HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 6, 2019) – The historical significance of Erik Jones’ next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is certainly not lost on the 23-year-old driver from Michigan.
Jones’ 110th career Cup Series start behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will be his first in which he and his car will feature the iconic, green-and-white colors of longtime JGR sponsor Interstate Batteries in NASCAR’s top series. Thus, it will be a proud moment when he takes to the track for Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500k at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, knowing he will be the latest driver during the long and storied partnership between JGR and Interstate Batteries that began in 1991 – a short but powerful driver heritage that features current and future NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Kyle Busch.
Jarrett scored Interstate Batteries’ first Cup Series win in the 1993 Daytona 500 and added a second victory in October 1994 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Labonte was victorious in his Interstate Batteries car 21 times in his storied career, punctuated with the 2000 Cup Series championship. And Busch, one of Jones’ current JGR teammates and 2015 series champion, has nine Cup Series wins and counting for Interstate Batteries, and has added a pair of wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and one in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series wearing the green and white.
As the founding partner and “Official Battery of Joe Gibbs Racing,” Interstate Batteries has been powering the team for more than 25 years. Since 1992, JGR’s first full season in NASCAR, Interstate Batteries has played an integral role in the organization’s development from start- up race team to championship powerhouse.
Jones would like nothing better than to make his first Cup Series start for Interstate Batteries end in victory lane Sunday, and his chances of doing so at the mile oval in the Arizona desert are promising, as it’s one of his favorite stops on the Cup Series tour. In six Cup Series starts at Phoenix, Jones has a best finish of fourth in the 2017 edition of this race and has two other top-10s. In Xfinity Series competition, he’s posted top-10 results in all seven of his career appearances at Phoenix, including five top-fives. And Phoenix happens to be the where he scored his first career NASCAR victory in the fall 2013 Truck Series race, backing it up with another Truck Series win there one year later.
While this weekend marks Jones’ first Cup Series start for Interstate Batteries, he has represented the brand in three previous Xfinity Series races, two of them just up the road at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2015 and 2016. His best effort wearing the green and white came in the June Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, where he qualified on the pole and powered his way to a third-place finish. He brought home another third-place finish for Interstate Batteries after qualifying second in the 2016 Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas.
Growing up in Michigan, Jones learned early in life how hard winters can be on a car battery, and in the time since he’s also learned that drivers don’t necessarily have to live where there are frigid winters to experience battery failures. Thus, he and Interstate Batteries are encouraging consumers to make sure their batteries are up for the cold winter temperatures that have already appeared in many parts of the country. Interstate All Battery Centers® nationwide offer free battery tests, especially before embarking on a holiday road trip.
Not surprisingly, the weather in Phoenix this weekend will be anything but frigid with temperatures forecast in the mid- to upper-80s each day. And Jones and his No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry team for JGR look to arrive fully charged in their bid to score an important victory in the penultimate race of the season.
What are your overall thoughts as you and the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota team head to Phoenix?
“Phoenix has been a good place to me from when I ran Trucks and got my first NASCAR win all the way through my Cup races. It’s one of my favorite tracks that we race at every year. We had a really good Camry earlier this year – just had a tire issue early in the race that put us behind and we couldn’t rebound from it to get the finish we deserved. We’ve learned a lot about the new package throughout the year, so I think we’ll go into the weekend with a little better notes than we did earlier this year. We have a good shot to run up front with our Interstate Batteries Camry and, if we can stay out of trouble and execute all day, we should be around at the end for a chance to get another win before the end of the season.”
A lot has been said about the quirkiness of ISM Raceway. Does that put more emphasis on things like pit selection?
“A little bit. This pit road is just so funky. You don’t want to pit around a corner there. It’s tough for the spotters to see some of the areas, so it is really important. I think track position is more important than anything. It’s going to be challenging to pass. You’re going to have to stay up front, so we’re hoping to qualify decent. Hopefully, we’ll be in a good enough spot where we can pick up some positions on pit road and on the racetrack and be in contention. It’s going to be a big part of it all – pit road and getting to the front.”
Meet the No. 20 Interstate Batteries/Joe Gibbs Racing Team:
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Erik Jones
Car Chief: Jason Overstreet Engine Tuner: Dan Bajek
Road Crew Members:
Engineers: Seth Chavka, Jaik Halpainy
Mechanics: Travis Stock, Justin Peiffer, Tony Hamm
Shock Specialist: Scott Meyers
Pit Crew Members:
Front Tire Changer: Dustin Necaise
Rear Tire Changer: Mike Hicks
Tire Carrier: Kevin Harris
Crew Chief: Chris Gayle Engine
Spotter: Rick Carelli
Tire Specialist: Jerold Shires
Truck Drivers: Tom McCrimmon, Chris Miko
Jackman: Ernie Pierce
Gas Man: Justin White
- Jones will make his 110th career NASCAR Cup Series start in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500k at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. In 109 career Cup Series starts, Jones has two wins, two poles, 23 top-fives and 47 top-10s.
- Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500k will be Jones’s seventh career Cup Series start at Phoenix. His best finish is fourth, earned in November 2017, and his best qualifying effort is seventh, earned twice (November 2015 and November 2018). He has qualified in the top- 11 in all six of his previous Phoenix race weekends with an average start of 8.7. His average finish at Phoenix is 14.3 after his 29th-place result there in March.
- Through the first 34 Cup Series races in 2019, Jones scored a win in the Southern 500 Sept. 1 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and has nine top-fives and 15 top-10s with an average start of 15.1 and an average finish of 16.9. He has led a total of 172 laps and is 16th in the driver standings.
- Jones scored his first career NASCAR victory at Phoenix when he won the November 2013 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race and followed it up with another Truck Series win there a year later. He has made seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix, all resulting in top-10 finishes, including five top-fives. He also has two Xfinity Series poles at Phoenix (March 2016 and November 2017).
- While this is Jones’ first Cup Series start for Interstate Batteries, he has three Xfinity Series starts for the longstanding partner of JGR. He started third and finished 29th due to an accident at the 2015 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, started from the pole and finished third in the June race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, and started second and finished third in the 2016 race at Las Vegas.