Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Kentucky Speedway – July 13, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to the media at Kentucky Speedway:
ERIK JONES, No. 20 DEWALT Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Were you able to enjoy the win before you went to race at Slinger Super Speedway?
“Yeah, it wasn’t much time, but it was a little bit. I mean, we got back and it was pretty late, but some of my buddies were waiting over at my house and had some celebrations ready for me, so that was fun. We got to hang out for a minute and then had our early flight out to Slinger (Super Speedway) and had a good time up there with the guys and, you know, actually a lot of the guys on that team were guys that I’ve known for a long time, so it was kind of fun to hang out with them and reminisce and celebrate a little bit, but then we got back to it and it was just been kind of a whirlwind week, you know, with all the travel back and forth between Wisconsin and then getting back for kind of a day on Wednesday and then leaving on Thursday – yesterday morning pretty early again, so it was a really busy week and, you know, it’s been nice. It was nice to just kind of chill out last night finally back in the motorhome and be able to focus a little bit on this weekend.”
Did your friends do much for you?
“Oh yeah. Yeah, all that and had signs made up inside my house and I still haven’t got it all cleaned up because I haven’t been home, but, yeah, it’s kind of a mess right now.”
What does this win mean to you after some more time to reflect?
“Well, it’s, you know, just it’s kind of the same thing I said honestly. I felt like I put it in words pretty good and it hasn’t changed too much since. It’s really just a big win for me and my family. It was a lot of years of hard work to get to the Cup level and then a lot more years of hard work to get from the Truck level – or sorry from the Truck level up to the Cup level – and working here for the last year and a half to get to that point, so it was a lot of effort from a lot of people and the first thing that came to mind for me was family and then from there my race team and how happy I was for them and the work they put in because they’ve worked really hard every week and all year and Chris Gayle (crew chief) has worked really hard all year to make sure we’re on the right track and these last three weeks we continued to improve and that continuous improvement is what eventually got us to victory lane, so it was just cool to see the hard work pay off and kind of see how it all had worked out.”
What exactly did you come home to?
“Yeah, I was – I met my family at the airport. They were waiting for me at Concord (Regional Airport) and got to see them for a minute and then I went right back home and it was about probably 4:15 in the morning at that point and all my buddies were waiting there for me. They had signs and everything made up – congrats and all that – and it was pretty cool. They were having a good time in there waiting on me. I could tell, so I got to go in there and enjoy that with them and it was just cool to see them all, you know? It was cool that – I mean, it was late. It was almost 4:30 in the morning at that point, so it was cool to see them stick it out and wait for us to get back.”
What’s your mentality for the rest of the regular season?
“For me, it’s going to be stage points and playoff points – just trying to earn as many as we can and, you know, just need to work on getting a little bit of a buffer for the first round of the Playoffs and, you know, obviously we’re really excited to be in the Playoffs at this point, but, you know, we also want to do really well in the them and we want to succeed through the first and second rounds and make sure we can make a run at this thing and just focus on what we’ve got to do compete with them –
(Martin) Truex (Jr.) and Kyle (Busch) and (Kevin) Harvick – and what we’ve got to do to go up and contend with them and, like I said, hopefully getting some stage points and some Playoff points as well.”
Are you building momentum towards competing with the leaders?
“I think we’re getting really close. I think there’s still work we’ve got to do, but, you know, we’re coming into a stretch of really good tracks for us. We ran through Sonoma and Chicago, which Sonoma is definitely not a good track for me and had a good run. And Chicago’s an okay track for myself and we had a good run there. And then obviously getting that win at Daytona, so there’s a lot of momentum on our side for almost the last month now and we want to keep that rolling obviously, but I think there’s going to be a little bit of work to do to catch them, but like I said these tracks that are coming up are really good for myself and really goof JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and places where we ran pretty well last year, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage and figure out what it’s going to take to get up there.”
Have you been able to digest what your win means for other young drivers and your chances this weekend?
“I’m really confident, but, you know, I think overall it’s – for the young guys, for one of us to get a win is really important and hopefully I’d love to be the guy that gets some more. I mean, I guess that sounds greedy, but, you know, you want to be the young guy that’s really taking the lead on it and if we could go out and get some more wins, it would be really good for the young guys and for us and, you know, I’d like to see the other guys get up there and contend as well and they’ve been good and eventually we’re all going to be winning races on a consistent basis. It just takes time and experience and effort to get to that point, so we’re all trying to figure out how to do it and, you know, I think this is a good step and I think we’ve been getting really closer and closer each week and hopefully we can kind of keep this rolling for it.”
How much experience and confidence are you gaining each and every week?
“Yeah, I feel way more confident now than last year even before the Daytona win. I mean, I felt just more comfortable and I knew what to expect. I mean, there’s so many times we went to the track last year and we’d be sitting on pit road before practice and I’d be like, ‘I have no idea how to get around this place in a Cup car,’ and you just sit there and hope you can figure it out quickly when you roll out on the track and this year, you know, we’ve went back to most places and it’s like, ‘Oh, okay. Yeah, I’ve got a memory bank of what we needed to do here to be fast and be successful,’ and especially tracks we ran a lot. We ran well here last year finishing sixth and you can look back on your notes and day, ‘Okay, this is what we did to get to this point,’ or that point and that makes things quite a bit easier from a driver’s standpoint, so just having that notebook mentally and physically is been a pretty big advantage.”
What is your take on the cars and how hard they are to control right now?
“Well, if somebody said they’re not difficult to drive, they’re lying or they’ve got a really, really good car. I mean, these are some of the most-difficult cars I’ve driven in my racing career – especially my NASCAR career, you know? I came up driving pretty high downforce stuff, which they were hard to drive. I mean, yeah, but we had good cars and you’re able to get them driving pretty well. These things right now, you never really get them driving that well. They drive okay sometimes, but not, you know, like you don’t feel locked in. In my opinion, I mean my honest opinion, I think we need some downforce back. I think we need to be able to hustle them again. I remember in my XFINITY days and when we had some higher downforce and I thought you could just move around and make so much more happen. It feels like a little bit now with the low downforce, you can’t really run the middle lanes a lot of places and you’re kind of just stuck to whatever the – you know, like Chicago, it felt like the bottom was dominant and the 42 (Kyle Larson) was up top, but that was about it, so I thought you say more guys moving around with more downforce. I’m not saying we need to go all the way back to what we had or as much as what we ran at the All-Star Race, but having a little bit more blade on the car would probably not be a bad thing for us, but that’s just my opinion.”
How do you manage Turn 3 here?
“Yeah, it’s become more difficult since the repave, so when they reconfigured (Turns) 1 and 2 and made it a lot faster and you’re carrying so much speed into Turn 3 and it looks like you’re taking a hard left in a parking lot kind of when you go in the corner because it’s so flat and so wide and, you know, the tough balance obviously is getting your car – getting your heights right through 1 and 2 and making sure your car is just as low as it can be in 3 and 4, which it’s never really going to be, but if you can get your car handling really well down there and really, really hooking the line well and getting in the corners secure, you’re going to be a in a pretty good spot, so it’s not an easy thing to do and we had a pretty good car last year for that, but we’ve just really got to work on entry today and make sure it’s secure and work on the second half of the corner from there and usually 1 and 2 kind of comes with that.”