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August 13, 2017

Erik Jones

Martin Truex, Jr.

Brooklyn, Michigan

THE MODERATOR: We will begin today's post‑race media availability in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the 48th Annual Pure Michigan 400, and we're joined by today's runner up Martin Truex Jr. You won a stage, looked like things were going to go well for you going into that final restart and overtime. Walk us through what happened from your perspective.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, we got beat fair and square. That's the way it goes sometimes. Double‑file restarts are tricky, and I had good restarts all day I felt like, and we had that red flag for the first time and really just sat there while I got the tires cold and then only had one lap to come to the green and get some heat back in them, and I just struggled getting going, just spun the tires. I didn't really expect it because I hadn't had any trouble with that all day.
Just one of them things that happens. Like I said, again, the double‑file restarts are tricky, and sometimes you do them right, sometimes you screw them up, and unfortunately I screwed the one up that mattered the most today.
But proud of our team for the run we had, and both cars running strong up front all day and both having a shot at the win there. Hate it for my guys, obviously, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
THE MODERATOR: We are also now joined by our third‑place finisher and our top Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, and that is Erik Jones, driver of the No.77 5‑Hour Energy Toyota for Furniture Row Racing. Erik, tremendous run out there for you today. Could you please walk us through the final restart from your perspective.
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I heard the last part of what Martin said there coming in, and it's the same thing. I just‑‑ one lap to kind of get some heat back in your stuff after that red flag, and unfortunately I just couldn't get going. I was spinning my tires. The 20 got to the bottom of me and the 42 was to the right of me. I saw them both getting runs, and kind of had to pick one or the other and picked wrong, and the 42 went up the middle and was able to go by both of us. Just didn't work out. Wish it would have worked out a little bit better. It was looking like a Furniture Row one‑two, kind of either way it was going to play out, so just didn't work out the way we wanted it to.

Q. When you're running second there, did you let your mind entertain the thought of what it would have been like to win your first NASCAR race on what's basically your home track?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I mean, for sure. We got that red flag, and it gives you a lot of time to at least play through different scenarios on the restart and how you want it to work out. It's very rare it actually works out the way you picture in your head, but yeah, you definitely ponder what that would be like. You know, seemed like right off the bat on the restart Martin and I would kind of match lap times for a few laps, and Martin would start to inch away after a couple laps. I knew we had a shot right on the restart. We were just as quick I felt like right off the bat, and it would have been nice to be able to seal the deal for sure.

Q. Obviously from the way you restarted, it didn't look like you cared very much that Erik really could have used a win for the Playoffs‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: What's that supposed to mean?

Q. Well, it means that‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: We don't have team orders. Nobody lets each other win. He's going to win some races. His turn will come.

Q. My question is would any thought of letting him win‑‑

Q. ‑‑ not come across you because of the way that you race‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, it doesn't. That's not how we race. Nobody out there races that way. Nobody is going to give a Cup win up. They're too hard to get.

Q. Does the fact that five playoff points also are involved, does that matter?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely.

Q. On that last restart it was four wide for a second. How did that end not in a crash?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Everybody just stayed off each other. I don't know.
ERIK JONES: I was pointed at the infield for half of 1 and 2. For me it was an easy choice. It really doesn't matter if we crashed. The only thing that was going to benefit us was a win, so we were in the middle, and I just kept going and hoped that I would get enough air to keep moving along. So I think everybody was kind of on the same page, and it just worked out.

Q. When there's a red flag so late in the race, is there a strategy talk you're having with your crew chiefs at that time?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I mean, you're just talking a little bit about trying to manage your brakes and all that stuff. Everything is a little different when you have to stop and sit there for a while. Just manage your battery, your volts, and turn all your fans off and all that kind of stuff really is about it. It's not really rocket science. Everybody is out there in the same boat trying to sit there and think about, okay, what am I going to do on the restart, how am I going to try to advance my position or win or keep guys behind me or whatever it is. You just think about the situation you're going to be in on the restart and try to do the best job you can.

Q. Erik, can you just kind of take me through your year this year, some of the biggest things you've learned, how you think you've performed this year?
ERIK JONES: You know, I think the biggest thing that going through this year I've been learning and trying to improve on is just the preparation for each weekend. I think the trucks and the XFINITY Series you didn't really have to prepare at all, at least I guess I didn't, and it kind of worked out most of the time. And then you get to the Cup Series, and you do that, and it's like, well, you kind of feel a little bit out to lunch when you show up and you're off the pace and things aren't working out.
So I've really tried harder I would say after the first quarter of the year to really focus in and try to prepare better, look at the data, use the tools that are available to me and try to improve. I think just going through the year and coming back to these tracks for a second time is a big help for us, as well, at least it is for me. I know better throughout the day what I'm looking for in a race car, and what I want is a feel in the race car through practice. So performance wise I think we've up and down. We've had good days. We've had bad days. We've had days where we should have run better, and we've had days where we ran better than we should have. It's been up and down, like I said, but overall, I think we've done a pretty good job.

Q. It was suggested earlier this weekend that maybe Toyota didn't bring the best stuff or whatever this weekend. Just your thoughts about that, and did the performance today put that to bed?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't know. I mean, I guess it depends on how everybody looks at it. I think that for Brad and those guys that think that maybe we're sandbagging, I think it's a glimpse of if they get their stuff right, maybe they can beat us, and it's not all just that we have better race cars. We were off a little bit on Friday. They were obviously on, and they beat us.
Today I thought we had a couple cars that were capable of winning and a couple that weren't. It just depends on the week, where we're at. I feel good about our race cars and what we've been doing all year. We brought some new stuff here this weekend to try to get better, and that's what we'll continue to do.

Q. Stage racing, can both of you talk to it? Is it tougher physically and mentally on you than the old format? You're having three races in a day basically, sprint races.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I'm just angry.
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I think more just frustration than anything for us. But yeah, I think it's physically easier. You've got scheduled breaks throughout the race. Today was an exception, obviously. We ran green for a large majority of it. But mentally I think there's a lot more preparation on the crew chief side. Well, I shouldn't say that. I think it almost in a way makes it easier for the crew chief to call because they know when the caution is coming for the most part. Obviously it gets jumbled up sometimes like it did at the end of the day, and today when you had eight cars that were staying out and everybody else had pitted, so they could come in, take tires, we had to stay out. So there were some strategy things that come into play.

Q. Watching the race from the press box, I had the impression, maybe it's wrong, but it looks like that when you were running with Erik at the front for many laps, you were going identical speed. Can you just tell me if your setup is identical or similar?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No. I'm sure they're pretty‑‑ I don't know if they're identical or not to be honest with you. No idea.

Q. I know you're pissed, so I'm not going to ask you about today. But on your season overall and since we're in Michigan, I kind of compare what you guys are doing this year to the 2003 Pistons, that there's other glam, a lot of other bells and whistles from other teams, but you guys are doing just an amazing job for being that small team in Denver. How much does that play into what you guys do every day? How much does that mean to you, that you're able to accomplish this the way you guys are racing against the larger teams?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think it's really neat. You know, I mean, I've been‑‑ this is my fourth year with Furniture Row Racing and I feel like we've come a long way since where we started. We've made good decisions on partnerships, and we've been fortunate to get in some good situations. You know, we're a small team, but we're by no means underfunded or an underdog because of the alliance we have and the partnership with Toyota and those type of things.
It's neat for our guys to be in Denver, kind of do things different, especially for Barney, our owner. People 10 years, 11 years ago told him it couldn't be done out of Denver. I think that's a sense of pride that our guys in particular carry around with them.
But aside from that, I think that the last couple years we've shown that we belong and we're not going anywhere. We don't connect like it's such a big deal anymore.

Q. About that final restart, as you're sitting there under red trying to figure out what you're going to do when that race restarts, are you thinking about Kyle Larson in particular and what he might do to counter that? What would have been his distinctive move, and did he do what you thought he was going to do?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: There was no distinctive move. I mean, if a guy screws up in front of you, take advantage. So I screwed up, he took advantage. That's the way it works. Typically it's a lot easier to not spin your tires when you're in the second row than it is when you're on the first row, whether you're first or second. The first row for whatever reason it's more difficult. The guys behind you always lay back. They can always time the run. Kyle laid back a car length coming into the restart zone, so I waited later in the zone to go, waiting for him to catch up to me, and actually wanted him to hit me, and when he did, I tried to go, and it spun the tires.
I did everything right, it just caught me by surprise, because like I said, I hadn't spun the tires all day long, did not expect to have an issue with it, and when I did, and when I did, there was nothing I could do, I was just helpless, and he had the momentum and done what everybody else would have done. It's just my screw‑up gave him the win basically.

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