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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 17, 2016
Q. Did the Chase format hurt you at all?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, maybe some. I don't know. Obviously now I don't think it matters, being in the final race here at Homestead, being in the final four. Earlier in the Chase, yeah, I think it hurt us some. We wanted to have better finishes to make it easier on ourselves throughout the Chase.
We did it a little bit better in the previous rounds, we had some good races, we were able to put together a decent round and not have to fret too much about making it.
But, yeah, I think it hurt us some. We just hope we can put together a good race here at Homestead.
Q. Is there more emphasis on winning?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, for sure. The emphasis is way up this weekend at Homestead. I think it will be tough to say that the champion won't be the winner of the race. I think you're going to have to win the race to win the championship. So it should be exciting to see how it all plays out.
Q. Have you thought through having a teammate in this? Junior Motorsports is the same way. Have you thought through the strategy?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, a little bit. I think we've talked about it some. It's interesting that the four guys in here are both from the same teams, two and two. Yeah, we've talked about it some.
I think throughout the weekend, you don't change your process at all. We still share information, still lean on each other, help each other when we can. Obviously in the early and mid part of the race, we're not going to do anything to hurt each other's races.
Once it gets down to that last hundred, last 50 laps, I think you have to go for it. At some point you're going to have to race for it. We're racing for a championship. We don't want to take each other out of that chance, but at the same time we have to be in it to try to win our team a championship and make it happen. I think that's the point of this Chase and the point of this format.
Q. There's a lot said about the open notebook on the Cup side on JGR. Is that the same true between you and Daniel?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, it is. I think the XFINITY shop runs fairly similar to the Cup shop. There's some things different. We have less personnel and everything else. There's some fundamental changes there.
But the open notebook policy, yeah, for sure it's the same on the XFINITY side between Daniel and I, between the crew chiefs. We're able to share information throughout the weekend. Even during the race, they're going to know what's going on. The crew chiefs are going to be communicating with each other. It's not like we're going‑‑ obviously we're competing against each other, but we're still trying to help each other, we're still trying to do the best we can to each have a shot to win the championship.
Q. Have you and Daniel talked about anything leading up to this race?
ERIK JONES: We did briefly. I don't think we put too much emphasis on it. I think we both kind of understand what it is and what we need to do, what we both have intentions of doing. That's going out there and racing for it.
I mean, like I said, we can't take each other out, can't both take away our chances to win the championship. When it comes down to it, hopefully it's him and I racing for the championship, and we're able to settle it between us.
Q. Tony Stewart's career ends this Sunday. How much will you pay attention to it?
ERIK JONES: It's pretty cool, I'm glad that I did have the opportunity, number one, to race against him a few times. It's pretty neat to say you raced against a guy like that.
Overall, yeah, it's unfortunate to see him go. I think we all were fans of him growing up. I know I was. He grew up around the same area that I did up in Indiana. Obviously not far away from Michigan. We ran at some of the same tracks, quarter midgets and stuff.
It's sad to see him go. I'm interested to see how it's perceived and what the events are for him this weekend. But I think we're all excited to see what he does after retirement here from NASCAR as well. I don't think he's done racing by any means. I know I'm excited to see what he's going to do.
Q. The Chase format, Matt talked about how he hated it, now he loves it because of the way it worked out. The format played itself out to help you. Are you glad you're doing the Chase format now?
ERIK JONES: Yes and no. I think had it been a traditional points format, I think I would have approached the year different and raced differently. I think I was just playing more so to what was available.
Obviously with the Chase format, there's a little bit of a different way you can race. I think I tried to take advantage of that and use it. Unfortunately some of that carried over into the Chase. We had some inconsistencies there.
I mean, yeah, at the beginning of the year, I wasn't really against it or for it. It was a format change. It's what they thought would be the best. We were rolling with it. Fortunately it's worked out great to this point. Hopefully we can grab the championship. Can't have much bad to say about it at that point.
Q. Speaking of that format, what has your attitude or mindset been last year versus this year?
ERIK JONES: Well, I think this year it's definitely been a win‑or‑nothing mentality more so than any other year. I think even last year I had some of that in the Truck Series early in the year. We got a little bit behind in the points. But through the second half of the year, we were able to top 10 it for how many ever straight weeks. We were able to close out the championship.
It's definitely a different mentality. I don't know if everybody approaches it like that. I know I did. Honestly, if I'm able to make the Chase next year in the Cup Series, I think I'll have a very different approach to it than I do this year.
Q. Would you call it a perfect track to end the season on?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, it's hard to find one much better. I think it kind of tests every part of a race driver, of a race team. You can run anywhere from the bottom to right against the wall. Obviously now lately the groove has been right against the wall, preferred.
But I think the only thing that could be better yet or would be neater as a driver would be to rotate the track at the end of the year. I think that would be cool, to be able to go to some different tracks for the final four, for the final race.
But Miami is great. Not only is it a great racetrack, but it's a pretty great location as well. I think it's just a great place to have the championship race. It's pretty fun to come down to Miami and celebrate the end of the year.
Q. Any other tracks in mind?
ERIK JONES: No, I wouldn't say there's one specific one that I would say, Man, I wish we could go to there, or go to there. I think it would be neat if it was randomized throughout every year and we could go to whatever track it may be. I think that would be kind of neat.
I know it doesn't quite work like that, it's not that easy with TV contracts and sponsors. It would be neat to rotate around and maybe have some random‑ness to it.
Q. Maybe a short track?
ERIK JONES: I mean, sure, it would be exciting anywhere. Whether it be a plate track, which would be a little bit insane, but it would be interesting. A short track, a road course. I think any of that stuff would be interesting.
It would be cool really not only to rotate the final race but rotate the Chase races as well. That would be neat. You saw it kind of in years past with Jimmie and the 48 team. They were very strong at all these tracks in the Chase. It played out really well into their hands.
It would be interesting to kind of see those races rotated, some different curve balls thrown in there.
Q. What do you think this championship hangs on?
ERIK JONES: That's tough to say. I think a lot of it is obviously being fast. You need to have a fast team, a fast racecar to go to Homestead and run up front.
I think you're going to have to finish pretty well to win the championship. I think everybody's brought their best stuff. We brought our best stuff. Junior Motorsports it's going to bring their best stuff. I'm sure they have cars that they think are going to be really good for this race.
A lot of it's going to be making sure you don't make any mistakes. Riding up against the wall all day isn't the easiest thing in the world. You can't get up in the fence and end your day prematurely. We've had fast cars all year. We need to make sure we don't make any mistakes and have a solid day.
Q. Do you think any of the drivers has an advantage going in?
ERIK JONES: No, I don't think so. Really nobody's won their way through the last rounds. I don't think anybody has a real momentum or anything that's carrying them into this race. I think everybody's pretty leveled out.
Obviously we haven't gone to Homestead this year. It's not like you have one previous race this year to lean on. It's kind of a wide open playing field. Homestead is not like a lot of mile‑and‑a‑half's. It's pretty different. It really makes it pretty wide open, which is neat, which is how it should be.
Q. Because you had Cup guys in previous races, does that make it harder for you to understand where you are relative to each other?
ERIK JONES: No, I don't think it makes it harder to understand relative to each other. I think it makes it harder to advance at times. There's times in the race where I was in a situation here in previous rounds where it's like the hardest guys to race are the Cup guys obviously because they can take risks that I can't take. There's times where it was like that.
I don't ever really think it made it hard to see where we stack up. You kind of knew where those guys were all weekend and all day, where you were comparatively to them. It was just a little bit different racing against them at times during the day.
Q. Nobody's ever won championships in all three series. Presumably you'll never race for an XFINITY title again. How important is Saturday?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I mean, obviously for the near future, this is my only shot to get an XFINITY title. Yeah, it's important to me, for sure. For sure, a long‑term goal of mine, especially after we got the Truck championship, was to try to go chase down all three. It's a big goal. It's for sure a long‑term goal. Obviously if we can get the XFINITY championship, that completes another leg of it.
Yeah, it's a big deal for me. It would be a big deal for me to go to Homestead two years in a row and win championships in two different series. It's pretty neat honestly to be at Homestead with another shot to win a championship again. That's not something that a lot of guys get a chance to do, whether it's in the same series or not. Pretty excited to be there with another shot at it.
Q. Is this nerve‑wracking? Next year you're going to Cup. Your career doesn't depend on this moment this weekend. How do you approach it and does that matter what you're doing next year?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I mean, sure, it makes a big difference in pressure. Obviously if I was in a position where it's, like, I don't have anything lined up for next year, I feel like this is an opportunity to show that I can do it, yeah, I think there would be a lot more pressure.
Knowing I have something lined up for next year makes it a little bit better, but in a different way. I think there's still pressure on myself that I put on to go out and perform and do well.
I think a lot of us expected to be title favorites, which is more pressure. You can't sit here and say that doesn't put pressure on yourself.
Yeah, I think there's still pressure, it's just a little bit different kind. It would be a different kind if I didn't have a future laid out or anything else.
The pressure for me, honestly, that I put on myself is not only that we were one of the favorites to be here and try to win it but also that I don't know if I'll ever have another shot at least in the near future of winning an XFINITY championship again. It means a lot to me. It means a lot for me to go to Homestead two years in a row to have a shot to win a championship. It's a pretty unique experience.
Q. What do you remember about last year? Can you bring any of that with you for this year?
ERIK JONES: Honestly, last year was a lot higher pressure just because it was being a traditional points format, we didn't have a lockdown. We had to run 15th or better. Still, you never know. It's still a race. You still never know what's going to happen. You saw it with William Byron last week in Phoenix.
This year with it being one race settles it, nobody's locked in, nobody has any advantage. You just get to go out there and honestly race. There's pressure not to make a mistake or do anything that will hurt your day early.
I still think it's a lot less pressure than a traditional points format.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports