While there are four drivers who will have the traditional yellow stripe on their bumper to note their rookie status this year, be cautious about thinking the stripe represents a lack of experience - these four drivers are anything but amateurs. 2017 marks each one’s first full time season in NASCAR’s top series, but these “new” kids on the track combine to already have nearly a full season of Monster Energy Series starts.
Erik Jones’ (age 20) ride for this year is the #77 owned by Furniture Row Racing. Jones is coming off a successful 2016 season in the Xfinity Series where he earned 6 wins and 15 top-5 finishes as a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing. He has the most National Series wins of any of the four rookies with 13 wins between the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. Jones already has one ROTY honor to his name as he captured both this title and the Truck Series Championship Title in 2015 while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This accomplishment at just 19 years of age makes him the youngest Truck Series Champion to date. In addition to these experiences, Erik already has three Monster Energy Series starts as he served as a replacement driver for Kyle Busch in 2015 when Busch broke his leg in the Xfinity season opener at Daytona. Watch out for Erik to be a serious contender throughout the year!
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with Erik. Here is the interview:
“Can you describe what it felt like to have those first few laps of practice for something you have always dreamed about- the Daytona 500?”
It was a cool moment to finally get out on track and be at Daytona in a Cup car, let alone practicing for the Daytona 500. It has been a neat week altogether. It’s my first Speedweeks – you only get to it once for your first time so I’m just trying to take it all in and enjoy it as it goes by but it’s definitely been a fun week and one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
“Do you have a favorite Daytona 500 memory as a fan?”
For sure, it would be 2007. It was my first NASCAR race I ever went to in person. Me and my family came down and sat in Turns 3 and 4 and it was just a fun weekend. It was the year that Kevin Harvick edged out Mark Martin.
“Other than how to get to Victory Lane, what is the biggest lesson you hope to learn from racing at Daytona?”
Just more superspeedway experience in general - especially in a Cup car. I’ve never raced a Cup car on a superspeedway. Superspeedways are something I’ve been trying to figure out because I struggle with them at times so just trying to figure it out and become a better superspeedway racer is definitely something I’m focusing on. I’ve always gone to Kyle (Busch) to help me learn. I have a close relationship to him, he gave me my first ride. I also talk to Martin (Truex Jr) some. I study with guys at JGR and all they do is study superspeedway racing so I’ve done as much as I can, it’s just a matter of going out there and applying it all.
“So we’re going to go for a lap around the track. Each turn has a different question. Turn 1 – do you like Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat better?”
“Turn 2 – do you have a hidden talent or a talent you wish you had?”
A hidden talent? I wish!! A talent I want to have? I would love to be able to be a good golfer.
“Turn 3 – What are your top 3 most listened to songs right now?”
Most listened to songs…um I don’t know. Let me look (pulls out phone). Let’s see…we’ve got “Bounce Back” by Big Sean, “Dirt on My Boots” by Jon Pardi, and “The Weekend” by Brantley Gilbert. That’s a pretty good mix.
“Turn 4 – what’s your favorite memory from the offseason?”
Just going home. I was home in Michigan for a month. We went on vacation to the Domincan – me and some of my friends – so that was a lot of fun but those two right there stick out. Being back in Michigan was nice, seeing all of my family and spending the holidays there.
“And the finish line – if a NASCAR genie told you to pick one race all season to win, which race would you pick?”
Daytona would be a big one. Let’s eliminate Daytona because everyone would say that. Beyond Daytona I would probably say the Southern 500. It’s tough between that one and the Bristol night race! Probably the Southern 500.
“Alright our lap is complete! Thank you so much!”
No problem. Thank you, it was fun!