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July 15, 2014

Erik Jones

Jesse Little

JENNIE LONG:テつ Good morning, everyone.テつ We're joined today by NASCAR Next drivers Erik Jones and Jesse Little.テつ Erik drives the No.51 Toyota Care Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and Jesse drives the No.97 NASCAR Technical Institute Chevrolet in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.テつ Both drivers scored wins in their respective series last weekend.テつ Erik and Jesse, thanks for joining us, and congratulations on your wins last weekend.
Erik, you're set to make your Nationwide Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.テつ Talk a little bit about the opportunity and your mindset leading into the weekend.
ERIK JONES:テつ Yeah, I'm really excited.テつ It's a great opportunity for me, and I'm really excited it's with Joe Gibbs Racing, such a strong team in the Nationwide Series, and I think it'll be a great opportunity.テつ Really looking forward to what that's going to bring and seeing how it all works out.
JENNIE LONG:テつ And Jesse, you captured your first career series win at New Hampshire last weekend.テつ Talk about the closing laps of the race and what it was like pulling into victory lane at New Hampshire.
JESSE LITTLE:テつ It was a very special feeling.テつ I didn't have a car that was capable of winning the last couple laps, but the first‑ and second‑place cars were racing very hard, and I saw that, and then I saw the move the second‑place driver made on the last lap, and I knew there was a good chance that I was in good contention, and when I saw them wreck, I had a big sense of relief, and once I crossed the checkered flag, I felt like all the pressure was lifted off of my shoulders.テつ It was a really special feeling pulling into victory lane and finally getting everybody that supports me and sticks behind me their first win.
JENNIE LONG:テつ We'll now go to the media for questions.

Q.テつ Erik, congratulations on your Truck Series win at Iowa.テつ My question, there was a little issue with your truck in post‑race inspection regarding height.テつ Do you anticipate any kind of penalty, and do you feel like your team should be in the clear on that?
ERIK JONES:テつ I don't know.テつ I guess we'll find out today on that one.テつ I'm really not too sure what's going to become of that, but I just drive the trucks at the end of the day and sit on top of what they provide me with.テつ We'll see what comes out today and see what NASCAR says.

Q.テつ Erik, about Eldora, I just want to get your general thoughts from you on how special that race is being on dirt, and obviously heading back for the second time this year, the Truck Series.テつ What would it mean to you to win there, and do you think perhaps the Truck Series should have another dirt track race on the schedule?
ERIK JONES:テつ Well, I think it's cool just in the sense that we do get to go to a dirt track and especially a place like Eldora that they host a lot of really prestigious dirt track races throughout the year.テつ For us to get a shot to race there and really put our mark down at Eldora is pretty special.テつ I think it would be pretty cool to pick up a win there and definitely think we've got a good shot at it.
I think it's something that NASCAR and the Truck Series should continue to do.テつ I think it's a great show for the fans and brings a lot of people out to watch the trucks that maybe necessarily wouldn't watch them every weekend.テつ I think it's a great thing all the way around for drivers, teams and fans, and it really puts on a good show.

Q.テつ Erik, I know that earlier in the season in the 51 truck you had had some issues.テつ How big was it to run the way you did on Friday night, especially given the fact that you're making a Nationwide debut this weekend?
ERIK JONES:テつ Well, it was great in a lot of ways.テつ First of all, we did have some trouble at the beginning of the year, really none of our own doing, but I was happy that we could finally really put it all together here and pick up a win there at Iowa.テつ That was a pretty cool deal and definitely gave me a lot of momentum going into next weekend and into the Nationwide race.
It was definitely a great win in a lot of ways for everybody over here at KBM and for myself just to get some momentum going.テつ Hopefully we can carry it into this next weekend and keep going on the Nationwide side of things.

Q.テつ Erik, what's your mindset heading into this first race?テつ Is it just about keeping the equipment safe, or are you going to go for it?テつ How are you approaching this Nationwide debut?
ERIK JONES:テつ Well, I mean, the main thing is for me, and we've talked about it, is just making laps honestly at this point.テつ It's a really big step for me getting into a Nationwide car, and especially at a place like Chicagoland.テつ At first I'm just going to be looking to make laps and get to the end of the race and hopefully running up in the top 10.テつ At the end of the day we're all race car drivers and we all want to go for the win.テつ I think we'll be challenging hard to do all we can to run up front and contend, and at the end of the day I hope we'll be up there.テつ I know we've got great equipment and a great team.テつ I'm pretty excited to see what it's all going to bring.

Q.テつ Erik, along those lines, have you tested at all in the Nationwide car?テつ And also, I know obviously stepping into that truck, there's an expectation because everybody has seen how good that truck competes week in and week out.テつ Obviously the Nationwide car is just as competitive.テつ Is that something that is kind of in the back of your mind?
ERIK JONES:テつ I have tested once with the 20 team.テつ We went up to Memphis and tested.テつ It's a short track up there.テつ That's the only time I've been in a Nationwide car and felt like we learned quite a bit and I definitely got acquainted with the team.テつ I think there's definitely an expectation every time you step into a race car that's successful and always runs well, especially with the 51 truck this year.テつ Kyle has been extremely dominant, and every time I get into it, it makes me feel more confident just knowing that the truck can win and we have a shot to win every weekend.
I'm really looking forward to the start I get in the 20 car.テつ I know it's a great team, and there are some expectations there, but at the same time they're obviously a little different for me just making my first couple starts in the Nationwide Series, but at the same time I'm wanting to go out and show them that I can do it and run well in the Nationwide Series and hopefully show that we can go out and be competitive.

Q.テつ And also, is the plan still for you to run the Nationwide races at Bristol and Phoenix later this year?
ERIK JONES:テつ Yep, that's the plan, just those three races we'll be doing.テつ Phoenix will be double duty with the truck and the Nationwide car.

Q.テつ Erik and Jesse, the usual suspects, those individuals that have influenced your racing career with Chad Little for Jesse and maybe Kyle and Joe Gibbs for Erik, but what other individuals have been a part of your development and influence to get you where you are today?
ERIK JONES:テつ I would say for me, you know, obviously my mom and dad have been able to guide me the right direction in my racing career, and I'm a first‑generation racer, I'm not from a racing family of any sort, so it's been really a deal of finding people in the racing industry to kind of influence me and show me which way to go.テつ But definitely Kyle has been a big influence on me and pointing me in the right direction and helping me out.テつ I think he's been the biggest person in my career, especially since I've been up at the late model level and above that has been able to really show me the right way to go and what is definitely his opinion on what he thinks I should do next.
JESSE LITTLE:テつ Yeah, I'm in a different boat than Erik.テつ I grew up in the racing world, and that's really all I know.テつ I don't know really too many people outside of it.テつ But other than, like you said, my dad and my mom, it's just people that have been close to my dad and have helped him through his career that he's stayed close with and now I'm beginning to build relationships with.テつ That goes for my dad's old crew chief when he was in the Nationwide Series, Harold Holly, who is Joey's crew chief now, Joey Coulter in the Truck Series, to just everybody that helped him, like I said, in his career.テつ Other than that, it's just really been my dad who really just helps me outside of the car and mainly inside.

Q.テつ Jesse, as far as Virginia International Raceway for the K&N East, what are your thoughts going back to the road course?
JESSE LITTLE:テつ I love it.テつ I got to do both road courses last year in the K&N Series, and I enjoyed it a lot.テつ It's a lot of fun.テつ It's something different.テつ It was my first time on a road course, and I had a blast.テつ I'm looking forward to going back this year, and hopefully we can build a little bit on our finishing.テつ I've got an idea of it now, so I think going in I'm a lot more confident in myself, and it should be a lot of fun.

Q.テつ For both Erik and Jesse, there seems to be a lot of young guys moving up different ranks in NASCAR, and obviously there's a lot of talent out there, and maybe be some big changes the next couple years.テつ What's the biggest challenge that you both think you feel that you've got as you try to take the steps up, and how do you learn from the veterans?テつ Do you watch them on the track?テつ Do you just take everything in stride?テつ Do you listen, that kind of thing?
ERIK JONES:テつ I would say my biggest challenge for a long time was my age.テつ Honestly I was stuck being below 18 and I didn't have an opportunity to run a lot of racetracks that were on the schedule.テつ But obviously that's now out of the way.
Now it's just a matter of getting my name out there, getting a sponsor.テつ It's so hard when you're a young guy that's not well known to find somebody that wants to support you because at the same time there's a lot of sponsors don't want to go and help out a guy that's not well known in the racing world when you can go help out somebody that's known to everybody.
That's the toughest part for me, and on the side of learning from veterans, I would say that I just try to talk to them as much as I can and go and‑‑ any chance I get to speak to one of them, I take it and just take it all in and watch what they're doing.
JESSE LITTLE:テつ Yeah, I second Erik with that completely.テつ I think the biggest thing at both of our ages is just showing owners and sponsors that you have the potential and that you have the potential to succeed, and you're going to be a good asset for them, and I think that's probably the hardest part, just because there's so many good young drivers that have talent and are marketable.テつ I think it's trying to single yourself out and just make sure that you set yourself apart from them in as many good ways as possible.

Q.テつ Erik, I wanted to kind of circle back to Eldora for a second.テつ There's so much hype surrounding that race this year just as there was last year.テつ If you had to rank that race on a pecking order in terms of prestige among Truck Series races, where would you put it?テつ Is it as big as Daytona?テつ Is it under Daytona?テつ I'm just curious to get your take.
ERIK JONES:テつ Among Truck Series races I would definitely say it's probably right around the Daytona level, probably second or third.テつ I wouldn't really see too many other races there that would really be much higher than it.テつ Maybe on a personal level, there may be an opinion that some people would have, some races higher than it, but I'd definitely put it high up on the list because it's something so different.テつ It's at a track that's so well known in the dirt world.テつ Apart from dirt racing‑‑ I've never raced dirt but I definitely still know about Eldora.

Q.テつ Because it is a dirt track, do you feel like guys might be able to get away with more in terms of on‑track aggression than you might be able to on asphalt or a pavement track?
ERIK JONES:テつ I don't know, I've seen a lot of on‑track aggression on the asphalt stuff, as well, this year.テつ I don't know if there will be more so, anything than what you'll see on your typical asphalt short track than you will on dirt.テつ But I think there's definitely going to be‑‑ a majority of the contact on dirt just comes from inexperience on dirt and not really knowing what your race truck is going to do when you put it in a corner.テつ It's kind of a lack of truck control, not knowing what's going to happen when you put it in the corner.テつ I think you'll see a lot more contact just from mistakes rather than purposeful aggression.テつ It'll definitely make it exciting, and I can't wait to see what it's all going to bring.

Q.テつ Erik, does the success your boss Kyle Busch has had in the 51 truck this season put any added pressure on you when you've been at the controls this season?
ERIK JONES:テつ I don't really take it as pressure, I take it kind of as motivation, just that it's a great race truck and one that can contend for wins every weekend.テつ That's how I've always looked at it since I started and got my first opportunity in that truck.テつ I never really saw it as pressure to go out and perform any better.テつ I think any time you put pressure on yourself to try and do better mistakes and not running as well as you should.テつ I try to have fun every time I get in the truck, and I definitely do, so that's all I try to do is just go out and have a good time and know that it's a great truck that can go to victory lane every weekend.

Q.テつ I know most of your background is from the short track level, so what's the mindset going to a much larger track this weekend in the Nationwide Series?
ERIK JONES:テつ You're right, all my background is short track racing.テつ I haven't had a lot of experience with racing on a mile‑and‑a‑half with how the air works and all that.テつ But definitely my mindset is open to just trying to take advice from my teammates.テつ I've got two great teammates there in Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish that will be there, so definitely going to lean on them a lot and hopefully get a lot of information out of them as to what they do on these tracks and how they race and just try to learn from them.テつ They've obviously done it a lot longer than I have, and just hopefully I can learn a lot from them and go into the race and learn a lot and come out a better driver than I was.

Q.テつ Jesse, I know I spoke with you in Richmond, and you had just got off the NASCAR Next announcement and really only had the Rookie of the Year honors from the K&N Series in 2013.テつ How much does this win really make you feel solidified in the NASCAR Next group?
JESSE LITTLE:テつ It definitely takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders.テつ It was a huge win for us being at New Hampshire and being with the Cup guys.テつ I put it‑‑ I put New Hampshire as one of our biggest races of the year, and to get the win there, I think it couldn't have came at a better place.テつ It was right in our mid‑season where we had just started to build back and had some good top 10 finishes, and to go out and get the win, it definitely gave my guys a ton of confidence, including myself, and it was really gratifying the way we did it.テつ We ran up front all day, and the teams know how hard we work, and even though we're underresourced and underfunded, it's just really gratifying that we can go out at a track like that and prove ourselves and I can prove to other people that myself as a driver, I'm there to contend and I want to win.

Q.テつ This is kind of a territory question for both of you guys.テつ When you go to different parts of the country, does that affect your mindset at all, or is that just another stop in the road?
ERIK JONES:テつ Just another stop in the road for me.テつ I don't know where I'm at when I get there, and a lot of times you'll wake up in the morning and wonder what state you're in.テつ Just a stop along the way for me and just another town and another racetrack.
JESSE LITTLE:テつ Yeah, I agree completely.テつ About the only thing that I pay attention to when we travel out of town is what the weather is going to do, and going up to Ohio, I think I'll probably just bring a little bit more shorts than I would normally.
JENNIE LONG:テつ Erik and Jesse, thanks for joining us today, and good luck this weekend.

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