Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Daytona International Speedway – July 4, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to the media in Daytona:
Erik Jones, No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Take us through the last lap of your win.
“Well, I remember that whole last sequence of restarts. The last one, the green-white-checkered, we were stuck side-by-side with Martin (Truex Jr.) on that first lap. Then coming around to take the white, I could see the top line forming behind me and I was hoping they would stick with me and I would get a big push. Going down the backstretch, Martin was trying to side draft hard and we got a really big push from behind from the 37 (Chris Buescher) and got clean of Martin there, and I knew at that point the only way we were going to lose it was a catastrophic failure so I was defending the last move that Martin could make and getting to the checkered. Coming out of four, I would say I knew it was pretty locked in. I remember everything about those last laps for sure.”
How was the celebration?
“It was good. I didn’t get home until three in the morning and I had to fly out and go out to Slinger the next day for a late model race, so I don’t know if we went to sleep. But we flew up there and practiced that day the late model, and finally got to celebrate that night. I had a lot of buddies that came over to Wisconsin from Michigan to come celebrate so that was a lot of fun.”
How does it feel to come back here as the defending winner?
“Coming back as the defending winner always feels good. For me, it gives you that extra little bump to keep being the defending winner and to come back and do it again.”
What are your thoughts on the race moving from July 4th?
“It’s kind of disappointing for me. Growing up, you always had the big July 4th race at Daytona and that is where everybody was. That is what you did on Saturday night, you watched the race at Daytona. It’s a little bit of a bummer. It’s a tradition and kind of some of the things in the sport that have stuck around, and this is one of those things and I’m sad to see it go. It’s a change of the times, but maybe we will make it back over here at some point.”
Lot of talk about manufacturer alliances here at Daytona and Talladega. Do you think that will happen again this weekend?
“I think so. We were talking about it just the other day as a group. We’ve got some strong racecars. Unfortunately, there is only five Toyotas out there and that doesn’t give us a lot to work with, especially with the other manufacturers having more. We will do all we can; I know we will have fast cars but it’s definitely going to be manufacturer driven with the other two linking up and sticking together. I think they saw what Toyota has done in the past, well before I was racing in Cup with working together and making sure they were in the place that they needed to be.”
Your teammate, Denny Hamlin, had what he thought was a questionable penalty on pit road. What are your thoughts on penalties like that?
“Yeah, I have got some odd penalties in my time in NASCAR. There are weird things that get called that you wouldn’t think would. It’s tough for me to say. I saw the video and I saw the call. I have seen some other uncontrolled tires that maybe didn’t get called. It’s a strike and ball call. You’re judging it a little bit from their eyes to make that call on what was an uncontrolled tire. I get it’s the rule and that’s what is in the rule book. Technically that was a penalty what they got called for. Was it a safety issue? Not really. So, I don’t know. There is probably more common-sense judgement that could be used there rather than black-and-white, this is the rule. We can call it either way, but if they are going to get into the judgment calls that makes it a whole other mess. I would rather have them stick to the black-and-white and make the call.”
How did the manufacturer alliances affect what you were able to do at Talladega?
“I felt like at Talladega we were trying to tag on with some of the other guys and tag on to their lines because they were so much bigger than ours. Just trying to make the most of what we had. Coming back here, the racing will be different here than what it was at Talladega. I think everybody has time to work on this package and optimize it. Daytona is a lot different track than Talladega. I don’t know. It will be definitely interesting to see. It’s definitely going to be a little tougher for some of the manufacturers to take advantage of the alliance with it being so narrow. There is not, sometimes, anywhere to go at Daytona. I think that plays into our hand a little bit. If we can get out front, we can command the race and get that line rolling around the top they Toyotas will be strong up there. I think this race plays better in our hand with having less cars. It’s easy to say now. I will tell you more about 10pm on Saturday night. Going into it, I would say we all feel a little better about it.”
Except for your crash, your worst finish at Kentucky is eighth. Talk about your success there.
“I remember the crash I had there. It was a dumb one. I still regret that one. Kentucky, I don’t know. It’s always been a place I have liked, even before the repave. I felt really comfortable on the old surface and enjoyed it. After the repave, I was thinking that I don’t know if that is going to still be good for me. It’s somewhere unique. One and two, I don’t think make a big difference. I’m focused on three and four. Making sure my car handled well and got through there well. That’s where I have focused and made a ton of passes and ran well at. I like the track. I just enjoy it. I like the layout. Just the way it drives fits my style from the start. A real flat turn three and four is always kind of been the sweet spot for me. I have always felt really comfortable.”
Coming in here the first driver outside of the playoff grid, have you and Chris Gayle (crew chief) talked about how you will attack the next nine races?
“I think for us our goal is 30 points a race. That’s about a seventh-place finish. If we can do that every week, we will easily point our way in without a win. We know we can win a race. We have a lot of good tracks coming up here. Kentucky is good to us, and a few more along the way, going back to Bristol. There are some tracks marked down that we feel like we can win at. If we can continue to crank out that 30 points a race, guys will make mistakes, and we will keep pointing our way up there. Really our year, we have missed out on so many stage points. It has killed us. There has been so races that we haven’t gotten enough stage points and it has really put us back further in the points than we want to be. Obviously, there has been some unfortunate circumstances, DNFs. Just some things that we could have done a little better and earned more points in some races. I would say the goal is 30 a race, and if we do that, we will be ok.
Has that season been more circumstances haven’t really shown that you guys are better than your finishes have been?
“Some of it has been our own fault. Phoenix, we had a loose wheel to start the race, blow a tire, get in the wall, ruins our day. Charlotte, we blow a right front; whether that is our fault or not, I don’t know. There is Bristol, loose wheel, go three laps down. There have been so many races where you take yourself out it. That’s what you can’t do in this sport and try to make the playoffs. We have had fast cars; Sonoma, we had another good car, but we had to start in the back. Chicago, we had an okay car, but we made a good day out of it. We’ve got good cars; we just need to have things go our way. We need to execute better on our end on all fronts. Make sure we are doing all we can to get the best finish that we can.”
Do you enjoy the superspeedway racing?
“It’s become something I have liked. Early in my career, it drove me crazy because I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t understand it. I felt like I was always the victim. I was getting caught in wrecks. As much of it that is out of your control, it is also in your control. Just knowing better, situationally, becoming more aware on superspeedways on what situations you don’t want to be in. It helped me a lot. I learned more about the draft, how to position yourself, where you need to be at certain points of the race. Learning all those things have helped me enjoy it more. Learning more about it and having to figure out how to be better at it. I don’t think any driver likes things they aren’t good at. Eventually, I have really come to enjoy it. There are still things out of your control. You just have to take it as hey we are going to do all we can. This is a great opportunity for anyone in the field to win. You have to go into it with that mentality. At the end of the day, if you get taken out in a wreck that wasn’t your fault, it’s going to happen. I feel like I have learned a lot and got quite a bit better at it so it’s definitely something I have enjoyed more.