Erik Jones on Losing, Picks for Top NASCAR Rivalry & Craziest Thing Seen at a Race

Erik Jones before race at Bristol.

Getty Erik Jones before Bristol.

Erik Jones has achieved considerable success throughout his NASCAR career, including the 2015 Truck Series title and becoming the first driver to earn Rookie of the Year honors in all three national touring series.

Now, in his eighth full-time Cup Series season, the Legacy Motor Club driver has won three times, his most recent at Darlington in 2022. Conversely, he’s lost 258 races or 98.9% of the time. 

How does he process losing so often?

The 27-year-old sat down for an interview before the March 24 race at Circuit of Americas and answered that question, plus discussed a variety of other topics, including his thoughts on rivalries in NASCAR, why he wants to see more of them, and the craziest thing he’s ever seen on a race track. 

Erik Jones Talks About How He Handles Regularly Losing

Erik Jones may not have won a lot of Cup races but he has won a pair of the most prestigious, including a couple of Southern 500s at Darlington in 2019 and 2022.

While three victories don’t necessarily sound impressive on the surface, it is when you consider the 76-year history of NASCAR, which includes a total of 2,983 drivers that have started at least one race and just 204 different winners, or a minuscule 7% have made trips to Victory Lane.

As the numbers indicate, winning is incredibly difficult and all drivers have to accept losing on a regular basis. How challenging is that?

“It’s tough,” Jones admitted. “I mean, the best way to look at it is, you know, Richard Petty, the guy whose car I drive now, he won 200, but he lost 920 of them.

“So nobody has a winning percentage in this sport. And the best way I’ve ever seen to look at it is you gotta have a short memory in racing. I mean, no matter what it is you go through today. Honestly, even if you’re the winner, you gotta soak it up and you enjoy the moment, but you gotta be right back focused on next week for exactly what you’re just saying.”

Erik Jones Appreciates the History of NASCAR Rivalries

Driving for Legacy Motor Club and working with a pair of seven-time Cup champions in Petty and Jimmie Johnson, it’s impossible for Jones to not appreciate the sport’s history. That includes rivalries. 

He grew up a Jeff Gordon fan and was too young to appreciate the rivalry with Dale Earnhardt, but has heard and read about what it did for the sport.  

“That was such a unique time,” Jones said. “Dale was kind of the established veteran at that point. Jeff was coming in, winning a lot of races, he’s a good guy. And just a neat balance, neat to see. 

“I wish there was something along those lines right now. I wish we could get something going in that — in the sport in that sense.”

Jones Selects Current Drivers for His Top NASCAR Rivalry

Jones’ comments on desiring a modern-day rivalry fall in line with what NASCAR President Steve Phelps has said on a couple of occasions this year about drivers leaning into rivalries because it makes the sport even more entertaining.

When asked if he could select two drivers who would produce a good rivalry and draw the interest of both current and new fans, Jones didn’t hesitate. 

“I think Chase (Elliott) and Denny (Hamlin) going at it was great for the sport,” he said. “Two of the bigger names in the sport right now. Guys who are racing for wins and they’ve gone at it on and off for a handful of years. So I think if you could pick anyone I think that’s one everyone would love to see keep going.” 

Craziest Thing He’s Ever Seen on Race Track

The 2024 race at COTA was the fourth edition for Jones and the Cup Series drivers to battle around the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course. Interestingly, he said the first-ever event at the track in 2021 produced one of the craziest things he had ever seen in all of his years of racing.

“I would say, right here, in COTA, what was it, four years ago maybe when we had rain in 2021,” he said. “I was nervous to race in the rain because of how hard it was coming down and coming down the backstretch, I just remember seeing the wreck with the 00 and the 19 with the 19 flying up in the air and catching that kind out of the corner of my eye.

“That was one of the probably the craziest things I’ve seen on the race track or even been a part of in racing was that race and that weather. So that one always sticks out to me. We were going down the backstretch here and you couldn’t see more than a couple of feet in front of you. That’s a pretty nerve-wracking experience.”

There was no rain this time around at COTA. However, there was a conflict between Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell immediately after the race. It’s not Chase and Denny, but it’s something Jones, fans, and NASCAR will be watching in the coming weeks to see if it turns into the next rivalry.

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