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September 19, 2020

Erik Jones

Bristol, Tennessee

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for taking the time. We are now joined by Erik Jones, our third‑place finisher in tonight's race and the driver of the No.20 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Can you talk us through your run out there?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I guess it was a solid day. I thought we had a good car there at the end. But had to start at the back and that took a while to work through there and get some track position. It is really challenging to pass here, even though it is a short track. But a good run.
The Auto Owners Camry got better all night, and honestly the last run of the race was our best. We got up there into third and I kind of knew I couldn't beat those guys straight up, so I tried to save a little bit on the front side of the run and run at the end hard, and just kind of ran out of time. I just started getting to those guys there when we took the checkered.
A good day. It was nice to be up there and in contention at the end, but close again at Bristol and especially in this race. We've been close a few times. Just want to close one out here soon.

Q. Erik, does it feel different being in a playoff race but not being championship eligible?
ERIK JONES: No, not for me. I just go out and race and do my own thing. I obviously wish we were in the playoffs and racing for a championship, but you know, it is what it is, right. I didn't make it, and for me I guess going into it you do the same things and you just try to go out and run strong. It's pretty funny to outrun all the playoff guys. It's good to be out there and in contention. Like I said, I wish we were in it, but for me I don't really treat it too much differently.

Q. As you look for your next opportunity finishing third tonight, what does that do to maybe help solidify things for next year?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, you hope it helps. Obviously a win would have been even better, but it's a good run for us.
I don't know if one body of work really establishes who you are. We've always been strong here at Bristol. I hope that I can continue getting a car that's in contention to win races and go out and win more races. I feel like there's a lot of races out there that we can go win with a new team, and I feel like I can go help a new team and make them better and maybe they can help me and continue to make me a better race car driver, too.
You hope it helps. Every strong run doesn't hurt, so hopefully I can finish the year out strong, I guess, and get a win here before the year is over.

Q. Looking ahead to 2021, where are you at in your timeline in kind of finalizing things?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, there's stuff moving along. We've been in a lot of talks with multiple different teams and trying to find an opportunity. It's a tough environment. There's definitely teams that are struggling to find sponsorship and find money. There's rides obviously open out there. I don't bring anything but my butt, I guess, to put in the seat. It's challenging, but like I said, there are good rides out there, and hopefully I can get an opportunity with one of them and build a relationship with a sponsor there that we can go out and be a contender.
We're moving along, and hopefully within the next few weeks or month I hope we can announce something.

Q. Do you feel as good about tonight compared to the last week? How much better do you feel right now than what‑‑ when was the last time you felt this good, I guess?
ERIK JONES: It's been a while. It's been a while since we've really been in contention to win a race I felt like, since earlier this year. The end of the race there the last 70 laps was definitely the most fun I've had in a while in the race car. I love racing, but it's not as fun when you're not contending for wins.
I felt like this race would be really good for us. We've run really strong here in the past, and it definitely feels good to sit down and at the end of the day I want to win and I want to win this race a lot, but we got beat by Kevin and Kyle. I mean, Kevin is on fire this season; Kyle hasn't obviously won yet, but he's still Kyle Busch; he's still really fast. You want to beat them, but I gave it what I had and did the best I could, but definitely going to be a lot more enjoyable Sunday, I guess, than the last couple we've had.

Q. During the week do you worry a ton about next year, or are you a guy who kind of maybe just leaves it up to the racing gods, for lack of a better term?
ERIK JONES: I guess that's a tough question. You know, how can you not worry a little bit? Anybody that says they weren't in a situation like this I think is lying, if they want to still be in a race car. So there's times where you worry about it, there's times where you lay in bed at night and you think about what the opportunities are going to be and what you're going to do next year and where you're going to be and how you're going to make it all work. It's a tough scenario. It's a busy scenario. It's hard to focus on the race team. It's hard to focus on your current ride and opportunity. You want to go out and focus on that and you're spending your whole week trying to focus on meetings and phone calls and meeting with new teams, prospective sponsors. So it's crazy and it's busy and it's hard to do your day job, I guess you could say, so yeah, there's definitely times I think you'd be lying if you said you didn't worry about it.
THE MODERATOR: Erik, thank you so much for taking the time to join us, and congratulations on a great run.

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