Ryan Blaney inched his way closer and closer to Erik Jones late in the American Ethanol 200. But Jones never let him inch close enough to take the lead.
The two drivers went three-wide in lapped traffic with 16 laps to go, bruising the sides of their trucks on one another. Jones navigated his way ahead of Blaney through the traffic, and eventually to the finish line.
The 18-year-old Jones earned his second career NCWTS victory Friday night by holding off the 20-year-old Blaney at Iowa Speedway.
“When we got to racing side by side it was pretty wild for a minute and definitely some true short track racing. Gives me goose bumps thinking about it,” Jones said. “It was a lot of fun. Hopefully we can have a lot more races like that in the future. It was one of the most fun ones I’ve ever done.
“Last year we came here and it didn’t race so much as a short track as it did this time. I don’t know what was different, but there was just a lot more contact than there was last year. A lot more close racing and, really, I think it was pretty fun for the fans to watch, too.”
Jones led a career-best 131 laps and became the first NCWTS winner since 2010 at Iowa Speedway who also led the most laps.
For Blaney, it was his fifth top-five finish the season, the most by any series driver without a win.
“He was so good off the corner. I just couldn’t get off the corner like he did,” said Blaney, who also finished second in the Nationwide race at Iowa Speedway in May. “That’s where he really beat me. He seemed to struggle in traffic all night. I knew that was my best opportunity to try to go by him. We got really close and almost sucked me around. Luckily we didn’t wreck right there. It was tight racing.”
Tight racing wiped away any hopes of a Timothy Peters three-peat at Iowa Friday night. The two-time defending race winner Peters finished 31st after getting tangled up with Ron Hornaday Jr. on lap 63. Initial contact between the two sent both drivers into the wall on the front stretch, and then Peters spun out Hornaday Jr., who placed 21st, on the backstretch. Both drivers entered the race in the top-five in the NCWTS point standings.
Points standings leader Matt Crafton placed third in the race. He started sixth and ran consistently in the top-five all night long.
Rain showers throughout the day shortened drivers’ practice runs on the track, which prevented Crafton’s team from fine-tuning a brand new truck.
“Not a bad night to get out of here in third place,” he said, deeming Jones and Blaney as “the class of the field” in the race. “We had good, good pit stops. The guys did a great job. They built the truck in like four or five days to get it here and only had an hour and 20 minutes to practice. It says a lot about this race team.”