THE MODERATOR: Erik, we’ll open it up for questions right away.
Q. How would you assess your season so far?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I don’t know. It’s kind of a tough question. I think we’ve been pretty fast every week. I can’t think of a race other than Martinsville where we didn’t have good speed. It’s unfortunate we haven’t finished as good as we’ve ran at some races. I think that’s going to come around. You can’t have things go wrong every single week.
It was a good day today. The Camry was pretty quick. Good to get a good finish. I don’t know. I wish we could get some more finishes. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.
Q. Where are you at in negotiations with Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing? Do you feel you will be back with the team in 2021?
ERIK JONES: I’ve had a good, I guess what it is, third, fourth year at JGR now, something like that. We started talking to them about next year, what we’re going to do moving forward.
I feel like right now that’s kind of the plan, is working with them. We’ll see what happens. But I feel good about it right now moving forward.
Q. How does it feel to get third today after Saturday’s race didn’t end the way you wanted it to?
ERIK JONES: We needed a good run. We needed a good rebound. It’s great that we finished third. In a way it’s kind of frustrating. I think our primary car was quite a bit better than what our backup car was today. Obviously third is a good run. Nice to rebound.
Hopefully just keep the momentum going next week at Indy, keep running strong like we talked about. I feel like we’ve had good speed. We either get run over every week or we have a penalty, something else happens to us. It’s nice to have a normal race. I think on a normal weekend we can run top five pretty easily. I think we showed that today.
Q. We heard some radio traffic that some drivers felt the traction compound had been worn out by the time you got out there. What did you feel on the track?
ERIK JONES: It wasn’t as good as it was yesterday, for sure. I thought yesterday you could really get up there and make some good time. Really in any corner almost. Definitely got worn out in three a lot. A lot of guys were running that as their preferred groove in turn three because the PJ1 was put in so low. I passed some people up in one. Three, it was definitely worn out.
Q. How encouraging is it to get the best finish of the season knowing you had strong cars but needed the consistency?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, it feels good. We feel like we should definitely make the Playoffs. We’ve done that the last few years now. I don’t see this year as any different. It’s nice to have a solid run.
Like I said, it seems like something has always went wrong for us the last few weeks. Just nice to have a clean day. There was one mistake we had all day. We had a loose wheel. It ended up not really affecting us too much, which was good. Hopefully we can just keep doing that moving forward. We got good racetracks coming up for us, places we’ve ran really well at in the past.
I think we’re going to keep racking up some good finishes here, hopefully go up and get a win here pretty soon.
Q. Your thoughts on going to Indianapolis next week? Either feast or famine for you there. Do you enjoy running there?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I enjoy it. I think we ran really well there a couple years ago, running second. Last year got in a wreck. ’17 I think we got in a wreck. It’s definitely been on and off. Some years we’ve been fast, just haven’t had things work out for us.
Hopefully it’s just another clean race. I think the speed will be there. Not having practice hasn’t really seemed to hurt us a whole lot. Hopefully we can go out and do the same thing we did today. If we can do that, get a good draw for a start, I feel like we’ll be up front, definitely in the top five and hopefully contending for a win.
Q. (Indiscernible) separate yourself in the 16th position, not be a dogfight for the final spot or two?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I would hope so. I think our cars are way faster than a 16th-place team. Hopefully we can keep up the good runs. Three, four more races just running strong like we need to, get some stage points, we’ll be up in the top 12 pretty quickly.
Three weeks ago we were fighting for 12 in points, trying to get into the better draw. All of a sudden we had multiple bad races. It happens. It was some things that were in our control, some things that weren’t. Hopefully if we can run like this more and more, I think the points come along right with that.
Q. Would you ever have any interest in driving an INDYCAR, to practice with one?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, I mean, I think any driver would love to drive any kind of form of racecar. I’ve had some opportunities to drive some other forms of racecars. It’s been pretty neat. An INDYCAR would be really neat, really different from anything I’ve ever raced.
Yeah, I think the Indy 500 is on most racers’ bucket list at some point in their career. I definitely would take the opportunity to drive an INDYCAR, whether it just be a test or something. That would be pretty cool.
Q. Pocono has been a good track for you. What is it about this place that either suits your style or you have found to work for you?
ERIK JONES: I think just been good here. A lot of things I ran here, ARCA cars I ran here a long time ago, seven years ago, we were fast, contending for wins there. Trucks we contended for wins. Xfinity we should have won a race here I feel like definitely in ’16. Then Cup was the same way.
Just always been a place I’ve been fast. I think there’s a lot of things that I kind of know how to do here that make a lot of speed. It’s just a place where you carry a lot of momentum, really focus on how you’re going on the straightaway, carry a lot of speed. That kind of falls into things I really focus on and feel like I’m good at as a driver. It’s really helped me at Pocono over the last few years I’ve raced here.
Q. Having less horsepower this year and last year, how important the momentum is, do you feel that’s been a benefit for you?
ERIK JONES: I don’t know. I don’t know that we’ve ran any better or worse with this rules package than what we did with the old one. I feel like we were similar here with the other rules package. I don’t know if it’s changed it a lot.
It’s definitely changed the driving style. Don’t shift any more. Carry a lot more speed on entry and the center of the corners. I don’t think it’s affected really how we ran here too much.
Q. Take us through the mindset of someone who is on the cusp of the Playoff picture. Do you take a look at the standings at this point? Does it affect your strategy?
ERIK JONES: No, I mean, not really. I don’t look at it. I think we’re so much better than that that it doesn’t really even play into my mind. I know if we just kind of do what we need to do, things will kind of work out.
It’s not really even a question in my mind at this point, making the Playoffs or not. I feel like we’ll be strong enough here to get a win at a race here in the next month or two somewhere. I don’t think that’s really in my mind. We just have a good enough car, a good enough team. We just got to clean some things up, have some things go our way. I don’t really believe in luck that much. You keep chugging along, things will go your way eventually.
Yeah, I don’t really look at it too much. If we really got down to where we were in a bad spot, yeah, I’d look at it. At this point I’m not thinking about it much.
Q. Great strategy today. How great has it been to have Chris by you on your side?
ERIK JONES: Yeah, Chris does a good job. I think he gets better each year. He understands what I need out of a racecar, understands my feedback, things that I want, things that I do. He’s always been really good on strategy, getting these races to play out the way we need them to.
He had a good plan coming in today, explained it to me. I trusted him from the start. The race kind of played out the way we needed it to. That was great.
Chris has always done a good job of that especially here at Pocono where strategy is a big deal. Yeah, definitely nice to have him on the box.
Q. In such strategy races like this weekend and next, how involved are you in that? How easy is it to keep up with that? Is this an easy weekend where it’s almost like shut up and drive and let the crew chief handle it?
ERIK JONES: I mean, I try to keep informed pretty well what we’re doing. I don’t want to totally go in behind and be hit with some random stuff during the race.
Chris always does a good job of explaining what his thoughts are, gives me a few scenarios of how things could play out, what we would do if those things happen.
I don’t try to get too deep into it. I don’t want that on the front of my mind. That’s Chris’ job as the crew chief to call the race. I keep a basic outline of what our plans are for the day of how things would work out if certain situations come out, so at least you’re not blindsided if you get in a certain spot.
Q. You talked in the past about how when the series came back, it might be weird when you won a race because there wasn’t anybody there. To win a race at Indianapolis, 240,000 empty seats, what would that be like?
ERIK JONES: I think you’d still be awfully excited. Winning at Indy is a pretty cool thing. Definitely would be weird. Obviously the Brickyard, kissing the bricks with the team, don’t think that’s probably going to happen this year for the winner. It’s a pretty cool thing, something that’s always really special. The Victory Lane there and celebration is really special with your team, with the fans as well.
That’s going to be a unique one. Any marquee race you win, you don’t have the fans there, I think stings a little bit more than a normal race weekend here at Pocono. Obviously we miss the fans. Those marquee races you miss traditions, celebrating with the fans and the team the things you look forward to as a race winner.
Q. You were not impressed with the Xfinity Series race today. What needs to change there? Can they get it done before next week debuting on a road course at Indianapolis?
ERIK JONES: I should probably be pretty careful here (laughter).
The Xfinity Series is in kind of a weird spot right now. You have a lot of young guys in there. Some very talented guys, don’t get me wrong. I really think some of the guys in there right now have a lot of talent, are very capable.
Definitely some of the guys I think click it down a notch. I watch it on TV every week. It’s like, Man, some of those guys are so fast, some of the things they do sometimes, kind of blows your mind.
The way I grew up racing, hooking somebody on the straightaway is pretty out there. I don’t think you’d want to face the repercussions of what would happen coming into the pits after you had to do something like that.
Just kind of a lack of respect. Like I said, I grew up with a lot of respect in racing, respect for my equipment, my competitors. I don’t like to tear up equipment. I don’t really believe in intentionally wrecking people. I think that’s pretty low. I think that’s just low class, doesn’t really belong in our sport. That’s Saturday night short track Mickey Mouse stuff. It’s not how it should be. I just don’t like to see it.
It bums me out to see that in racing. Hopefully they all kind of learn from that. NASCAR is going to talk with those guys and tell them that’s not going to fly here. Hopefully they can kind of learn from that for next weekend at Indy.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much for joining us. We wish you the best of luck next week in Indy.
ERIK JONES: Thank you. Appreciate it.