- Camry driver Erik Jones (second) was the top-finishing Toyota driver in Friday night’s NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
- Jones’ Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Daniel Suarez (fourth), also tallied a top-five finish on the 1.5-mile track.
- Suarez started seventh and led the field for one lap (of 200).
- Toyota driver Kyle Busch (31st) led the field twice for a race-high 102 laps, but was involved in a late-race accident with driver Kasey Kahne ended Busch’s night early.
- In addition to the finishes by Jones and Suarez, Camry driver JJ Yeley (19th) also recorded a top-20 result in Charlotte.
- Six Camry drivers are currently in the top-20 in the unofficial NXS point standings –Suarez (seventh), JJ Yeley (12th), David Starr (16th), Blake Koch (17th), Cale Conley (18th) and Eric McClure (20th).
ERIK JONES, No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
Did you think you were going to be able to hold the lead on the restart over Austin Dillon?
“I thought we had it on that one, but he (Austin Dillon) just got a really good run down the backstretch – I tried to get him back down the front stretch and just couldn’t quite clear him into one and unfortunately that was kind of the rest of the race for us after that. Overall, good day for us. We ran out front and second place is never fun, but it’s nice to know we were as fast as we were and it’s nice to get this GameStop Camry up front. I just love it, thanks to Xfinity for sponsoring the series and NASCAR and all the fans. Excited for my next one over in Texas.”
Have you become stronger on intermediate race tracks?
“It has, it seems like every time we go to a mile-and-a-half, we’re always strong. It’s kind of a product of JGR always being pretty fast on the mile-and-a-half stuff. I was fortunate enough to step in the seat, learn as I go and figure some stuff out and try to get better and better at the mile-and-a-halves. Just kind of clicked for me right away really and the mile-and-a-half stuff is just something I enjoy and something that felt natural to me and I really love when we get to come to them. I get to race one more this year.”
How hard did you fight to try to get to the 33 car in the final quarter of the race?
“We tried and tried, but just could never really get to him (Austin Dillon). There were a few laps on that restart where I was up in the middle lane and thought that I might be able to get up to his quarter and make something happen, but just never could quite get there. I’d get a little on entry and center and he’d get it all back on exit. We tried hard, we fought hard and I moved around and just couldn’t get anything going, he was fast and he got out front and did a nice job and we just couldn’t get it back.”
How was the race overall?
“A good night overall really. We ran up front all night really and a solid, productive night for us. Good changes, good pit stops and just never quite had it for the lead – the 54 (Kyle Busch) was strong all night, a little bit better than us and then the 33 (Austin Dillon) late was a little better than us. I don’t know that he was that much better, but he got clean air there on that last restart and I just couldn’t do anything but try to get to the outside of him and try to make a run at it. Not a bad night for us overall. Running pretty much second all night, we’ll take that. We’ll get our GameStop Camry a little better for Texas here and hopefully go get us another win.”
DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 18 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 4th
How was your race?
“Yeah, I really feel like we – for some reason we started the weekend a little bit off, but everyone on this team – Joe Gibbs Racing, ARRIS, Toyota Camry, Juniper, Telcel – they just don’t know how to give up. That’s a great thing. In the first practice, we were almost 20th and we started working our way back to the front and getting better and better and finding the speed and it was exactly the same as earlier in the race. I feel like in the beginning we were way too tight. We started making an adjustment and then we had a top-five car for sure. I’m very happy with all the hard work all these guys put together. Like I said, NASCAR puts a great series together – XFINITY for all the great support – and hopefully we can get one soon. We are running out of races, so let’s see what happens.”
What will it take to get that win?
“That would be great. We have to work a little harder, but I feel like we’re getting close. We’re competing with the big guys, which is great, but we have to be a little bit better and we’re going to get that win.”
Did you struggle in the corners early?
“Yeah, it really felt like we had a really, really strong car in the second half of the race. In the beginning of the race, for some reason I was just too tight and I wasn’t able to figure out how to be fast with that tight. But overall, everyone did an amazing job – Eric Phillips (crew chief) and my engineers, they called some great adjustments. I really feel like in the end we were right there to fight with these guys and great job overall from everyone on this ARRIS Toyota Camry.”
How do you expect to close out your rookie season?
“Well, really to be competitive one more time and, like I said before, we just need to put all the luck together and our stuff together to try to win a race. I feel like we’re close and we have the speed. We just need to put our pieces together.”
Did you enjoy tonight’s race?
“It was good. It was fun. Definitely a lot of stuff going open during the weekend. I really feel like in the beginning, we didn’t have the speed that we were looking for, but honestly everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing – my crew chief (Eric Phillips), my engineers – everyone did an amazing job making adjustments, making the car faster and faster. The car in the beginning, I wasn’t very comfortable with the car and, like I said, they made some great adjustments on the pit stops and we were able to finish with a solid top-five.”
Did you feel like you had the speed to race with the leaders?
“Honestly, clean air is super important and I really the closest we got to the front it was third, so I felt like we – right there in the end, our balance was good. It was pretty equal to all these guys, but in third position it was too important, so for some reason when I was trying to move around and race to try make something happen, I was still getting a little tighter. Overall, I think we had a really strong car in the end. In the beginning, it wasn’t like that and overall I feel like a solid day.”
Were you able to race the top line?
“I tried, but honestly I don’t feel like I was very strong. IN the long run, I wasn’t able to do anything on the top. In the short run, it looked like the top for me was working pretty well, but just for 10 laps and that was it.”
How was the race?
“First of all, I want to thank everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing because it’s amazing how they work that hard. Yesterday things didn’t look great for us in the first practice. I just felt like we were not where we needed to be fast and we just kept working and kept working every single run. I felt like we improved every single run as well from the first practice to the second practice to qualifying and actually in the race it was an exception – at the beginning of the race we were just okay. We were not contenders to be in the top-10 or top-five and then the second half of the race I felt like we had a shot. Definitely track position was very important, but we had pretty much the same speed as the top-three cars. Happy about that, happy with the progress that we made and overall a solid weekend.”
How would you grade your season overall with only four races remaining?
“I feel that everything is about teamwork. Again, Joe Gibbs Racing has been doing an amazing job with me to teach me what I have to do and to keep me on the right track. I really feel like I have great teammates with a lot of experience and they’ve been super, super helpful to me with a lot of advice and a lot of tips. I think that has been the difference. Not just that at the race track, but out of the race track there’s a lot of people that are on my side from all the way back in Mexico – Telcel, Telmex – all those people who have been on my side in and out of the race track and everyone in the organization at Joe Gibbs Racing that have been doing what I feel like is an amazing job with me to try to keep me on the right track.”
Have you ever had to work this hard to be successful in a race car?
“Never, this is the first time – the competition here, I’m not sure, I’ve never had to work that hard to be running in the top-10, top-five. The difference between these, what I’m racing right now in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series versus what I was running in the last few years – NASCAR Mexico and NASCAR K&N and local racing in road course and open wheel stuff, the competition is so much more difficult here. You have to work hard to get the car – when you have a good car, that’s not enough. You have to make the car as perfect as possible if you want to be a contender. That’s something that you can’t learn in all those series because the competition is not the same, it’s just not the same. When you move to this level, I really feel like you start to make all the details, it’s hard to improve all the very little details – one old friend told me that a perfect race car doesn’t exist so you have to make it better every single time. It’s always something that you can make it better. I think that is something that applies a lot in this series.”
How do you feel about your last double duty weekend at Kansas next week with ARCA and NXS?
“We’re running ARCA and it’s going to be my last ARCA race of the year so I’m really looking forward to being strong and see what happens. I’m happy to come back to Kansas and actually I’m happy to come back to all these race tracks for the second time. I really feel like in the first time we learned a lot and had a lot of information and that has been super, super helpful, but the second time is always better. I feel like the second time on these race tracks we have been stronger so I’m really looking forward to that. Our ARRIS Toyota Camry has been getting stronger and my whole team has been getting stronger as well. I was so excited to get to this point of the year where we have to come back for the second time to the same race track because I really feel like in this position we put all our pieces together we can have a shot at anything.”
JJ YELEY, No. 28 Toyota Camry, JGL Racing
Finishing Position: 19th
DAVID STARR, No. 44 Zachry Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 25th
CALE CONLEY, No. 14 IAVA Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 26th
ERIC MCCLURE, No. 24 Reynolds Wrap Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 28th
KYLE BUSCH, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 31st
BLAKE KOCH, No. 8 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 33rd
TJ BELL, No. 26 Toyota Camry, JGL Racing
Finishing Position: 36th
JEFF GREEN, No. 19 Premier Barter Exchange Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports
Finishing Position: 40th