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November 19, 2017

Erik Jones

Homestead, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, driver of the 5‑Hour Energy Toyota, Erik Jones. Erik, hell of a season, man. Five top 5s, 14 top 10s. Talk to us a little bit about your initial campaign in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
ERIK JONES: Well, I think it's something to be proud of for all of us. You look back on the season, and starting out a new group over at Furniture Row racing, a second team there was a big step for us, and a lot of guys that obviously some hadn't been in the Cup Series, some had. But a rookie crew chief, a rookie driver, and we were able to have a strong season, compete for some wins along the way, and end up with Rookie of the Year. So definitely one to be proud of. That was one of our big goals was to get the Rookie of the Year, and it's nice to close it out with that.

Q. Just how rewarding is this for Martin and Furniture Row and everything that they've got going on?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, it's definitely good for them. I'm happy to see them get the championship. They've been the strongest car I feel like all year. I think most would agree with that. And definitely nice to see them close it out. It's definitely tough to do in a one‑race format, one race and one track, and they were able to bring the strongest car and the best effort and grab the win and grab the championship. Definitely rewarding for them and cool to be a part of it.

Q. Erik, this weekend being around Martin, being around that team, have you noticed anything different about them? Has it just been kind of business as usual with them?
ERIK JONES: You know, from what I saw, it looked pretty normal to me. I don't think he did anything different. All of us have been in situations to run for championships before. Martin has ran for XFINITY championships, and I think it's just really‑‑ you've got to go about it. When you've been as strong as they were, you've got to do the same thing you've been doing.

Q. Kind of a weird situation where you've got Martin on one side celebrating a championship with the 78 and then come tomorrow 77 is shutting down. I just wonder if you could talk about the different sides of that spectrum and how you feel after a year with this team leaving this organization?
ERIK JONES: Well, yeah, it's unfortunate that the 77 team won't be in operation next year. Obviously I feel like we've built a competitive race team and one that definitely is capable of winning races. You know, it's unfortunate they couldn't get a driver and get everything together to make that car continue to run, but at the end of the day, I think we've improved a lot of people's skill set throughout the year just learning and being with a top‑flight team with that. So it's fortunate that they all have opportunities for next year. It definitely makes me feel better knowing that most are going to have opportunities for next year.

Q. Just wanted you to talk a little bit about your race tonight. You ran fairly well early on, but it appears that the pit strategy and the long runs kind of did you in a little bit. How was your 77 tonight?
ERIK JONES: Well, I would say the race tonight wasn't one to remember for sure. Just off all weekend, just unloaded off, and never found the speed. I would say this is probably‑‑ looking back at the year speed‑wise, one of our worst weekends, but it's unfortunate. Obviously we wanted to close the year out strong, but just didn't have the speed to do it tonight. Did what we could to stay competitive and try to fight, but just didn't have it.

Q. In some ways this was a transition year because you were with Furniture Row, then you move over to Joe Gibbs, but you're taking Chris with you. How beneficial is that to be able to build that kind of synergy with a crew chief and then go to a presumably even stronger team in JGR and chase a championship?
ERIK JONES: Well, I've never worked in my career with a crew chief more than one year, so it's kind of a new thing for me to have a year now where I'm going to be working with a guy for the second time and growing and building that relationship again. But I think it's definitely a positive that we can take out of it. I think going to Furniture Row for a year definitely gave Chris a different view of things and kind of how to go about things. Chris has been a JGR his entire career in NASCAR. So going over to Furniture Row is a change for him and kind of a new thing, and I think he learned some things along the way that he can take back and maybe apply to the way things are done at JGR, as well, but just having that relationship and that chemistry when we start out next year is going to be really rewarding. I think firing off in Daytona and then to Atlanta, just knowing that we've worked together for a year and have those notes to go back on is going to be a big bonus.

Q. What has been the biggest thing you've learned in this first season at NASCAR's top level?
ERIK JONES: I don't know, there's not one thing for sure. I look back at the year, and there was many races where I thought I could have done things better, and there's races where I felt like we gave away good finishes. There was just a lot of things throughout the year that I thought could have been done different. Being able to start the year over now, I think we would have had a much different season with everybody having a little bit more experience, myself, Chris, the team, everybody having that extra experience would have been a big bonus.
Going into next year with the 20 car is going to be a big change for sure. It's obviously a group of guys that have been on the road for a long time with the 20 car, and then Chris coming over and taking the reins there I think is going to be really good, and especially me having some notes to go back on when we go to these tracks again is going to be a big benefit for myself.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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