Tha Sports Junkies 101

Erik Jones Answers Questions from the Media

Erik Jones Rookie Season Leon Hammack via Flickr


In a NASCAR Media teleconference on Tuesday, driver Erik Jones answered a wide array of questions ahead of this weekend’s Pure Michigan 400.

Jones, 21, is a 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He is also the 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion. A year ago, he was a title contender in the Xfinity Series.

Jones’ Racing Roots

Growing up in Byron, Michigan, this weekend’s coming events at the Michigan International Speedway will have added significance for Jones. “It’s cool to be racing at home. A lot of friends and family come down to watch that race. For some, it’s their only race all year. Growing up in Michigan, the short track world is really thriving. There’s a lot of big race fans up here, and there were several racetracks only an hour or so from home for all levels of racing. This area gave me a lot of options and opportunities to hone my skills.”

With racing as a career goal, Jones had to learn independence and self-sufficiency at an early age. At 16 years old he moved out of his parent’s house, learning the many difficulties of life. “Moving out at 16 was a pretty big step, and I still needed a lot of advice. For a long time, my dad offered that help and life guidance. He also helped steer me through racing, especially the business side of it. Since my dad’s passing, close family friend Alan Miller has been helping me. He’s my go to guy in terms of life questions and knowledge. He’s an attorney who has helped us out since 2010, and has a wealth of knowledge on racing, life, finances, and other stuff.”

Erik’s History with Michigan International Speedway

“What’s really odd is I don’t have a ton of childhood memories from MIS,” Jones admitted. “My dad and I attended a couple races here. But we were usually busy with my own racing, so it was always fun for both of us as race fans. My first truck race at MIS was my first chance to race there. That will always be a special memory for me because of how long it took to happen. NASCAR’s age restrictions pushed that date back a little more than I would have preferred.” Erik will make just his second Cup Series start at Michigan on Sunday, he finished 13th there in June.

Jones’ 2017 Racing Endeavors

As with every NASCAR driver, Erik’s 2017 season began at Daytona Speedweeks. This year was his first opportunity to run The Great American Race, the Daytona 500. “The glamor of the entire event is what really stood out. You hear about it or see it on TV, but until you really get there, you don’t get a real sense of how spectacular the pre-race festivities are. I had previously attended the Daytona 500 as a fan, but that doesn’t even compare to the feeling of preparing to race in it. Seeing all the fans, celebrities, and pageantry is unlike anything else. It’s a little nerving, but it is another race to hopefully run well in. You need to really stay focused on the task at hand throughout those 2 weeks.”

With the 20 car being his future home for 2018 and beyond, Erik had high hopes for how his 2017 campaign would shape out in the 77. “We’ve definitely had our struggles as a new team, but I think we’re right at where we foresaw ourselves prior to February. We had some DNFs that weren’t our fault, and I feel if we had those back we’d be in better shape in points. I think there’s less pressure on us now that we’re in a must-win scenario.”

“We can’t point our way into the Playoffs, so we can afford to be more aggressive on strategy. I feel we’ve been pretty forceful with pit calls and gambles all year. We’ve had tons of speed, but it’s only been showing results-wise in the past month or so. The flat tire at New Hampshire basically sealed our fate of points racing into Playoff contention. We just need to put a whole weekend together in order to win. We’re definitely looking forward to Michigan and Bristol.”

Jones’ Bright Future

Erik Jones has more than proven himself worthy of a seat in NASCAR’s premier series. His skill behind the wheel is without question. Look for him to be a contender not only at Michigan this weekend, but in the remaining races this year as well. He is one of NASCAR’s many rising young stars, and he will be in a very coveted ride next season.