- Toyota driver Erik Jones (second) was the top-Camry finisher in Friday night’s NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) race at Kentucky Speedway, which was won by Brad Keselowski.
- Camry drivers Kyle Busch (third) and Daniel Suarez (fourth) also earned a top-10 finish at the 1.5-mile speedway.
- Toyota drivers combined to lead 110 laps (of 200) with Jones (22 laps) and Busch (88 circuits) each pacing the field.
- Six Camry drivers are currently in the top-20 in the unofficial NSCS point standings – Suarez (eighth), David Starr (13th), JJ Yeley (15th), Blake Koch (18th), Cale Conley (19th) and Eric McClure (20th).
ERIK JONES, No. 20 Freightliner Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
How was your race?
“Unfortunately lapped car slowed us down enough for him to get by. It was kind of the situation where whoever was out front was probably going to hold onto it. It was between Mike (Wheeler, crew chief) and I to go with two tires. I feel like early in the race it wasn’t too much of a hindrance to go with two. It worked out good and did what we wanted, maybe a little too edgy at the end, a little too free. Our Freightliner Camry was good and we had a shot to win – that’s all we can ask for at the end of the day.”
Would you have done anything differently in the closing laps of the race?
“I wish I would have known the lap car was going to the bottom and went to the top. That’s about all we could have done differently. He was kind of out front at the end. Obviously Brad (Keselowski) was good all night and we were trying to get up there. We were off a second on the restart and getting the lead – we had a shot at it at that point – our Freightliner Camry was good enough to maintain. I don’t know if we had the fastest Camry had a shot in clean air. It didn’t work out, but it’s nice to be running up front with those guys, Kyle (Busch) and Brad, and just mixing it up with them. We’ll keep building and see what we can do next time we come back.”
Are you satisfied that you could have beaten both Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch if the race played out differently?
“It would have felt a lot better if we did beat both of them. It’s cool. Anytime you can race with those guys. We got to do it at Texas earlier this year and then to be able to do it here, it’s a good feeling as a driver to mix it up with those guys and see what they do, and watch them as well. It was fun racing with Brad (Keselowski) and trying to race him back down to the car and we were fighting the car. It’s cool to see hard racing.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 3rd
Was taking four tires the right call on the last pit stop?
“I thought four was going to be the right call. It might have been if we weren’t so tight. We were so tight, especially taking off and then throughout a run, we were really, really tight as well. I could just never get the thing to turn. At the beginning of the race we were super good and I don’t know if our beginning of the race car would have been able to beat the 22 (Brad Keselowski), they are obviously really, really good at this place, but Joe Gibbs Racing really caught up this time around. We were a lot closer – (Erik) Jones was a lot closer than I was. I felt like our Monster Energy Toyota was good on the long run.”
Was your pit strategy the right call at the end of the race?
“I definitely wanted to come down and get four tires. We just didn’t have a good short run car tonight. It kind of showed there in the second to last restart early on in the race before the green flag pit stop. Brad (Keselowski) got by us and rode away a little bit. Then, there at the end he got by me again and rode away. I just kept getting tighter and tighter and had to do something. I just drove the hell out of it for the last 20 laps and burnt the right front off of it trying to catch those guys. I made some ground, but definitely didn’t have anything to maneuver around once I got there anyways. We had a really fast Monster Energy Camry. I’m not sure if our car at the beginning of the race would have beat Brad’s at the end of the race, but that’s irrelevant because they obviously had a really good piece. Hard to beat that 22 here.”
What do you think of the performance by Erik Jones?
“Flawless – you know they took two tires and got out. That’s what you have to do, that’s where you need to be. I’m not so sure if we would have taken two if we would have been out there and done the same thing as Erik (Jones) and held off the 22 (Brad Keselowski), I don’t know. I like him and Erik’s obviously a great driver. He’s going to be a really good driver. He’s going to get frustrated an awful lot because he’s so good he’s going to finish seconds and thirds – he’s going to win a lot too. I know us JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) guys are scratching our heads trying to figure out how the 22 being a single car team can beat us finishing second, third and fourth.”
DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 18 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 4th
How was your race?
“First of all, I want to thank everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing because they’ve been doing an amazing job with me. They don’t give up with me and my sometimes rookie mistakes and my learning process. It’s been good being with them and learning from everyone. I’m very proud as well because I was really fast. We could run all night long in the top-five, which is great. I’m very happy, our No. 18 ARRIS Toyota Camry was very strong. Yesterday we also had a strong run in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, so overall a pretty solid weekend.”
Do you feel more comfortable as you compete in more races?
“I really think, I just feel different from right now to going back to the beginning of the year in February and March. I feel like a different driver, like I have been learning a lot and I have a lot of stuff that we learned on the first few months of the year. We keep learning a lot. Every single weekend I feel like we learn a lot of new things. I think it’s great. I really feel more confident running up front and with these guys. Not just running with them, but learning from all these guys because I really feel like we are learning from the best drivers. We have to keep it up and hopefully one race we can make it happen with a win.”
Who have you worked with that has impacted how you’ve improved this season?
“It’s everyone, Steve deSouza (JGR executive vice president, NASCAR XFINITY/Development) of the XFINITY program, he’s been helping me a lot. Kyle Busch with a lot of tips, on board camera and all the homework I have to do before each race. Most of the race tracks that I have been to so far this year have been my first time ever. Sometimes it’s hard to adapt fast and sometimes you have to do things before to adapt. I think that has been helping me a lot. Coach Gibbs (Joe Gibbs, owner) has been very, very helpful, J.D. Gibbs (president) – everyone. I really think they are a great organization, they are an even better group of people because as you know my family is not here, my family is back in Mexico, so they are pretty much my family in the race track, race shop and every time.”
How have you been able to develop patience to improve your racing?
“I think it has helped some, for sure. In the beginning of the year, I feel way more comfortable on short track racing than mile-and-a-half and superspeedways. When I was racing the K&N Series East, we used to race half-mile and one-mile race tracks. Pretty much my background came from short track racing. This is pretty much my first year on big race tracks. I feel like that was the beginning of the year. Right now, I feel way more comfortable on the big race tracks. I’m learning a lot about aero and speeds. It’s been great so far. Joe Gibbs Racing has done an amazing job to help me learn.”
JJ YELEY, No. 28 JGL Racing Toyota Camry, JGL Racing
Finishing Position: 18th
DAVID STARR, No. 44 Zachry Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 21st
BLAKE KOCH, No. 8 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 22nd
TIMMY HILL, No. 26 JGL Racing Toyota Camry, JGL Racing
Finishing Position: 24th
ERIC MCCLURE, No. 24 Reynolds Wrap Toyota Camry, JBL Racing
Finishing Position: 27th
CALE CONLEY, No. 14 IAVA Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 29th
DEREK WHITE, No. 13 Braille Battery/Grafoid Toyota Camry
Finishing Position: 36th
JEFF GREEN, No. 19 Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 40th