Erik Jones capped off a busy, yet memorable, weekend of racing by taking the third annual Howie Lettow Memorial 150 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.
After finishing 11th in his first superspeedway start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night, Jones stepped back into a Super Late Model for the first time since last December when he won his second Snowball Derby. Driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, the recent high school graduate now can add a win at “America’s Legendary Oval” to his impressive resume.
“Nick Panitzke did a great job testing it on Friday,” said Jones after the Milwaukee victory. “It wasn’t his fault on anything we did yesterday, we actually had a spring issue, so once we got that fixed and figured out, I felt like the car was really strong in qualifying. We were able to qualify third and once the race started, it really just took off and I felt good about the car from the drop of the green.”
With an invert of 12, Jones started 10th. By lap 30, he worked his way up to second challenging early leader Chris Weinkauf for the lead. Jones kept looking for a way to get around Weinkauf, but at the same time try to conserve his tires until a competition yellow near halfway.
During the competition yellow, Bond Suss and the KBM crew were able to make a rear end gear change to the No. 51 car that helped in the second half.
“We did get kind of close there, these guys managed in about four minutes to change a rear end gear, so that’s definitely an impressive feat and a testament to the guys over here at KBM,” Jones said. “I felt like the gear was off, we put too much gear in it to begin with and once we finally got it backed down we really gained time. It’s pretty impressive to change a gear under the break, so definitely a good day, definitely had a good car right from the start.”
After the competition yellow, Jones made his move to the lead going to the inside of Weinkauf going into turn three on lap 92. Weinkauf would fall back and later fall out of the race with a broken hub.
In the late going of the event, Jones would hold off Griffin McGrath, who started fourth, on restarts where McGrath would have an edge on the inside going into turn one, but Jones car was strong on the outside and would catapult to the lead out of turn two every time.
Jones would cross the finish line 1.498 seconds ahead of McGrath with Chad Finley, who finished third. John Hunter Nemechek was fourth with Tim Sauter rounding out the top five.
“That was nerve wracking, I didn’t want to have another (restart). I was glad we could run the last 10 laps to the checkered flag,” Jones said in victory lane. “It definitely made it interesting and exciting for me. I felt like we were getting pulled a little bit coming to green, but able to hold him off through one and two once we rolled through there hard and able to keep the lead.”
Earlier in the day, Jones was one of three drivers to qualify under the old track record. He ended up qualifying third behind Anderson Bowen, who set the official record of 28.528 seconds, and Nemechek.
McGrath was very happy with his second-place finish.
“If I wasn’t on the top and have position in the middle of the corner and have a fender on him there’s no way, I just couldn’t rotate on the bottom,” McGrath said after the race. “I had nothing for him anyway. He was a good one to two tenths faster than me when we were by ourselves, but what I am proud about is we legitimately, I think, had a second-place car.
“Sometimes you get lucky and end up there, people crash and stuff like that, but I think that legitimately, time wise and how it was handling, we had a second-place car, which I am ecstatic about because that’s a late model team that basically functions as a Truck team. So to compete with them when they killed everyone last year is extra exciting. Erik is a great guy and a great driver and it’s just fun to be competitive enough to run with the 51 team.”
Chad Finley would come home third after being in the top five all day. John Hunter Nemechek put on fresh tires during the last break to finish fourth and Tim Sauter finished fifth.
Bowen finished sixth with Ross Kenseth in seventh. Nick Murgic was eighth and Stephen Wallace was ninth. Cardell Potter rounded out the top 10.
Speed51.com will have more coverage of the Lettow Memorial and the ARCA Fest weekend in the coming days.
Re-live all the action from Milwaukee by replaying the Speed51.com-powered Midwest Tour Live coverage: http://arcamidwesttour.com/live/
– By Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Midwest Editor – Twitter: @KevinRamsell. Photo credit: Bruce Nuttleman/Speed51.com
ARCA Midwest Tour
Howie Lettow Memorial 150
|4||8N||John Hunter Nemechek||150|
|32||7||Paul Shafer, Jr||71|