Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Talladega Superspeedway – May 5, 2017
Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to the media at Talladega Superspeedway:
ERIK JONES, No. 77 ToyotaCare Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
After a hard weekend at Richmond, what’s it like to come to Talladega with a chance to get yourself back on track?
“Well, you know, you always want to have a good rebound after a bad weekend, especially like we had at Richmond. I thought we had a good car and a good shot to go right up front once the race started. Unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to even try, so it’s not the way we wanted it to go, but coming back to Talladega, it’s a little bit tough. It’s kind of a wild card track. It’s tough at times to really get a good result. But hopefully this will be a good weekend for us and we’ll get a strong finish and get the season heading back in a positive direction.”
How do you rebound from Richmond and put a weekend like that behind you?
“You know, a guy told me a long time ago that ‑‑ I don’t remember where I was. I was really frustrated about a race and was kind of beating myself up, and he said, if you’re going to be a race car driver for a long time you’re going to have to have a short memory, and I’ve always tried to remember that, as much as it kind of eats at you and burns away. I’ve tried to let it sit there for a day and it kind of bums me out, but after that, I just try and move on and look forward to next week. I’ve tried to do that this week. It seems like as busy as I’ve been, it’s been a slow week for some reason just trying to get back to the racetrack, and just anxious to get here and get out there. You’ve just got to focus on the positives and know that we’ve had a fast race car pretty much every week that we’ve come to the track, and we just need to go out and just keep doing what we’re doing and the finishes will eventually start to come with that.”
Do you remember who gave you that advice on putting a hard weekend behind you?
“I was trying to remember ‑‑ if I remember right, I think it was Billy Venturini. I was driving his ARCA car at the time. This was 2012 maybe, something like that.”
What are your thoughts on the encumbered win rule?
“Well, I think NASCAR has been trying to come up with a way to better penalize or enforce rules and infractions. You know, in the past, obviously points penalties were enough, as much as points mattered, and then once the playoff system came around, the points really kind of got eliminated and the race wins were so important that people were willing to push the issue more to get those race wins, and obviously the fines are big, but the big teams are able to absorb those fines. I think this is the best way they’ve come up with to really try to discourage anything. I don’t think the 22 (Joey Logano) was necessarily trying to break the rules. I think they were just pushing the limits like we all are and went a little bit too far. I think this is the best way that we’ve had so far other than ‑‑ I don’t think you can really take wins away at this level, that I think will help enforce it.”
How would you assess your season so far, and where do you want to see yourself in the remainder of the season?
“Well, you know, I guess I wish through the first part of the season we would have just had more results. I think we’ve ran a lot better than what we’ve really finished, which is disappointing and unfortunate in a way. But knowing that we showed up at the race every week ‑‑ I can only point at a couple races where I didn’t really feel like we should have ran in the top 10, just circumstances, and the way these races have kind of played out, at the end of the them, it just hasn’t been in the cards for us. I think beyond that as the season goes on, we just want to keep working on executing better at the end of the races, getting these finishes and running up front and honestly feel like we keep bringing these fast race cars to the track, one of these weeks it’s just going to kind of click for us, and we’re just going to be running up front and have a good shot at the win. I thought Bristol was kind of going to be that day, but it seems as things have gone, we just haven’t had the tides been falling in our favor.”
Are there any veterans you’ve followed on a plate track that you feel like you’ve learned the most?
“Well, I’ve watched a lot of them on video. I followed some of them at Daytona and got a chance to see a little bit what they were doing. But you know, I’ve been saying all week, you kind of tell yourself that plate racing is all luck and it’s out of your control. But you see the same guys here the last two years really going up front and winning these races. Obviously there’s a little more to it than that, and I’ve been trying to learn more about it and figure it out. Obviously at the Cup level it’s kind of a totally different ballgame than what I think the XFINITY cars were, especially when I was running in there a few years ago. It was all tandem draft and trying to push the limit on that as much as you could. Just a big change and a new learning process for me, so just keep watching the video and seeing how they’re getting up there and how they’re staying up there.”
Following last week’s on-track incident, do you feel the need to talk to Kasey Kahne and other drivers to get an idea of what was going on there and is it done and over with at this point?
“Me and Kasey (Kahne) talked. He talked to me right after the race. He got a hold of me, and that’s as much as you can really do, obviously. It’s not a situation that’s comfortable for either driver. You know, you don’t want to really have to have that discussion, but it was nice and very forward of Kasey to do that. It’s just unfortunate. You know, he said that he made a mistake, and it’s going to happen. It’s racing. But it’s just frustrating it was lap 1. It’s still kind of frustrating to think about that. You know, it’s a 400‑lap race. We’ve got plenty of time, and just to get taken out on lap 1 is really the most frustrating thing you can have in a race. It’s kind of the first time I’ve had that, especially at this level, and it’s just bummer, so you’ve just kind of got to move on at this point.”
In only your first full-time Cup season does it seem strange to be sitting up there talking about, yeah, if we were in the right position we think we can get a win?
“Yeah, a little bit. You know, you kind of look at the last few years, and the guys that have come through the series and how hard it is to get a win in your first year in this day and age. You know, to be as fast as we are some of these weekends has been surprising and encouraging at the same time. You know, it’s definitely a little bit different than maybe I thought it would be, but it’s been nice to have that speed. I would say this early on in the year, it’s surprising, but I think we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing, and I truly believe that at some point throughout the rest of the season we’re going to have a shot to win one of these races.”
How close does Furniture Row Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing work together and exchange information?
“Yeah, it goes both ways. We’ve leaned on JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and JGR has leaned on us, obviously this year a little bit more than maybe past. Furniture Row has just done a good job of being fast every week and having really good race cars. I feel like we’ve been some of the best Toyotas every week, been right up there right up front still. They have leaned on us some and trying to bridge that gap, and like I said, you know, it goes both ways. I think it’s nice to have another team that you can kind of look over on and kind of compare a little bit other than just having Martin (Truex Jr.) and I to compare on. It’s not a true teammate thing, but it’s just nice to have that they’re available to you.”
Now that you’re running full-time in the Cup Series, are you more comfortable around the younger drivers in the series and how do you balance a relationship with them when you’re competing against them every week?
“Well, you know, when I say I bring my friends to the racetrack, that’s true to a sense, but I’m not just going to ignore these guys. I still talk to them and still have a relationship with them. I know all the guys. You know, if we’re around and hanging out, yeah, we’re going to hang out and have fun. It just goes both ways. When I say I bring my friends to the racetrack, it’s more of a sense that when we’re out on the track racing, I don’t look at any of the guys as my buddy or somebody I’m going to go hang out with tomorrow night. So it’s just a ‑‑ it’s kind of hard to explain in a way, but you’re still cordial with the guys. You’re not going to just blow them off for no reason. More than any sense you’re trying to be the tough guy out there.”
Do you understand the necessity for the younger drivers to kind of lead the way to that next generation who’s going to build NASCAR?
“Yeah, it’s definitely a little bit of our job I feel like. If we’re going to be here for a long time, we have a pretty big or tall order in front of us of bridging that gap I feel like, and we have a pretty big opportunity to do it, as well. So it’s a big role to take on. It’s one that’s going to be needing to be filled with Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) retiring and a lot of our top drivers getting up there and getting older and I’m sure thinking about retirement at some point. I feel that. I feel the need to want to do it. I want to be able to help in any way I can on that front. I’m not exactly sure of the way to do it yet. I just haven’t been around long enough to really bridge that gap and learn what is going to be wanted or needed out of us. But I think it’s definitely there for us, and we definitely feel that need and that pressure to want to be a part of that.”