Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Pocono Raceway – June 1, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to the media at Pocono Raceway:
ERIK JONES, No. 20 DeWALT Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How would you kind of assess where the team is at so far in 2018?
“Well, I think you look back at the start of the year, and we’ve just been lacking some speed. We’ve had some okay cars and some okay runs at the start of the year, and then we had a few bad weeks, and then I thought Charlotte was going to be a really good day for us, just from qualifying and practice, and the way the car was driving. I was really happy with it, but things just didn’t go our way, unfortunately, and NASCAR races sometimes there’s a lot more to it than just being really fast. Charlotte we had the speed but we didn’t have the execution or the luck in the race and didn’t really finish where I thought we were capable of for sure. I thought we were a top 3 car, and we actually had some damage from that earlier wreck that was slowing us down, too. You know, we’ve just got to stay on this path of having good speed. I think we’ve got decent speed here today, and just making sure we’re executing and not having the mistakes that we had at Charlotte and taking what’s capable of the race car.”
Do you feel it’s your kind of racing here, or it takes you a long time to get Pocono?
“I think it does. I’ve actually got a lot of experience, a lot of laps here I would say. Not in a Cup car, but I’ve had some ARCA races, some truck races here, Xfinity race here, so I’ve been here a lot. I’ve been coming here since 2013 was my first time here, and I feel comfortable here. I feel like it’s a good track and a track that I like. But there is definitely a different driving style here. It’s helped having Kyle (Busch) as a teammate. Kyle was really fast here in the Cup car, has been the last few years, and having his data and his knowledge to lean on has helped a lot. It’s a very different track than in the Cup car than it is in anything else with the shifting. You can really actually make a few mistakes along the way and still have a really good lap and still put down a fast lap time. So it’s definitely tough. It’s not an easy place, but we had two really fast cars here last year, which helped with my learning curve just having good speed in our race cars. I think that accelerated things a lot, but I do feel comfortable here.”
Does scoring your first career top-five here help the confidence when you come into a place like this?
“It does. I think anytime you go back to a place where you’re ran well and feel comfortable at, it’s always a confidence boost. Coming back this weekend, and especially coming off a weekend where we had such a fast race car, you feel like you’re going to have another good weekend automatically. Whether it works out or not, when you get here you feel confident and you’re definitely excited to get on track. I was excited to get on track this morning to see what we got. So yeah, I think it is a big confidence boost when you come back to a track you run well. You never want to somewhere you ran poor at or not had good runs at, you never look forward to going to too much, and you feel like you’re always trying to improve. Still trying to improve here, but definitely feel more comfortable coming in and more confident.”
Do you kind of get a sense that maybe that first win is coming, that you’re on the verge of it?
“Yeah, I think we’re definitely capable of it. That’s not I don’t think that’s in question. I think it’s just a matter of having the right weekend, and I thought honestly last week at Charlotte might have been our shot. We had good pace and good speed. Unfortunately got some damage, which slowed us down a little bit. Still climbed back up to second at one point towards the end and just had a couple mistakes that took us out of it. I think it’s in the realm of possibility every week, we just need to hit it right and have good speed. We’ve been getting our cars better and better the last month and a half. I felt like I don’t know that we were necessarily down on speed, but just the driving style, the way the cars were handling wasn’t quite fitting what I wanted, and I think we’ve gotten a lot closer to that over the last couple weeks. It’s there. You know, we just need to have a good weekend, have a weekend where we execute properly, we qualify really well. We need to qualify in the top 10 for sure, and then have a great race, not make any mistakes, no mistakes on my end, no mistakes in the pits, and eventually those things are going to work out. We’ve been up front this year, we’ve led some laps, and we just need to have a mistake free day.