Toyota MENCS Playoffs Media Day Erik Jones Quotes

by Official Release On Fri, Sep. 14, 2018

Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Playoffs Media Day – September 13, 2018

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to the media in Las Vegas:

ERIK JONES, No. 20 DEWALT Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Can you talk about getting to the playoffs for the first time?

“It’s exciting to be in the Playoffs for the first time. In the Cup Series, you want to be in contention for a championship. This is our opportunity to do it this year. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be challenging. It’s going to be a new experience. Getting to the Playoffs isn’t an easy thing in the Cup Series. You think 16 drivers make the Playoffs and it sounds easy in the start of the year, but the more it gets into the season, it gets tough and it’s challenging. There’s a lot of good cars that are consistent and a lot of good drivers. Our win in Daytona got us locked in early. Which was great. That was a huge moment getting that first win the Cup Series knocked out. It was a great feeling. That was one of the most special moments I’ve had in my career at this point. Hopefully I have many more here soon.”

What’s your strategy for the playoffs?

“For us, our strength has been our consistency for the last month to two months. We’ve been able to consistently run top-five or top-10. That’s been paying off for us in a big way. We kind of roll week-to-week with that momentum. Overall, I think the strategy for the playoffs has to be somewhat the same, especially in the first round. You go in there and four guys get eliminated. If you can top-10 your way through all three races, you have a good shot at making it to the next round. Beyond that, you have to win a race or be top-five pretty consistently every race to keep advancing all the way to Homestead. It’s going to be tough. There will be no way around it.”

How has the Toyota Development Program helped you get to where you are.

“It helped me a lot. It was in its infancy when I was in the Truck Series. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) was just getting into the development side of things from a driver perspective and I was one of the first guys to come through there. They gave me an opportunity in Trucks early on when I was 16 and then through my first full season when I was 18. From there, over to Joe Gibbs Racing. And now, on the Cup Series side with Joe Gibbs Racing as well. It was really essential. I wouldn’t have had my opportunity without TRD along the way. They really helped mold me where I am and the driver I am today.”

Do you think your consistency eases the pressure of going into the playoffs for the first time?

“It does a little bit. It wouldn’t feel as good if we were coming off a bad month and starting the playoffs off right now. Having a month or so of solid runs and in the top-10 pretty consistently has been good. That momentum is rolled week-to-week and race-to-race. We’ve been able to carry that. We’ve done a good job as a team – fixing and improving things we needed to work on throughout the year. Hopefully we can continue that.”

Where did you come from at the end of the Indianapolis race?

“We restarted fifth at the bottom. We got a really good restart at the bottom and we rolled ahead. I saw Brad (Keselowski) chase him down. It was weird race. One of the weirdest races I’ve been a part of in the Cup Series. The whole race was weird. We never got settled in. So many cautions early. I could never get a feel for where we were supposed to be running. I didn’t know if we were a 20th-place car or a fifth place car. The strategy, the way it was working out, we couldn’t run long enough to figure out what was working. Towards the end, we were sixth or seventh when it went green and we lucked into some spots.”

Is there something that you can fall back on being a rookie in the playoffs?

The only other experience I can fall back in being in the Xfinity Playoffs and the Truck Series championship in the old points format. In the Xfinity Playoffs, they were really challenging. We were really fast that year. We thought we’d breeze through them but they were really tough. We almost missed out on Homestead. It’s really easy to get in trouble. One mistake can bounce you out of the rounds. It’s a lot of pressure but that’s the only thing you can look back on and look to.”

Who do you lean to for the next 10 weeks?

For me, it’s been Kyle (Busch). Obviously, he’s a champion in this format and he’s been the guy I’ve leaned on for the last few years. Always when I need information I go to him.”

Is your first year at Joe Gibbs Racing everything you expected it to be?

“It is. It’s different than Furniture Row Racing. Being at Furniture Row and on a team that basically started up last year with a great group of guys. I enjoyed working with them. Barney (Visser) and Joe (Garone) were great to me. It was a small shop in Denver. I didn’t see the guys as much or have as much interaction. Obviously with Joe Gibbs Racing being 10 minutes from the house, I am up there every Monday for meetings and seeing the team all of the time. It’s different for sure. There is more accountability at Joe Gibbs Racing and resources for a driver to better himself. We can make the cars as good as we want but the driver has to be good as well.”

Make your case to be at Homestead this year.

“I think for us, consistency has been our strong point the last few months. We’ve been top-10 in the field. We’ve been running well and that has been good for us. The first round, that will be good to get us through. Honestly, my case is making it to the Round of Eight. I think we’d have a great shot of making it to Homestead. We got Texas and Phoenix in there which are two of my best tracks. And two of Joe Gibbs Racing’s best tracks. There’s a really good opportunity to win our way through to Homestead. It’s going to be a long road to get there but I think we’ll have a good shot if we can.”

How different do you think things will be at ISM Raceway?

“It’s going to be a lot different. You look at restarts and where they will be positioned. You’re going to have a lot of guys still in Turn 2 in what will be Turn 4 I guess now still around the bend. It will be in a weird spot to get in a restart if you’re back in the pack. Close finishes will be different as well. You got a run on a guy trying to get to the inside, it’s going to be pretty different. It will be fun to see. I am excited. I will be confused for a bit in practice where I am at trying to lay it out but it will be fun.”

What does Erik Jones want to be talking about next year about his performance this year?

“I hope I can continue to grow as a driver from this last year as a team. If I can look at next year and be in this spot and be talking about winning three or four races, I’d be pumped. I want to be that guy who can win multiple races like Kyle (Busch) does. He wins four to six races a year. I’d love to get to that level at some point in my career and be a true championship contender each week and year. There’s a lot of work to still get to that point.”

What have you done to prepare for the heat this weekend at Las Vegas?

“I wish there was more we can do. It’s going to be hot this weekend. Hydration is really important and even more so with the heat over 100 degrees on Sunday. We’ll see what happens. We’re pretty prepared. It’s been a while since we had a hot race. Darlington was hot. Chicago was as well. A lot hydration and water, we’ll be just fine.”

When you went from Furniture Row to Joe Gibbs, how different was it?

“It was pretty different. They were different environments. Furniture Row was a really small team. I knew most of the guys in the shop. Going over to Joe Gibbs, it was much more corporate. It wasn’t a small race team feel. Joe Gibbs Racing is a big company. They have over 100 employees. Relearning the processes of how things work over at Joe Gibbs, was different.”

What’s the dynamic of how you looked at the alliance between Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing when you were there vs. now?

“It’s interesting. I’ve been on both sides. It was great at Furniture Row. Joe Gibbs Racing was giving us the wheel and all we had to do was make that wheel a little bit rounder. We didn’t even have to build that wheel. That was where Furniture Row’s advantage was. They were able to improve on what was given. Joe Gibbs Racing coming back, I honestly think it’s pretty straight up and fair. We’re getting the same information. They’re feeding the same information back to us. I thought it was helpful alliance and worked well in the short time I was a part of it. It is tough when you’re Joe Gibbs Racing and you see your alliance running better than you. That’s not what you want. It was good while it lasted. I am sad to see Furniture Row shut down. Barney did a lot for me and my career. He gave me my first year in cup. And it’s unfortunate.”

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