The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Erik Jones, who is in his second year driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. These interviews are recorded as a podcast, but are also transcribed for those who prefer to read.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
Not a whole lot. Every once in awhile I’ll have one. I guess when I’m really thinking about a given race coming up or thinking about certain things. Maybe I just watched a racing video or something before I go to bed, and then I’ll have a dream about racing. But in general, I don’t remember a lot of my dreams anymore.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
It does and it doesn’t. I’ve had guys that have gotten into me that have apologized and haven’t apologized, and I’ve gotten into guys and apologized and haven’t apologized.
You know when it’s intentional and when it’s not intentional. And if it’s not intentional, honestly, it is what it is. I mean, you’re frustrated as a driver — I’m frustrated if it happens to me — but you can’t be all that mad. It wasn’t their intention to do that, you know they already feel bad enough about it. But if it is intentional, I don’t think there’s much that needs to be said there, either.
I guess there are times where I really feel like if I did something completely wrong, I’ve gone to guys and apologized. But if it’s something small, I usually don’t say anything about it. You just kind of move on.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
Overall, I’d have to say that someone was proud of the work that I was putting into whatever it may be — not only racing, but I think just anything that I was up to in life. Just proud of the work that I was putting in at that point in time, the effort was paying off and it was helping everybody and better for everybody. That would be a big compliment to me.
4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be really excited to host at a race?
Matthew McConaughey. I’m a big Matthew McConaughey fan, so that’d be pretty cool. I think he’d like it too. I don’t know if he’s ever been to a race, but that would be kind of neat.
It seems like he would. He seems like he’s kinda got the Southern relatability going on.
I think he’d just be a guy who would kind of sit back and not be a big ego guy. He’d kind of just be along for the ride and really want to take it all in and explore. So I think that’d be pretty neat.
5. In an effort to show this is a health conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?
No. No way. No. I couldn’t. I like a salad every once in a while, but not that much.
6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the 2016 Fall Charlotte Xfinity race.
That’s a tough one, because we ran second for a long time that day but we had a restart at the end and we didn’t run second. Did we run fourth?
Fifth. That was pretty close.
It was hard to remember because that day, we ran second all day to (Kyle) Larson. We had a caution with like five to go or something. We got shuffled on the restart and didn’t finish as good as we should have.
Wow. Do you remember all races that well, or is this just one that sticks out?
No, that one sticks out. That was the first year of the Xfinity playoffs, and we’d gotten ourselves into trouble about advancing in the next round and we had to finish pretty well that day, and I just remember trying to very conservative. Fortunately, we had a really good car and we just ran really good all day, and when the caution came out, I got nervous because I didn’t want to get wrecked and not advance to the next round.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
It’s hard not to say Eminem. He’s from Detroit, that’s where I grew up — close to Detroit. I’m a big Drake fan, too. Those two guys right there are probably the best ones for me, but I guess if I had to put one above the other, it’d be Eminem. He’s a home state guy for me, so it’s hard not to say that.
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?
Wow. Anybody in NASCAR? I don’t know, that’s a tough question. I feel like somebody’s gonna get mad at me. I mean, the funny one for me to say is Kyle (Busch) because he’s my buddy, and I know people would like that.
I don’t know. There’s probably not anyone I really want to punch in the face right now. I mean, nobody’s really made me mad. I think (Ricky) Stenhouse wanted to punch me in the face after Bristol (when they had an incident), but I told him at Talladega, “You finished good. I spun you out and you finished well, so I can do that weekly if you need me to.” But I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anyone that I have marked down on my list right now.
9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Choose one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.
Taylor’s driving the motorhome. Then we’ve got Tom and LeBron. I’ll take LeBron as my spotter because I think he’d be motivational. I think he’d pump me up. I think he’d do a good job. I don’t know what he’s like, but you watch him and he coaches the Cavaliers, as they say a lot.
And I guess I’ll take Tom Hanks on the box. I think he’d be pretty calm and cool and be able to sit back and make some focused decisions. So me and LeBron would be rockin’ it, keeping it pumped up on the racetrack.
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
Well, a lot of times Alicia (Deal, Jones’ PR rep) will map one out for me. Sometimes I’ll watch as I go around the track. You can kind of map it out. Sometimes I’ll do it at qualifying — you’ll see right away if they’ve got port-a-potties on pit road. That’s the key. That’s the best racetracks right there.
But if they don’t, that’s when you run into a problem and you’ve gotta kind of find the bathroom back in the garage. That’s when it’s a struggle.
I really try to hydrate a lot the days before so I don’t have to drink much water on race day, which sometimes works, but not always.
But that still means you have to make the stop.
I do, I still make the stop. I get nervous.
11. NASCAR misses the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and decides a replacement is needed. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car after your next win?
Do I have to complete the backflip, or just attempt it?
Just attempt it. It’s up to you.
I don’t need a full rotation?
They just want you to try it.
Oh man. I’d do it for $75 grand. I mean that’s a big number, that’s a lot of money, but yeah, I’d attempt it for that. Into the grass, because I wouldn’t make it.
They might have to pay your medical too, though.
It’d be fine. I’ll ask (Daniel) Hemric for some tips first. He’s good at it. He can do them right on the ground. Like he can do it right here.
12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Matt DiBenedetto, and his question for you was: Who do you think is the next guy that is going to come up and be the next breakthrough driver in NASCAR?
Like in a lower series?
He said it could be somebody from a lower series who’s going to come up, or it could be somebody who’s around now and is just going to start winning races.
I would say from lower series, it’s Todd Gilliland. He’s really talented. I’ve been impressed with him for awhile. He’s just really good in stock cars. I watched him in Late Models for a long time and he didn’t have a lot of success, but once he got into K&N and Trucks, he’s ran really well.
At our level, at the Cup level, I’d love to say it’s me. I’d love to come and break through and win some races. But I think all of us are right at the cusp of having a lot of race wins. I think myself, Chase (Elliott), Ryan (Blaney), Daniel (Suarez) — all of us are right there and we’re just trying to find that last little bit to really get there and really be super competitive every weekend.
I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, but it’s going to be an IndyCar driver. Do you have a question I can ask somebody in IndyCar?
Is IndyCar racing really about how hard you can possibly drive the car with all the amount of downforce you have — how hard you can actually push? Or is it super finesse?
NASCAR is very finesse, especially with the low downforce. It’s very finesse and very having to back everything up and slow everything down. Is IndyCar more of all-out, high downforce, just getting all you can get, hustling as hard as you can, or are there tracks that you go to that are very finesse? It’d be interesting to me.
Editor’s note: These interviews were posted out of order due to the Indianapolis 500, so Jones’ question has already been answered by Alexander Rossi.
Previous 12 Questions interviews with Erik Jones: