Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Michigan International Speedway – August 10, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to the media at Michigan International Speedway:
ERIK JONES, No. 20 Doosan Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What did you learn in Ann Arbor yesterday and what did the button do?
“It was cool to see the R&D center there in Ann Arbor. I’ve never been down to Toyota’s – I’ve been to a few plants and a few other headquarters down in Plano, Texas and the old one out in California, but never the R&D Center in Ann Arbor. Just cool to see what they do there and really a lot of the development that comes out of there that kind of transfers over to the majority of the Toyota lineup that’s out there in the U.S. right now and also to see some of the stuff that they’ve done for racing too. The lead engineer for Tundra is there and they’ve done some stuff with the Camry – it was just neat to see what all was involved. The button was for show mostly, but we got to see a crash test and that was pretty cool. I’ve never seen a crash test in person and I guess they don’t do them often so that was cool that they set that up for us.”
What is your interpretation of how Chase Elliott has evolved as a person with adversity?
“I think Chase (Elliott) is in a tough position obviously being a second generation guy more than others. Obviously, he’s under a big expectation of how he’s expected to run and win races early and quickly. It took him a few years and it takes it seems all guys a few years now because it’s not as easy to find an advantage, find an edge and easy to beat the guys that have been here a long time. I think the talent in the Cup Series is just so much higher, the depth is so much higher than it’s ever been and it’s just challenging right now, but I think he’s done a good job of handling adversity and rolling through a lot of close calls and finishes and that’s not an easy thing to do as a driver when you come that close, but he’s done a good job managing it and managing expectations from the outside pressure and finally getting that first win.”
How important is it to get younger fans involved and to be locked into the Playoffs already?
“It’s important to me to get the younger fan base involved, I’ve always kind of taken the extra time to try and get the younger fans into racing. Even people more my age, around the college age going there and doing some visits and meeting students and trying to get them out to the race track so they can experience it. Secondly, just being locked in the Playoffs is big. We all want to be a part of the Playoffs at some point and race for a championship and coming back here now with only four races left in to the Playoffs and not having to worry about it is definitely a good feeling. We were in a good spot to point our way in and now looking at how the season has gone since Daytona, we probably would have done it pretty easily, but it’s still nice to show up at the race track and not have to worry about it each week.”
Can you see the evolution with the young drivers where you all can compete against the big three for the championship?
“I think that’s where we all want to be at some point is in that fold, but it takes time. I don’t think any of us are there yet, I think we’re all capable of winning more races this year. Maybe not on the same basis as what those big three guys have done, they’ve been consistently winning a majority of the races and I don’t think any of us are quite at that point yet, but I think we’ve definitely closed the gap over this year alone by a large amount. That’s a good feeling as a driver and those guys are probably three of the most talented guys in the garage and three of the guys obviously with the most long-term driver and crew chief pairings so those are the guys that you kind of look at to baseline yourself off of, especially myself being teammates with Kyle (Busch), you want to run in the same level as him and then as Martin (Truex Jr.) as well being a corporate teammate and having similar equipment. It’s definitely what you base yourself off of and it’s definitely a goal for us to meet.”
Did you have a checklist that you wanted to accomplish this year and how is that going?
“It’s been good, this year overall we’ve made gains to where we want to be. We wanted to win a race and we wanted to make the Playoffs and we’ve accomplished those goals. There’s still more to be done and goals change over the course of a year and you have to reset your goals after you’ve met them at some point. At this point, we want to continue to work towards it and just getting into the Playoffs to make sure we advance at least a round or two and hopefully the 12 to the eight and that would be definitely a good season for us for sure. I know we’re capable of it and this we’ve done a good job of being in a better spot at this point in the year than we were last year. Certainly on the outside looking in at this point last year for the Playoffs with a lot less top-10s and a few less top-fives. We’ve done a good job of running better and getting some better finishes and definitely being in the Playoffs is a big step as well.”
ERIK JONES, No. 20 Doosan Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued)
Does the track feel the same after the Tire Dragon compared to last year?
“It feels similar to me, but it’s hard to tell much of a difference. The track overall has aged pretty well over the last couple of years where it’s not so line sensitive and you don’t see anybody running up in the third groove by any means, but it’s definitely not to the point where if you get up there you’re probably not going to wreck. I don’t know that it’s been a huge difference so far today, but it will be interesting to see as the weekend goes on especially after the Truck race with what these guys can do tomorrow afternoon. It hasn’t affected us yet too much.”
Has the track changed since June and how did your car feel today?
“The track feels pretty similar to what we had here a couple months ago. Our car was off on balance, I think we were off on speed for sure. Overall, I think we know where we need to go and I think we’ll qualify fine this afternoon. Three runs, it’s hard to get a balance and the car changes a lot with each cycle on tires. You have to kind of manage that and manage where your car is driving. We started off being pretty free and just kind of tightened up too much compared to where the tires went. We feel like we know what we need to do and obviously, our teammates were fast so we have something to look at there and we’ve qualified pretty well this year each and every week. I’m not worried about it, but we were definitely off to start.”
What is the story behind your tattoo on your arm?
“It’s my Dad’s signature and I’ve had it for a little while now, but yes it’s my Dad’s signature.”
Is there anything you can bring as a driver from what you witnessed yesterday to production car safety?
“I don’t know if they take anything from us to racing, actually they gave NASCAR a lot of things. They’ve got a crash dummy model called THUMS that I knew a little bit about before I went yesterday and they’ve loaned it to NASCAR a few times and it’s pretty comprehensive human model, it’s not so much a crash test dummy, it’s got a fully-designed set of organs in it so that was pretty neat, they’ve given that to NASCAR, but I don’t know that we’ve given the, anything back yet, but you never know what the future will hold for that.”