ringers” set to compete in all three of NASCAR’s national series at COTA was Ed Jones of Dubai, who on Saturday would make his first-ever NASCAR start. Prior to Saturday, Jones was most known for his open-wheel exploits, most notably his championship in Indy Lights in 2016, where he bested runner-up Santiago Urrutia by just two points. He then graduated to the NTT IndyCar Series, making 63 starts over four seasons. This included a trio of 3rd-place finishes, including top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500, where his Dale Coyne Racing entry followed Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves across the yard of bricks. More recently, he’s competed in sports cars, including the last three runnings of the 24 Hours of Daytona and last week’s 12 Hours of Sebring.

Jones would team up with Young’s Motorsports to drive the #20, becoming the entry’s fourth different driver in as many races. Following Derek Kraus’ 18th-place showing in Daytona, the team had experienced declining results, starting with a 26th by Matt Mills in Las Vegas and a next-to-last-place finish in Atlanta by Mason Maggio, who suffered right-front fender damage after a rough start to the event. Driver and team looked for a turnaround in a bright orange-and-white Chevrolet sponsored by pizza chain Little Caesar’s.

Jones was one of 39 drivers entered to attempt the 36-truck field. He ran 31st in opening practice, then ranked 14th of 20 drivers in Qualifying Group 1B, putting up a time of 89.057mph (137.844 seconds). This secured Jones the 23rd spot, more than enough to best the three teams sent home. The DNQ list included Samuel LeComte, still seeking his Truck Series debut in what would have been the return of NEMCO Motorsports in the #8 Concierge Motorsports Chevrolet. LeComte spun at the end of practice and backed into the Turn 7 wall. Mason Massey was sent home after he couldn’t complete a lap in the #33 Ford for Reaume Brothers Racing. Cup regular Alex Bowman cut a right-front tire on his #7 Chevrolet during his timed lap, putting his Spire Motorsports entry out of the show.

Securing the 36th and final starting spot was rookie Daniel Dye, whose #43 Dell Children’s Medical Center / Nyle Maxwe Chevrolet blew an engine in practice and wasn’t able to take a qualifying lap. The resulting engine change made Dye’s one of eleven trucks sent to the rear for various issues:

Unapproved adjustments docked 17th-place Parker Kligerman in the #75 Food Country USA / Utz Chevrolet, 19th-place Taylor Gray in the #17 Dead On Tools Toyota, 21st-place Chase Purdy in the #4 Bama Buggies Chevrolet, 24th-place Kaden Honeycutt in the #04 CarQuest Ford, 25th-place Colin Garrett in the #30 11/11 Veteran Project / UnBroken Toyota, 28th-place Matt DiBenedetto in the #25 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet, 31st-place Bret Holmes in the #32 Pate Holdings Chevrolet, 34th-place Matt Crafton in the #88 Ideal Door / Menards Ford, and 35th-place Kris Wright, one of Jones’ teammates, in the #02 F.N.B. Corporation Chevrolet. Like Daniel Dye, Wright didn’t complete a lap in qualifying, but unlike Mason Massey’s #33 still qualified for the race. Spencer Boyd, the third of Jones’ teammates, dropped to the back in the #12 Record Rack Chevrolet as travel delays kept him from practicing on Friday. Stefan Parsons climbed into Boyd’s truck and placed it 26th on the grid.

While the net result of all these pre-race penalties still put Wright and Dye in the final two spots – exactly where they originally qualified - NASCAR had some difficulty getting other drivers to line up properly, including Crafton and Purdy. Coming to the green flag, Dye was ahead of four other trucks, including Purdy, Kligerman, Boyd, and Taylor Gray. Based on intervals, Gray and Kligerman took the green ahead of Dye, who was now 34th ahead of Purdy and new last-place starter Boyd, 4.05 seconds back of the lead. 

The following were the intervals across the stripe for these trailing trucks, including their originally scheduled starting spots:

29-34) 88-Crafton 3.037
30-35) 02-Wright 3.041
31-17) 75-Kligerman 3.262
32-28) 25-DiBenedetto 3.364
33-19) 17-Taylor Gray 3.527
34-36) 43-Dye 3.746
35-21) 4-Purdy 3.773
36-26) 12-Boyd 4.05

The action started early as Bret Holmes’ #32 spun entering the Esses and dropped to last place behind Boyd. But, a moment later, Ed Jones’ #20 started to trail smoke from what appeared to be an oil leak. Jones dropped off the pace, pulling out of traffic as the rest of the field rushed past. He was next shown with his truck driving crooked, indicative of a suspension issue. He tried to make it back to pit road, but the left-rear tire then cut down, stranding him in Turn 15 and drawing the first caution of the day. Jones was brought to the garage for what was declared to be a mechanical issue, allowing the Young’s Motorsports crew to jack up the left side of his truck and attempt repairs.

The damage to Dean Thompson's truck that put him
out of the race.
As the Young’s team worked, the Bottom Five filled rapidly due to a series of equally perplexing mechanical issues. Dean Thompson’s #5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota rear-ended another truck, puncturing the radiator. The crew attempted a replacement, but the moment he was pushed backwards behind the wall on Lap 7, was declared out under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.” Carson Hocevar’s #42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet was running 5th when he lost the brakes and skated into a gravel pit. He, too, made it to pit road, only to be pushed to the garage with a busted axle on Lap 13. Matt Crafton’s own off-track excursion in Turn 4 forced an unscheduled pit stop, during which time NASCAR said he hadn’t reached minimum speed. Crafton, too, was then pushed backwards behind the wall, where on Lap 17 he joined Thompson as out of the race under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.” Hocevar was declared out on Lap 19.

Around Lap 22, the Young’s team’s work doubled when Spencer Boyd pulled behind the wall, the crew looking under the hood of his #12. Just three laps later, Jones’ #20 was finally declared out of the race. Boyd, too, ultimately didn’t return to the track, and completed he Bottom Five. None of those five drivers completed more than 12 of the day’s 42 laps.

*This marked the second-consecutive last-place finish for Young’s Motorsports’ #20 team in the Truck Series race at COTA. Last year, when Sheldon Creed drove the truck, his drive train failed after just one lap.
*Jones is the first driver from the United Arab Emirates to finish last in a NASCAR national series race.

36) #20-Ed Jones / 0 laps / suspension
35) #5-Dean Thompson / 4 laps / crash
34) #42-Carson Hocevar / 8 laps / axle
33) #88-Matt Crafton / 11 laps / crash
32) #12-Spencer Boyd / 12 laps / electrical

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) TRICON Garage, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Ford (2)
2nd) Chevrolet, Toyota (1)


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