Toyota Racing – Erik Jones
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quotes
SPEEDWAY, IND. (September 7, 2019) – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was made available to media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
ERIK JONES, No. 20 STANLEY Wish For Our Heroes Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How do you feel about the new deal?
“Number one, I am just happy to get the release out and get it set in stone that we are going to be back in the same spot. It feels good. I’ve had a good relationship with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) since 2015. I’ve enjoyed racing for them and I hope I’m there for a long time. I hope we can continue to prove that we deserve this ride. I think Chris (Gayle, crew chief) and I having been doing our job here lately in trying to execute. We have good momentum going now, just need to keep that rolling.”
Were you expecting more than one-year?
“We will keep running with it and see where it goes. I think if we keep doing what we’ve been doing here the last couple months; I don’t think we will have any issues.”
You are on a roll, and it looks like it will continue.
“Well, I hope so. Right before the Playoffs is a good time to get your momentum rolling. I feel like this time of year has always been pretty good for us in the past couple years between my rookie season and up till now. We are on a roll and want to keep rolling here in Indy and on to Las Vegas. Last year, we had a rough first round of the Playoffs. We want to go deep; we want to go deep in the Playoffs. We want to be able to make a run at it and make it to the Round of 8, is definitely my goal. That gives you a shot to go to Homestead. If we make it there, I’d say it’s been a real successful year.”
Do you think the new deal settles you down so you can focus ooon going out and winning?
“Yeah, I didn’t ever feel pressure to begin with. I’ve always been pretty comfortable in my own skin and I felt like if we did what we needed to do everything will come along with it. We did that here the last few months. We had good negotiations, good talks. We have a good deal. I’m a young guy and I’m trying to prove myself and continue to prove myself. If we keep doing it, the other pieces will fall with it.”
How do you feel about the Playoff tracks?
“Pretty good. You look at them and there are some that I feel like are good for me and there are some I feel like are bad for me. The first round, we have a couple good tracks. The Roval is tough; it’s kind of a wildcard for everyone. I feel good. I look at the Round of 8. You have Texas, Phoenix and Martinsville. Texas and Phoenix have been real good places for me, Martinsville is a little tough. Texas and Phoenix are places you can win at. If we get to the round of 8, we’ve got a great shot. It’s just a matter of getting there. It sounds easy. It looks easy on paper, but it’s not as easy in real time. It’s a tough run. You have to be perfect for 10 weeks, and that is not easy by any means. I feel like we are really close to being a top-five team. We’re right there; we just have to keep plugging away to get there.”
How do you feel the race is going to go on Sunday with four guys fighting for the last couple Playoff spots?
“Those four guys are going to fight. It’s their season on the line. This package is probably going to produce some interesting racing as far as the way we are going to get runs. It will be pretty fanned out, pretty wild. You’re going to be seeing a lot of aggressive racing for the first five laps with people just trying to get track position with people getting hung up and stuck in traffic. I’m interested to see. It’s not a relaxed week; we want to win, but we don’t have any pressure as far as the Playoffs go. That feels good. I think there is going to be a lot of aggressive racing from a lot of guys.”
Do you like this track? It is so different from anywhere else you go.
“Yeah, I like it. As a far as the race track itself, it’s fun for me. It’s a real technical track. It’s real precise and it takes a lot of that. For me, the prestige and history, more than anything. I just enjoy that part of it so much. I grew up in Michigan, so this place was not far from home. I knew how special it was. I raced here in a quarter midget down in Gasoline Alley. We set up a track in the infield. So a lot of memories here. I spent a lot of time here as a kid growing up. It was cool to come here for the first time in Xfinity, and then even cooler to come here for the first time in Cup.”
What was the Playoff experience last year like?
“A lot different. A lot more intense number one. The Xfinity Playoffs were tough and to be honest, we almost didn’t make Homestead. We had so many Playoff points, and we had such fast cars that year. It was like we should make Homestead. These Playoffs, I don’t think any of the 16 guys are like, we are definitely going to make Homestead. I don’t care if you are Kyle Busch or Martin Truex or Denny Hamlin. It’s just tough. Especially you get down in the rounds, and things happen. It’s still racing; you can’t control everything. It’s tough to make it through each round. You have so many different tracks. It’s so diverse; it makes it so challenging. That was the biggest thing for me; how challenging it was and how perfect you have to be for 10 weeks. We had one mistake in the first round in Vegas. We got caught up in a wreck. It killed us. We were out; we were done. We never made it back up. It’s like you can’t have those incidents. You have to be really on your game.”
What did you learn last year in the Playoffs that can help you this season?
“It’s tough right, you have to take it step-by-step I guess. More than anything, you can’t look too far ahead. I felt really confident about our first round last year that we would easily get through it and I don’t think I look at it quite that way this year. I think I’m more race-by-race, step-by-step, one at a time trying to process it more evenly and get through it – not more precise necessarily, but just step-by-step. Making sure you’re not looking too far ahead and making sure you’re focused on the task at hand more. I think if you just focus on the race you’re at and really just take that one into account. I knew the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was having trouble. My spotter, Rick Carelli, had said, ‘Hey, he’s got a tire rub, he’s got an issue and is slowing down.’ I was running the top and he was running the bottom and I just kept running the top. It was just really an unnecessary risk and one that looking back I wouldn’t have done. Definitely this year, you have to be more cautious at times. When there’s situations in the race that can put you in a bad spot, you really have to monitor those and take advantage and adjust to not put yourself in those.”
What do you mean by an unnecessary risk?
“I knew he (Kevin Harvick) had right-front tire issues, he was slowing down and he had radioed he had a right-front issue. If you blow a right-front, you’re going to go up and I kept running up there and the second he blew the right-front, I was about to pass him on the outside and he just came right up into us. I easily could have just gone to the bottom and got myself out of harms way.”
Where is your biggest concern in the Playoffs this season?
“The Roval in the first round for sure. It’s just such a tough place and kind of a wild card. We saw that last year with obviously a couple restarts and the wrecks. Talladega in the next round is always tough. Those two right off the bat are concerns for me. Then in the Round of 8, Martinsville. Those three tracks right there – one in each round unfortunately, but those three tracks are ones – Martinsville is one I probably struggle with the most and I’m not looking forward to if we make it to the Round of 8. We also have Texas and Phoenix in there too, which are some of our best tracks. It’s a balance right, you have to take the good with the bad, but I think if we get in that run, we can definitely make the most of it.”
How do you approach Martinsville mentally to do better at that race?
“Try to. I’ve been trying to work on Martinsville since my rookie year. It’s just been a tough place for me as far as driving. It’s the one place left on the schedule where I feel like I’m definitely holding our team back. I just haven’t figured that place out. Everywhere else, the places I’ve struggled early on, I feel like I’ve gotten good enough to where we can be competitive and run top-10, top-five, but Martinsville is not that place. A top-10 in Martinsville would be a real solid day for us and we need to be better than that in the Playoffs. You can’t rely on top-10s, you have to get top-fives, wins and stage wins, especially at that point in the Playoffs.”
How much will you focus to get into the top-10 this weekend and earn more Playoff points?
“We talked about it this week, Chris (Gayle, crew chief) and I, about trying to get those 12 or 16 points. We want them, those Playoff points are huge and they can carry you through the rounds and get you to a better spot. It’s possible. It’s going to take a mistake probably from the (Alex) Bowman. It’s probably going to take a mistake from someone to really make up that many points in one race, but it’s possible. Or we can just win and pop up ahead of him.”
Do you play the stage points game or do you just try to position yourself to win?
“I think we do the same thing. If we feel like we have a car that can win, we’re going to position ourselves for that win. If we feel like it’s a rough day and we’re struggling, we’re going to take the stage points for sure. It’s just a matter of how the day goes. If we’re running up front all day long and I’m in the top-three and tell Chris (Gayle, crew chief) – you know when you have a shot to win. Chris will make the calls accordingly for that.”
How interesting is it that only Jimmie Johnson has won multiple championships in recent years?
“There’s definitely a gap right now for somebody to be the dominant guy. We have a couple right now between my teammates are all very good and very dominant and you look around, Kevin Harvick the last couple years so there’s been guys in the last few years that have really tried and have been dominant for one season at a time. There’s definitely an opportunity there to be that guy that wins multiple championships and is at Homestead every year and is winning back-to-back championships. I’d love to be that guy. I feel like we have a lot of growing to do to get to that point to be champions and be multiple-time champions, but it’s definitely an opportunity there to capitalize and become that guy.”
When you were in victory lane, did you know you had your deal done?
“I knew we had it done. It had been maybe a week-and-a-half that we had finally gotten it done. I felt good about it. I had a good idea the last few months that we would get it done, but it was about a week-and-a-half ago that we got it done.”
So your win didn’t push the deal over the edge?
“No, it didn’t make a difference, but it definitely made us all a little more excited.”
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