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February 9, 2020
Daytona Beach, Florida
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the crew chief of the raceâ€‘winning car, the No.20 Sport Clips Toyota with Erik Jones behind the wheel. We have Chris Gayle up here.
We will open it up to questions for the crew chief.
Q. What are you going to do with this car? Anything you can do with this car?
CHRIS GAYLE: No, not really. To be honest with you, we have an allotment of cars we can use this year. The Clash car is not considered part of that allotment so they're pretty much junk after this race.
We were joking around in Victory Lane, I think Jones is going to get this. We did like a whole retro Terry Labonte crashed car in Victory Lane photo. I think he's going to get coach to give it to him probably.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by the owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, Coach Gibbs.
We'll continue with questions.
Q. Chris, is there a way to say how many laps this car has left in it if you're going to run it on its own?
CHRIS GAYLE: Not many because it was running way hot. We had just kind of decided that last caution we were going to come back down with the one to go, pull real tight. But it was running too the hot. We were like we don't have a shot to win the race if we do that. Who cares, if it doesn't make it, it doesn't make it. We had kind of committed to that so... Who knows.
Q. We saw it again today, manufacturers lining up and racing. Was that the plan in your camp today going into this race of sticking together?
CHRIS GAYLE: Yeah, I mean, I think we all do what we can to help each other as teammates. You know what I mean? I think from our standpoint, we always do that until the end of the race. You know what I mean?
Yes, that was the plan. Where we got kind of off sequence and screwed up is when we slid through our box, we wound up losing a lap. We kind of got stuck out there with three of them by themselves, a lap down. That's kind of when the plan changed.
JOE GIBBS: I think it was easier today with fewer cars to try to get together. The problem is you'd like to do that in the 500, but there's so much going on. I think you'd like to work together but it rarely works out.
CHRIS GAYLE: There were, what, seven Fords, seven achieves and four Toyotas? The numbers were more even today than what they're going to be next week.
Q. Chris, qualifying, especially last year the Toyotas were not as fast in qualifying. Obviously the race result turned out well. Was there a concerted effort to find more speed after feeling comfortable with race setup? How important is that? Do you feel like you need to dictate things when you have fewer numbers?
CHRIS GAYLE: Yeah, I think it goes back to Talladega last fall. We didn't feel like we had as good of cars as we needed as a group. I think the 20 car qualified the best of the Toyota bunch at that race.
We kind of found something we thought we could tweak on in the offâ€‘season and improve. I haven't looked at the average numbers, but we definitely are better than we have been here qualifying for these races.
The faster cars win, right? They may not always win, but the numbers are going to show they win. They're going to be in better positions in the race to use runs and clear somebody when they're faster.
We have made a concerted effort to make our program better qualifying without hurting the race trim.
Q. Coach, do you feel maybe Daytona is kind of a special place that you are destined after the great win you had here last February with Denny, now the way things are falling? This place has been a real blessing for you and your team. How do you feel about destiny and all that's happening?
JOE GIBBS: Certainly Daytona is a special place. It holds a special place for us because when we first got in racing, our first year, we didn't win anything. We were kind of secondâ€‘guessing did we belong here. Is this too big for us. We won that Daytona 500 in '93. I think that kind of got our race team started. It's a special place. Then we went like 20â€‘something years without winning it. It is a special place for us.
The thing I was going to say today, it was a classic example, that was one of the wildest things I've ever been in racing, and it was a classic example of two crew chiefs and two drivers that really refused to quit.
Denny, after the bad wreck there for him the last time, they said, Should we go to the garage? Both of them, Denny said no, keep working on it. Chris said, Yeah, okay. Then Erik on this side with Chris, it really was an example of just not quitting. Everything in the world happened.
I don't know what the fans will say about that, but I think they're going to sure talk about it because it was wild. That was something. It was just a rare experience. That may never happen again.
Q. Coach, 2019 was an outstanding year for the organization. So far 2020 has been an outstanding year for Joe Gibbs. You had the Hall of Fame last week, then on field at the Super Bowl, now you're in Victory Lane. Have you had time to reflect on this magical 365 days for you and your organization?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I said that I felt like last year everything with J.D. and everything that happened in that 500 was the greatest victory I've been a part of, so emotional for our family. Then I think that kind of carried through during the year.
What I really messed up on at that speech, the acceptance speech, I left out a lot of people that meant so much to us. I'm going to try to correct that.
Q. Right now?
CHRIS GAYLE: You got time, don't you (smiling).
JOE GIBBS: I see some of you going to sleep. But Don Meredith, close friend of mine, started the race team with Jimmy Makar. My son J.D. and his two friends, Todd Meredith, and Dave Alpern. They were the three amigos that came in there just coming out of college. Nobody even knew what they'd do. They wound up playing huge roles for us.
There were so many other people there that I kind of left out. But in any case, I'm going to try to take care of that.
I don't know how to put it really in words, today was kind of crazy. It looks like everybody's totally tore up. At one point people in our pits said, We're done. Everybody said, We're done. People that were standing there.
It was a rare experience. I think it was two drivers and two crew chiefs that just refused to quit.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOE GIBBS: It was. Really I didn't do as good a job as what I wanted to. When you get pushed up front like that, this is a huge team sport, then football was a team sport. If you think about that, yeah, you have a role in it, you fight hard, you try to do what you can do to help the team, but there's so many people that put our race team where it is.
Certainly I was just a part of it. I get shoved up front, get an award and all that. Really, when I reflect on it, it's all the people that put you there. It was the same thing on the football side. So many people to make it go.
When you think about the number of people that work on an NFL team, it's pretty close to what we have. It's all those people that put you there.
I don't think I did a very good job of really making that point.
Q. Chris, you had the high going into last year's Playoffs with the win at Darlington, then the Playoffs. Did you need this win more than anybody in the field just for psyche?
CHRIS GAYLE: I don't know for psyche for this one particularly. Obviously it was chaotic, a lot of things could have happened. It was a circumstantial win with how that all played out, right?
In the offâ€‘season, we spent a lot of time reflecting and talking and thinking about things we could do better, absolutely. Do we want to be the fourth best JGR team? No, and we were. We have done a lot of things differently and looking at things differently to be better.
I think that's it. I think if you look at our day two, we have three new people on the team in different place, pit crew, car chief, different things. We went into today with a plan, If we get damaged, we're going to keep working on this all day. This is practice for us. This is practice for us when it is really going to matter for the next week and the week after. We did a lot of things all day. I think that's what helped keep us working on it all day.
Q. In a race like this, where you're allowed to work under the red flag, should you be allowed under the red to drive to pit road to work on it? The way the policy is, if you're stopped for a red flag, you can't drive to pit road or your day is done. There are guys on pit road working on the car.
CHRIS GAYLE: Then guys out there that can't work.
Yeah, I understand that side of it. I think to make it fair to the competitors, yes. However, I don't know how you safely do that in all situations, right? That's the problem, is the workers and everything out. I don't know whether you put someone else in jeopardy.
But I agree with you. From a competitor's side, you would all want an equal amount of time to work on the cars.
Q. Coach, in light of the tornâ€‘up equipment you have today from a financial standpoint, how much did it cost you to win that race today?
JOE GIBBS: People are laughing.
CHRIS GAYLE: I don't think he wants to check that out (smiling).
JOE GIBBS: People were laugh about that in the winner's circle. I don't know what the number was, but it was a big number to win the trophy.
CHRIS GAYLE: Six sets of tires.
JOE GIBBS: We were all kind of laughing about that, we were joking.
You know, for me, yeah, that's part of what we do. Daytona does have a tendency to cost you a lot because we bring good stuff. Believe me, we really work on it hard. It's our biggest race. We spend too much really in a lot of ways getting ready for it.
In some ways that may not make sense, but it's so important, so important to our sponsors. If you think about this, one of the greatest things about today was Sport Clips. They have Gordon at Sport Clips, think about that as the sponsor. He's been with us now for nine years. That means so much to him and his company.
That's a part of our sport, that is a huge part of what we do. It's important for Erik to win and all of us, but our sponsors are just a huge part of our sport. They really are our partners. They're in the race.
The whole race, Sport Clips is going around with TV. At the end TV in the winner's circle. It was a huge deal from that standpoint.
I called him and talked to him. He was thrilled.
Q. Coach, you said a few times at the end of last year the way 2019, the success played out, was kind of unusual to have a season like that. Given the same driver, same crew chief, a parts freeze this year, basically the same, any reason to believe you guys can't do what you did last year, match that level of success?
JOE GIBBS: I just think there was so much that we were able to do last year that went our way. To win a Daytona 500, a championship, everything that went in between, that's just really hard in pro sports. You dream about it. You hope we can do it. We've worked that way to try and do it.
But being realistic about it, I don't think many people would give us odds to be able to duplicate that.
Q. Erik is here. Does he get the car? You're on the spot.
JOE GIBBS: This one? We may give it to him (laughter). I don't think we want that back.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations.
We'll continue with questions for Erik, who drove that No.20 Sport Clips Toyota to victory lane.
Q. Denny is behind you. He's damaged, you're damaged obviously. What are you thinking as he's pushing? What are you trying to do there?
ERIK JONES: Well, when the 42 and I kind of started swapping back and forth there coming to the white, I was like, Man, we're probably out of it now. I was so slow by myself with all the damage.
I just started looking for the 11. I knew he was out there. Rick, my spotter, told me he would help us out. I'm kind of looking for him. He started getting a head of steam. He started pushing me.
I'm like, I don't know if we're going to get going fast enough to catch them. We were both pretty damaged. We started getting a little momentum. I started getting a sniff of air off those guys in front of me. We got a good run off of two. We're going to get there, we just have to anticipate the block.
Those guys were so focused on each other that we started passing them. I'm like, Okay. We just kept going. I was like, Hell, yeah, we're going to win the race.
It was really cool. It was a strange race obviously from a lot of aspects. Craziest race I've ever been in let alone won. Definitely the most damaged car I've won with.
When he started pushing, I had it to the floor, that's as much as my car had with all the damage. I was hoping we could get enough momentum to get a shot to at least get back to the front.
Q. David Pearson and Terry Labonte won in wrecked racecars. You've now won in a wrecked racecar. What was the mindset of surviving this and kept going to get this win? Is this the biggest win of your career up to this moment?
ERIK JONES: I don't know if it's the biggest win, but definitely one of the coolest. I mean, just from an aspect that me and my friends will laugh about this one for a long time looking back at it, wondering how we won.
We got in that first wreck. I was, We'll keep going, we don't have too much damage. Got in the second wreck, Let's keep going, I think we can fix it again. We got in the third wreck, I was like, Man, it's pretty tore up. Chris said, Let's bring it in, we'll look at it. They thought they could patch it back up. I went back out. I said, Yeah, I can still make laps.
There was no reason for us, as long as the thing could keep making left turns and had power, we were going to keep going. This race, nothing to lose, right? There was only five, six cars out there. I thought, Man, if I'm out there, I got a shot. Everybody's got damage. Just pushing till the end, hoping to still be in it. Hoping people would keep taking each other out, eliminating each other, and we would have a shot, which they did, and it worked out.
Q. In your heart of hearts, looking back at it, when the cars were all intact, you were running the earlier part in the mid portions of the race, what was your assessment of what you think your position would be at the end? Did you feel you had the car capable of going all the way to win?
ERIK JONES: It's hard to say. I raced a little bit at the start, then slid through the pit box one lap down. Hopefully get your caution, get the Lucky Dog. We did.
I thought we had good speed. It takes a lot of things to go your way to win here. Honestly, putting in that Lucky Dog position kind of helped us. We were able to lay back, they all wrecked each other once. I missed that one fortunately.
It's hard to say. I don't know. I think we had a car good enough to win if we would have been up there and in position. Most of the race we weren't really pushing yet. In the position where everybody did start pushing and racing, we were a lap down.
I don't know. It's tough to say. It really is. I think we were probably fast enough looking back at practice and the speed we had. Never got to really test it out in race conditions to see.
Q. You talked about the first wreck, second wreck, third wreck. You know your car is damaged. When you got into Victory Lane and got out, were you surprised about the damage?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I was. I knew it was pretty tore up. I could see the hood. I didn't know the nose was so busted in until I saw it. We recreated the Terry Labonte picture with our crew. I'm excited to see how that turned out. It was pretty busted up.
I've won with some beatâ€‘up cars racing short tracks, but they never quite looked like that. It's one I'll always remember. I hope I can talk Coach into giving me that car. I don't think he wants that one back. That's one I'd love to have and look back at.
Q. As damaged as it is, is that one you would like to slide into a garage somewhere?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, just the story of it. That's a story that I'll tell forever just because it was such a unique race, in my book. I was just laughing a lot of the time at the end.
Number one, I couldn't believe we were even still going. Number two, we were up front and having a shot. It was just a fun race. There's nothing to lose, right? I was having a great time.
I'd love to have that car and be able to point it out and tell the story of it.
Q. Do you think after watching today's race that tandem racing may be back for the 500?
ERIK JONES: Not probably the whole race. I think at the end if you get a restart, I would expect it. I think it's possible now with the package. The cars just punch such a big hole in the air, you can get all the way to people's bumpers with pretty minimal effort from both drivers. As long as the lead guys give you a little bit of a brake drag, you lock on, you stay locked on for a long time.
Made it easier at the end. Like I said, we had so much damage, I didn't have to drag any brake, it was so slow so Denny could push me.
I would expect to see it in the 500 if you're in a situation late with a restart, you could see some tandem racing.
THE MODERATOR: Erik, congratulations. Good luck next week.
ERIK JONES: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports