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August 19, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We will now begin tonight's post race media availability in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
We're joined by tonight's runner‑up, Erik Jones, driver of the No.775‑Hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota for Furniture Row Racing.
Looked like you were on the threshold of getting your first win tonight. What was it like up there having the win that close?
ERIK JONES: Well, it's fun to have a night where you've got a really fast racecar and you're up front leading laps. It's also a burden at the same time because you're letting all those guys be behind you and get better and better and improve on their cars to gain up on you. It's hard to get your car better when you're out front. You don't really know what you need.
We had gotten a little bit snug on the last run and unfortunately didn't have another stop to work on it. So I think that's kind of what put us behind the eight ball at the end of the day. But strong run nonetheless.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open up the floor for questions.
Q. Considering how strong you were, does this suck, not winning? At what point did you know it was over?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I mean, you know, you don't want to sound like you're whining or being a sore loser by saying it sucks to run second, but it's a bummer. It hurts. You know, you want to win every race you're in. This was the first shot that I really had to come really close to it in the Cup Series. Bristol is a really good racetrack for myself. Thought we had a shot at it all night, led a ton of laps.
That good of a car, it's Kyle Busch. He won all three races here this weekend. So I feel like I'm close to him here, just trying to find that last little bit.
Q. Disappointment aside of coming up one spot short, does a night like tonight, this performance, leading as many laps as you did, winning the pole, does any of that give you confidence going forward?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I mean, I was talking to Chris on the way in here. You know how it goes. You got to lose one to win one, right? We lost one tonight. We did. We led the most laps and didn't win the race. We lost this one.
Hopefully that gives myself a lesson and everybody a lesson of what it really takes to win these races. Obviously they're not easy to win, especially this Bristol race. 500 laps is pretty tough. This is probably the most wore out I've been after a race all year long.
It's just unfortunate. You try hard, you work hard all weekend, feel like you really had a good racecar. Just when it comes down to it, you don't have quite enough. You don't have a chance to make it that much better. That part hurts.
But I definitely feel like it's boosted my own confidence as well as the team's confidence. I think the team's really pumped up. We had great pit stops tonight. I don't think we ever lost a spot. That's a huge day for us. A lot of positives we can take out of tonight. The only negative is we just ran second.
Q. You seemed committed to the bottom. Was it by design to run the bottom?
ERIK JONES: It was where our car was best. I went up to the top a few times in the middle of race, just couldn't really find a lot of speed up there. Obviously we had a lot of speed on the bottom. Felt like nobody could really run with us on the bottom.
When I moved up to the top, I was a little worried knowing we were tight on the bottom as it was. But we found good speed. We eventually burned the top in enough and got it high enough to where I felt like we had decent speed. It just seemed like Kyle and I were trading lap times. He would catch a little traffic, we'd run him down. I'd catch some traffic, lose him a little bit.
Every time I got close to him, I would just get my tires too hot. I just had to run it way too hard to make any lap time. I was just right on the edge of it the whole time, which is not what you're looking for in a great racecar.
Q. Your crew chief Chris mentioned this was one of the races you kind of had circled, it was one you thought you could win that would get you guys into the Playoffs. Did you feel a lot of I don't want to say pressure, but did you feel this was one of the races you had the best opportunity?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, for sure. This is one I had circled when we‑‑ really all season, but especially when we got knocked out at New Hampshire with a flat tire. That was like, Okay, we need to win. What's the tracks coming up that are our best shot? Bristol was definitely, you know, the one where I thought we were going to have the best shot to win.
I felt like we had a really strong car in the spring. Felt like I could improve myself and improve what we had in the racecar compared to what we had there. We did that. We qualified on the pole, you know, led a ton of laps. We just didn't quite keep up with it.
So, yeah, this was our best shot to win. Did I feel any pressure? No. I was just actually really calm this week. I really had a sense we were going to run really well. I had a really good feeling about it. I feel really confident every time I come to Bristol. And, you know, kind of felt like we were going to be running up front, but just didn't have enough.
Q. You mentioned lap traffic. Everybody had to deal with it out there. How difficult was it to maneuver around some of those cars?
ERIK JONES: You know, it was difficult at times, especially on that hundred‑lap run we had. We caught some traffic‑‑ I mean, you're catching faster cars. But when you catch those faster cars, it's just tough to pass 'em. They're not slow. I mean, you're passing cars in the top 15. So you get up there and it's just tough to maneuver around them.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our fourth‑place finisher tonight, Matt Kenseth, driver of the No.20 DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Matt, you had a fast Camry. Talk about the rigors of running this race this evening.
MATT KENSETH: 'The rigors of running the race.' Sounded very dramatic. I like that.
We didn't start the race very good. Made good adjustments. Had really awesome pit stops. Got behind when we sped on pit road. We had a great 40‑lap car. Really, really fast. Then it would just get tight. Just really couldn't do anything about it. So that run was just too long.
I felt like if we wouldn't have got out of the caution, cycle the tires, I felt like I was making maybe a little ground on Erik, not a ton, but maybe a little bit. After the cycle, we had that long run, I got really tight, couldn't really do much with it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Erik, Kyle has proven his abilities over and over again. Does it say something extra about him, what he did here this week, three in a row?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I mean, it's a great feat. I mean, obviously he puts himself in the situation to win a lot of those races. He still goes out and executes. I mean, it's not easy to do. I run my fair share of XFINITY races during the year. He's winning five, six, seven, eight a year. We're not winning quite that many. So obviously he's doing a great job at that level as well.
But it's every week, you know. People rag on him for the truck and XFINITY stuff. But he does a great job on the Cup side, too. Obviously he's had a ton of speed all year long. He probably should have had way more than two wins this year. He's really on it. He's got it going on. He's got it figured out. It's hard to keep up with him at times.
Q. Erik, through 28 Cup starts and a half start here for Denny a few years ago, is this the most fun you've had in a Cup race so far?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I would say so. I mean, it's just the most‑‑ these cars are so hard to drive on mile‑and‑a‑half's and two‑mile tracks that it's hard to race. It's hard to race side‑by‑side, it's hard to race front‑to‑back, it's really hard to run side‑by‑side. You don't really see the action like you see here with people, you know, right nose‑to‑tail, throwing slide jobs, everything like that.
Yeah, I mean, it takes you back to, you know, late model racing really more than anything. You're just on the gas. You're not saving tires. You're just hammer down and getting everything you can, which is a lot of fun. It's hard on you as a driver, it wears you out, but you definitely have a lot of fun.
If I had to rank it, this is probably the most fun I've had in a Cup race, for sure.
Q. Matt, when you got up there and were fighting with him and Kyle, what were you seeing out of what Erik was doing that impressed you?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I didn't see him the last few laps. They were about a half lap ahead. Before I got tight, yeah, it was a good race. It's kind of tough being the leader at times here, not that I have been the last couple races. With the bottom like that, you're never sure when to get off the bottom. When you're the first one up there, they go rolling by you on the bottom, you're like, Man, shouldn't have moved up so quick.
Me and Kyle, we both got a pretty good run up on the top, got mixed up, got in front of him, then just wore me down and passed me back. I didn't see him very long. Just got a lot smaller.
Q. Erik, you led 51 laps up to this point. You led 260, race high tonight. You weren't afraid to use the bumper. You did it respectfully. Is this going to be a big morale booster for the team going forward?
ERIK JONES: Sorry, what was the last part of the question?
MATT KENSETH: I was asking Erik how you run into somebody respectfully.
Q. I thought he did it pretty well.
ERIK JONES: I didn't mean to hit Matt.
MATT KENSETH: Did you hit me?
ERIK JONES: Just barely.
MATT KENSETH: Didn't remember. Shouldn't have brought it up. Now I'm mad (laughter). You guys laugh, wait till we leave here.
Q. I think he can take you.
MATT KENSETH: Takes my ride and runs into me (laughter).
Finish your question.
ERIK JONES: You can finish your question now.
Q. Was that a morale boost for you, that run, Erik?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, yeah, I mean, we had a good run at Michigan last week. I felt like we had a shot to win. But tonight was really the closest we've come all year. Obviously we led a ton of laps and ran up front. We didn't run out of the top three really all night.
When you have a car that fast, having like that consistent, that good, you know, yeah, it pumps everybody up. It pumps me up, pumps the team up. It's good for everybody.
We just really did a good job as a team. We executed the best we could. We had great pit stops. I don't think we lost a spot, which is a great day for us on pit road. Good step up in that department and just a good day overall for the team.
Q. Erik, all kidding aside, the guy beside you does have some extra motivation to try to beat you. Was that on your mind at all when he was chasing you there?
ERIK JONES: No, not really. I mean, I think when you're out there, you just see‑‑ it's just another car to pass. At least I'd assume that's how most people look at it. That's how I look at it.
Yeah, sure you get to some guy, you're like, That guy wrecked me last week, something like that. For the most part, as long as you don't have a grudge with the guy, it's just another competitor.
So you race everybody, your teammates, you race them like teammates for the first 300, 400 laps. When it comes down to the last 100, 150, it's time to go. You're just racing everybody for the next spot.
Q. (No microphone.)
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I mean, I don't really think about it.
Q. Erik, we're entering two of the tracks that Furniture Row did very well on last year. Do you feel like this momentum from the last two races can really carry you into the next two and land you a spot in the Playoffs?
ERIK JONES: Darlington is going to be tough for us. Darlington is tough for anybody. I've only been there once. It doesn't really fit how I drive. It doesn't fit my style of racing. It's something I've been learning. The low‑grip tracks, wears out your tires really bad. I haven't figured out 100% in these racecars what you need.
So I do think we'll be‑‑ I think we'll run well. I just think it's going to be a little bit more of a challenge than, say, when we come to Bristol, where I feel really comfortable and confident in what I need in the racecar, feel like I can tell Chris exactly where I need the car to go.
Darlington will be a challenge, but Richmond will be good. I think we had a fast car there in the spring. We got a cut tire there on lap five or something. We have just need to, you know, have a good race at Richmond. I feel like I've learned a lot there the last few times I've been there and run a lot better.
Q. Matt, your mood is so good. Some people might have: Needed that win, might not have a job for next year, might be in a bad mood. What's keeping you so happy?
MATT KENSETH: I mean, I don't really have anything to be unhappy about. I mean, I shouldn't say, knock on wood, because things can turn on dime. But my life couldn't be much better. I've never really been in a better place. I don't think I've ever been happier. There's more to life than racing.
Yeah, I wish it kind of maybe would have went down a different way or maybe I had another year or two there. That's not the way it worked out. I think everything happens or doesn't happen for a reason. It will all become clear.
I'm pretty happy. I'm not really worried about it. Certainly I wanted to win tonight, though. I'd be happier if I would have won. Yeah, I'm pretty happy. Thanks for noticing.
ERIK JONES: All that bike riding.
Q. Matt, the good news is the guy next to you didn't win, that didn't bump you out of the Playoffs with two races to go. Going forward, how do you look at Darlington and Richmond? Do you still feel pretty good about either pointing your way in or maybe getting that win?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, honestly I would have liked to see Erik get the win. It would have been fine with me. I wasn't really thinking about the Playoffs. It would just have been another one of our cars with a win, put another basically JGR Furniture Row Toyota in the playoff grid.
I don't know. I guess there's only two races left, so somebody is going to make it by points. I don't know where we are. I don't even look at it, to be honest with you. If you don't get a win in the next two weeks, hopefully we get in. Obviously we'll be really far behind. If we do get in, we're running a lot better as of late. We've had some solid finishes. Last week wasn't. But we've definitely been closer to being in contention for wins.
So I do feel like if we get in, everybody on the team's doing‑‑ you know, they're performing really well right now. We had great pit stops. Jason made some good adjustments tonight, kept us toward the front.
So I do feel like we have a little bit of momentum at the right time. We need more, but I feel like we have some at the right time if we can get in.
Q. Erik, you talked about how it felt like your old modified days out there tonight. What are some of the most important lessons you've learned in your starts here over the last few years that helped prepare you for the situations you were in tonight? And what factored into your choice of music for the intros today?
ERIK JONES: I'll be honest with you on the music part. I forgot to pick a song. I don't even know who picked my song. I know that's not really how it's supposed to work. I don't know. I don't know who picked that. I was a little surprised when I walked out.
But on my short track days, I drive this track like I drive Winchester. I mean, that's it. Just ask the car to do the same things I did at Winchester a few years ago. We were successful there, won a lot of races. Came here and thought, This place looks a lot like Winchester. Drive it like Winchester. That was about it.
Q. You've run in the other series as well as Cup here now. How difficult is it to accomplish something like Kyle has done, win all three in the same weekend?
ERIK JONES: Well, I'd say the most difficult part is the three different teams. It's three different crew chiefs, three different cars. I mean, they all drive different. It's just tough. It's three different racetracks really. I mean, the way they move around and everything else. Keeping up with all that is challenging.
I know running double duty isn't easy necessarily. I've ran triple duty a few times in my career, and it was something I honestly never want to do again. So I respect him for that.
He's a hardcore racer. He really commits himself to that. He does a really good job. He doesn't let it affect his Cup racing at all. It's pretty impressive that he doesn't let it affect it.
MATT KENSETH: Well, I've never raced the truck. I haven't raced XFINITY in three years. I haven't won a Cup race in over a year. For me it would be pretty hard to do any one of the three it feels like right now.
Q. How impressive is it that he's done it?
MATT KENSETH: Pretty impressive.
ERIK JONES: On a scale of 1 to 10.
THE MODERATOR: Y'all put on an impressive show this evening and we thank you for coming in. Good luck in Darlington in two weeks. Enjoy your week off.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports