Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Michigan International Speedway – June 16, 201
Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to the media at Michigan International Speedway:
ERIK JONES, No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
How has your week been at home here in Michigan?
“Yeah, it’s been a busy week. I didn’t get home ‘til Tuesday night, drove back up here and went over and tested a late model on Wednesday over in Grand Rapids, Michigan and then yesterday kind of got to take the day off, visit a little friends and family and then back it again today, so just nice to come home. Nice to sleep in the house that I grew up in and stay there – it’s only about an hour away from here – and roll into the race track in the morning. It’s just cool to be here and on Sunday get all the family and friends out. I’ve burned through every possible hot pass I can get, so just nice to have everybody here and be close to home.”
What do you think about the youth movement in the Cup Series?
“It’s been nice to see. I think off all of us have been working to kind of get to that point where we can win races and we’re steadily getting closer to that – you can see that each week with Ryan (Blaney) getting a win and I think Chase (Elliott) will get a win soon. Hopefully, we can get a win soon and all kind of join that list and really become competitors week in and week out and contend for these wins, so we’re all trying to get there. It’s neat to see us all kind of come in at the same time. I’ve raced with a lot of these guys for a long time and to be all at this level together is a little bit surreal. When you race against guys when you’re younger and late models and stuff, you don’t really think you’re going to race them forever – all make it to this level – so to see us all here and having our chance is pretty cool.”
Do you do a lot of simulator work and do you use it for Sonoma?
“I don’t do a ton on the sim. I did actually go on Tuesday morning – I went to the sim for Sonoma. I won’t go back, but I did spend about four hours there making laps and doing everything I could. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a K&N car to drive, so I had to – you know, that’s all I’ve got to prepare. I think it’s helpful. At least it gives you a visual of the track and a few marks and a few shift points and stuff, so I can’t totally rely on what it’s giving you sometimes, but I think for a road course, it’s pretty accurate. It will definitely at least, like I said, give me some kind of mark or point to go off of when I get in there and do the real thing next week.”
How do you friends and family feel about your mullet?
“A lot of them were – a few of them were down in North Carolina for my 21st birthday and that’s when that all kind of went down. They thought it was pretty funny and then my – I think my biggest fan of it is my uncle because he had a pretty rocking mullet in about 1987, so he was a big fan. He said I need a little bit of work on the back yet – get it a little bit longer – and I’ll be just fine. They like it. They think it’s pretty funny.”
What would it mean to you to get your first win at your home track?
“It’d be really cool. I told somebody earlier today that I was jealous last year watching Kyle Larson get his first win here because I was saying, ‘Man, that sure would be pretty storybook if I could do something like that.’ I’d love to get my first win here. I would have loved to win the XFINITY race here last year and even the Truck race the year before, so this is a place I’m always going to want to win at until hopefully it finally comes. I know it’s going to be a tall task, but definitely think we have – we’re capable of it, you know? I mean, we ran good in Pocono last week. We have a lot of momentum right now and I think we brought a good car again this weekend, so it would mean a lot to me. It definitely would be cool with as many people that would be here watching and would get to enjoy it all with me in victory lane and then head right over and do another ace on Monday, so it’d be pretty special.”
How have you grown in maturity since your father’s passing?
“Yeah, I mean it’s a life changer for you either way and I think even more so in my situation as much as helped me and handled a lot of my business affairs really. That was his goal really was in his retirement he wanted to be a business manager for me. He wanted to do that and he really enjoyed it, so I had always let him handle it and never really took part in it and then when that suddenly goes away, you have to inherit all those responsibilities and those tasks. It’s a pretty big bearing and it took a long time to really get everything lined up and where I felt like I had it all under control and I felt like I had people to manage it and still not fully at that point, but I definitely feel like I’m in better control of that than I ever was. But it just changes the way you look at things a little bit. Definitely I think made me a more rounded person at the end of it all. Definitely learned a lot about life really over the last year, so definitely just a big growing year for sure.”
What’s the best advice your father gave you about racing?
“Man, about racing specifically? I would say we were probably at – where were we? Toledo one day and I was racing a go-kart – I was seven, eight years old, something like that – and flipped over and got in a bad wreck and I was fine, just shook up like any kid would be and didn’t want to race. This was in practice, so I wanted to go home and he said, ‘Well, that’s not gonna happen, you know? We’re not here to quit and go home.’ He said you’ve got to – he went into this whole speech about getting back up on the horse and going back out and getting back after it and not giving up and finally gave in and went back out and we ended up winning that day. That’s – it’s stuck with me even to this day. There’s times when you want to give up, quit whether it’s in the race or you have a bad day of practice, qualifying and you’re ready to just be done with it, I always think back to that day and that speech about getting back up on the horse and going back after it again.”
Can you talk about your family sponsoring the Michigan Takes Flight scholarship?
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. My dad had always wanted to learn how to fly since as long as I can remember – since I was a little kid he would talk about it and finally he got the opportunity where he didn’t have to go to the race track every weekend with me and had the chance and time to go and do it and my mom had said that she wasn’t going to fly with him unless she knew how to fly the plane too, so she went and joined and they both signed up and basically you have to buy in to the association. So after my dad passed, my mom had no interest in flying by herself and donated that piece back to the association and they started the scholarship in honor of my dad, so it’s pretty neat. It’s going to give really anybody the chance that wants to learn how to fly and doesn’t necessarily have the means to do it to go out, get the chance to do it, get their pilots license and be a part of the club, so it’s really special. I know it’s something that meant a lot to him and to at least see it be carried on and be helpful to another person I know would definitely make him happy.”
What made you from a car guy to wanting to race so badly?
“Yeah, so I think back to being a little kid and I wasn’t necessarily a huge race fan. I was more – I was, yeah, I was a car guy more than anything going to car shows and hanging out and learning everything about ‘em and I guess I always wanted to be involved with cars somehow. I didn’t necessarily know in what capacity and I guess the race was always kind of on TV in the background on Sundays and we were always watching in between whatever – doing yardwork or anything else – and I would say as I got a little bit older, I didn’t really have a hobby, so I was looking for something to do and I really – I got a yard kart when I was about five or six and really just enjoyed being on anything that I could drive, anything with four wheels, and realized I really liked doing that and then after we found out about quarter midget racing, I think it was all just kind of natural. I was just a naturally competitive person – really wanted to win in anything even at five, six years old, it didn’t really matter – and when I got into racing it was like, ‘Wow, this is the best of both worlds’, you know? It’s cars, it’s the competition, it’s the word you put into it – it was just everything I enjoyed even as a little kid all rolled into one. I think that was kind or really did it for me.”