Erik Jones led Toyota drivers in NASCAR Cup Series qualifying on Saturday afternoon and will start 11th in Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Toyota Racing Post-Qualifying Report
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Talladega Superspeedway – October 12, 2019
TOYOTA STARTING POSITIONS
1st, Chase Elliott*
2nd, Alex Bowman*
3rd, William Byron*
4th, Jimmie Johnson*
5th, Aric Almirola*
11th, ERIK JONES
18th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
26th, KYLE BUSCH
31st, MATT DiBENEDETTO
32nd, PARKER KLIGERMAN
36th, JOEY GASE
40th, DENNY HAMLIN
ERIK JONES, No. 20 DeWalt Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 11th
Talk about expectations for tomorrow.
“It was kind of where we expected. I feel like our car was a little quicker by ourselves than some of the other guys. It’s an okay starting spot for here. We don’t have a lot to lose, so tomorrow is pretty stress free for us, other than trying to win the race. Hopefully we can just get up there, stay up there and contend. We’re in the top 12 now I guess, so as long as we can keep the DeWalt Camry up there, we’ll be in good shape, avoid the wrecks and have a shot.”
Talk about trying to race at a superspeedway when there’s only six Toyotas in the field compared to other OEM lineups.
“It’s tough kind of every year since the other manufacturers have formed up and really started working with each other. It’s made it hard on us. I think we’ve got a good plan. We’ve got fast enough cars in the pack that it kind of makes up for it, but we’ve got to hope they thin themselves out a little bit and it gives us a little bit better chance with our teammates. We’ll see how it goes, but it does definitely make it a challenge for us to contend at certain times.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 18th
How do you approach a race weekend where you know your odds aren’t as good?
“Play the odds. The odds here – I don’t even know what they are, but generally you crash more than you finish. At least it’s been that way for us. We’ve tried a lot of different strategies. I’ve tried staying at the front, I’ve tried riding in the back. I hadn’t found a whole lot of success either way. Plan on racing hard tomorrow. Hopefully, we can get towards the front and stay there. It’s hard for us, we’re really outnumbered in the manufacturer game that’s been going on here the last few trips. It’s really just difficult. You hope that you find yourself still running at the end. Obviously you hope there’s been some wrecks and some of those guys get separated a bit and you can kind of get in there and mix it up with different manufacturers. It’s a lot different game than it used to be and hopefully it will play out on our side tomorrow.”
When you say, ‘race hard,’ is that all offense and no defense?
“That’s what I want to do. I’ll leave it up to my guys to make the final decision obviously. If it was up to me, I’d just go race and try to do the best I could all day long and hope we have some luck on our side. I feel like that’s our best way to approach it. We’ll just see. I don’t know, we’ll have to go with the game plan and see what that is.”
How have you and Cole Pearn approached strategy in the Playoffs to accumulate so many points?
“It’s been a good start to the Playoffs for us. Certainly having fast cars, having two wins and a second, it’s been really good. Really wish we could have got the win last week. Definitely had a shot at it, things didn’t go the way we wanted towards the end. Just keep performing at a high level. This is the one wild card for us. I feel like we can go everywhere else and be competitive and have a shot to win races. Just want to get through here tomorrow hopefully with a good day. It would be awesome to go to Kansas locked in, but that’s a lot to ask for us at Talladega.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Hazelnut Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 26th
Do you think you can work with your Toyota teammates tomorrow and draft to the front?
“I don’t know. Just try to get what you can get out of what you got. We’re not as fast as some of the other guys.”
Is it difficult to have so few teammates to draft with?
“They definitely outnumber us – I don’t think our four guys will be able to team up strong enough with the speed that we have in our cars to out-do, even if it was just four Hendrick cars or four SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) cars, they’re way faster.”
MATT DiBENEDETTO, No. 95 One Bite Toyota Camry, Leavine Family Racing
Starting Position: 31st
How do you feel about your chances in tomorrow’s race?
“Pretty good. This is one we have circled I think. Won’t qualify stellar, but we weren’t really worried about that. We want to make sure it drives good and races good. The handling was actually more important than we thought, surprisingly.”
How difficult it is to work with your Toyota teamates with less in the field versus other manufacturers?
“I think we’ve done a good job before at working together when it makes sense and helping each other when we see moves that will benefit us all and we’re all smart on the plate races, which is most important. Just trying to do that. It’s a little different with this package, it’s crazier. The runs you get are big and stuff like that. We have a smart group of us, which is nice. We all know how to race and control what we can control to the best of our ability.”
Do you expect the Playoff drivers to be more intense tomorrow?
“Yeah, I think there’s a little more desperation now. It’s going to dictate the racing and the moves people make and the aggressiveness and stuff like that. There’s no way it won’t. When you put that much on the line, it’s going to dictate a lot. I expect it to be another crazy Talladega race. They’re never boring.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 40th
What happened to keep you from qualifying today?
“Blown motor. We were 15 seconds from finishing dead last in this race, so I am very, very fortunate that it happened right there at the end of the lap. It was fortunate and unfortunate, but way more fortunate there than it was unfortunate. It broke down the backstretch and I didn’t want to oil the track all the way down, so I just stopped the lap. Obviously, we’re going to be starting in last, but we’ll get through there and be fine by the time the race gets going. We’ll get this FedEx Camry hopefully up front by the end of the race.”
What was wrong with your car in qualifying?
“I blew up down the back coming to the checkered flag. I was super fortunate that it happened when it did. I told them that I’ve seen some amazing, crazy things happen in my Playoff career, but blowing up on Lap 1 would have set a new precedent for me. I’m just super fortunate that it happened when it did. We were 15 seconds away from shutting her down and not knowing until the race started. It was crazy it all ended up the way it did. This was definitely more fortunate than unfortunate.”
Does it mean anything to show that you have a car that can lead at the front after your practice yesterday?
“I think that’s a good thing. It’s always good to have a car that people see as fast and to have a good car that’s stable, that you know when the competition needs to push you, that they can do it and you’re going to hold a steady wheel. All that comes into play, especially at the end of these races, on who decides is going to win it.”
Were you shocked when it happened?
“Yeah, I thought maybe I was dragging something because the car really started slowing down substantially, but then I heard the motor shift tones and then I didn’t want to oil down the race track because I knew I was losing power, so I just kind of shut it down and got off the track. I knew it was bad and I needed to bring it in.”
Were you shocked that it was an engine issue because your engines have been so good all year?
“We’ve had steady powerplants through the whole year. It’s all been pretty good for us, especially the toll I put on it last week missing a shift on the final restart. I was certain we were not going to finish that race and it held together. This one, they’ll figure it out.”
Toypya Racing PR