Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Auto Club Speedway – March 16, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to the media at Auto Club Speedway:
ERIK JONES, No. 20 SiriusXM Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Will you approach your second start at Auto Club Speedway different than you debut here?
“You know, I think for me, every weekend is a little bit different approach, but especially coming to Auto Club I feel like last year just gives you a lot of notes to lean back on. It’s so tough here. There’s so many choices obviously in line around here that for qualifying trim, it makes a huge difference in kind of where you’re placing your car and some of the things you do from the seat for brake and throttle. You can make a big difference, so that was the tough thing for me last year to kind of try to pick up quickly and this year coming back I feel like I just have a good idea of how we need to unload and felt like we just fired off better here in the first practice a little bit closer with some more speed than we did in the past year.”
Do you pay more attention to lap times here when you are testing lanes?
“Yeah, it’s more important here – not only lap times, but the spotter keeping you updated with exactly where everybody is running I would say is more important here. There’s so many guys that move around throughout their runs and so many guys – so many comers and goers here I would say more than any other track on the schedule right now – and just having a spotter that’s able to keep you updated with who’s making lap time, who’s moving forward and giving you an opportunity to know soon enough to move around and try that out before they get their and pass you doing it. It is important here. I would say that this track, I can’t think of another track that has more options, especially watch the restarts here and you see guys going four- and five-wide and running every lane. It makes a big difference, so this one’s tough for sure. That was the toughest part for me last year was just trying to figure out the right lane to run and I think coming back like I said a minute ago – coming back, it’s been not easier, but it’s been a little bit just more knowledge of kind of some of the fast lanes around here, especially in qualifying and in the race early.”
Will the cooler temperatures impact the tires and make things more difficult?
“It hasn’t been here. It’s actually been – it’s really just been higher grip. I would say this year coming back right now as it is, it’s been a lot higher grip. It’s a lot cooler than it was last year at least on qualifying day, so it’s been a little bit easier in some ways I guess when you have more grip. You know, at least for me, I think it’s easier, but, you know, we haven’t had any problems like that getting temperature in them. It’s been pretty quick to fire off here so far today.”
Are you already looking at points?
“A little bit. I don’t look at them a ton at this point, but I try to stay updated kind of with where we are every week and, you know, we’ve had better finishes here to start off the year other than Daytona. The one thing we haven’t really done a good job of is getting stage points. At this point, we just haven’t ran well early in the race and we’ve been kind of fighting from behind and getting up and grabbing these top-10s towards the end of the day, so I think we need to do a little bit better job on that side of things, but, yeah, I mean we watch them some like I said a minute ago, but overall I think we’re going to wait a little bit farther into the year to really start to place a lot of focus on them.”
Are stage points an area of focus?
“Yeah, it is. I have been focused on it somewhat the last two weekends. We’ve just haven’t ran well enough early in these races to score those points and last year we were kind of opposite – we weren’t finishing well, but we were scoring lots of stage points, so it’s a little bit reversed, but, yeah, I think that’s been a big thing that’s held us back a little bit in the points here early on, so hopefully this weekend we can run up towards the top-five here early in the day and kind of keep that momentum throughout the day and earn some good stage points. That’s something I have seen and focused on and it’s definitely going to be – personally at least for me – it’s been kind of a point of emphasis here for this weekend.”