NASCAR Cup Series
Erik Jones 1-on-1: On moving to Toyota next season and his upcoming wedding
NASCAR Cup Series

Erik Jones 1-on-1: On moving to Toyota next season and his upcoming wedding

Updated Jul. 27, 2023 9:59 a.m. ET

Erik Jones currently sits 28th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.

So why is he a topic of conversation?

He does have two top-10s and four finishes of 11th or better in the past five races. His average finish for the first 16 races was 22nd, and his team also got hit with a 60-point penalty.

But he's also a topic of conversation because of what he's doing off the track next week. Most drivers decide to get married during the offseason. Not Erik Jones.


Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass! 

Jones and Holly Shelton (a former midget- and sprint-car racer) will be married Wednesday in Jones' home state of Michigan. 

Jones sat down with FOX Sports to discuss his season, Legacy Motor Club's move to Toyota and why he's getting married on a Wednesday and then getting back in a race car that weekend.

How do you look at the past 15 races of this year?

Man, it's been an odd season for us. We started out and really right off the bat, we were just lacking some speed. We felt like our cars were driving good at the beginning of the year, just didn't have speed. And then we kind of got into where we lost the speed and our cars weren't handling well, and so we were in a tough spot. 

Obviously, we made the announcement about that time where we were switching manufacturers [next year]. A lot of things were changing all at once. Honestly, I'd say in the last month and a week now, things have started to take a turn for the better. Nashville was kind of the kickoff of that, going there and running eighth. ... I've been having a lot better runs from where we were at the start of the year, so I'm happy with that and just wanting to keep going that way. Last year, we had speed kind of all year, and this year, we definitely started out pretty far off, but we're going in the right direction now.

Do you feel like it was a challenge a little bit at first people thinking, "Oh, this can be a lame duck season" now that you were changing manufacturers. How have you guys tried to handle that?

I kind of knew those questions were going to come, even with performance aside — and the performance wasn't there either when we made that announcement. You go through those struggles, and the unfortunate thing is you don't want your guys to reflect negatively on that. You don't want the guys in the shop to lose motivation just because we don't think we have the support that we need and going through that whole thing. 

We just kind of went to work. The engineers went to work, [crew chief] Dave [Elenz] went to work. We dove in on a lot of simulation in trying to figure out what we could do better to get better. With no [extended] practice, you're showing up with ideas and things to try, but you're not backing out of them once you're there. If you show up and your idea is not going to work, you're stuck with that for the race. And so we went through a little bit of that and have kind of went back to what we know and last year what worked for us. 

That's really what's led us down a bit better of a path. And, obviously, learning some things, too, of the car aero-wise going forward. You fight through those notions internally and externally. But overall, I think we've done a good job just powering through and staying strong through it. And I think this group has been good for that for the last few years kind of pushing through those issues. But we've done a good job getting better with it.

Erik Jones dishes on his season so far and his outlook for the final weeks.

Do you focus at all on intermediate tracks rather than short tracks, knowing the short track package likely changes for next year?

It's tough for us. Our immediate stuff has always been better, even last year in our short track stuff, we struggled and then the package change [for this year] did not help our struggles and probably amplified our struggles on the short track. ... But New Hampshire was good for us. Richmond this week will be a big test, kind of seeing where that all funnels out. 

You were supposed to do the short track test last week, but it got moved to next week Monday and Tuesday. Apparently, you have something else going on the day after that test?

Yeah, I think I had a good day-off-work excuse for that one. I'm getting married that week in Michigan. Tuesday is my rehearsal dinner. So as soon as they changed that in New Hampshire, I was shooting some notes out saying, "Hey, you guys are probably well aware of this." A lot of them are coming to the wedding. So I can't make that test. I think Noah [Gragson] is going to fill in for me. He's made sure to tell me many times that he's filling in for me for that one. A good reason to miss. I think I get a free pass on that one.

Nobody was going to argue that maybe we'll end at 3 o'clock and you might still be able to get to the rehearsal dinner at Michigan?

No questions from NASCAR or anybody on why I was going to miss that one. They were all-in. No, "Hey, you've got to make this test and try to make the rehearsal dinner at the same time." That was good. I'm bummed a little bit that I'm not going to do it. I was excited to try that package. But I'm more excited to get back there [to Michigan].

Erik Jones discusses missing the short-track race test because of his wedding.

Why did you decide to get married during the season?

That's a good question. We got talking about, Holly and I, on where we were going to do the wedding and wanted to do it in Michigan. She did not want to do a winter wedding, which obviously our offseason is November through January. I said, "Well, we were kind of left with one option here and that's going to be Michigan week during the middle of the week." She was all about it. I said, "If you're good with it, I'm good with it." And we went and checked out a venue up there that we really liked. And they were definitely free in the middle of the week — that wasn't too hard to convince the date out of them. Going into Michigan week works out all right. We've got a lot of people obviously from the race world coming up for it. Definitely some questions from mom on why we were getting married on a Wednesday at first, but she understands, obviously. A little different, but it'll be good.

Has it been a good distraction? Bad distraction? What's it been like?

Holly's handled a lot of it — the final details here in the last month and a half. I've been a big part of hammering out flowers and catering and all that stuff. But Holly and her sister have done a good job of knocking it all out. And it was quick planning, too. We got engaged in December of last year and obviously the wedding is in August. That's not a lot of time. They hammered it out there pretty good. It hasn't been a distraction for me. Holly's done a good job thankfully.

Do you think it's going to be hard to get in the car on Saturday after getting married on Wednesday?

I don't think so. I think for me, it's a little extra motivation to cap the whole week off, right? A lot of friends and family are already going to be in town for the wedding are going to stay for the race and are going to want to come down and watch that. For me, it's just that kind of extra motivation to run good. Winning or running really well would be a heck of a way to cap everything off. So a little extra motivation.

Do you have a honeymoon planned? Or was it, let's just get through the wedding and then we'll figure out a honeymoon at a later time?

I'm at that direction, do the wedding first. We have a small trip planned here a couple of weeks after in North Carolina going over to the coast for a couple of days in the middle of the week. But we're planning to do a bigger trip probably overseas in the offseason. I want to go over to Italy, Greece and those areas, Holly's never [and] I've never been out of the continental U.S.

When you look back on this year at least you'll have the wedding to look back on, right?

I totally get what you're saying. It's been a tough year in a lot of racing aspect side of things for sure. And racing is a big, big part of your life when you're in it at this level. So there's definitely been brighter days the last month, but still not where we want to perform and not where we want to be in points — especially with the penalty a few months ago. It just hasn't gone how we wanted. 

Racing is ups and downs. This year has definitely been a tough one. You want to perform and outperform and overachieve and just haven't felt like we've done that right now. We've got to get through this year, got to do what we can to run better, which we've been getting better. I want to have a few bright spots before the year's over. Obviously, sneaking a win out here would be a fix for everything, right? You win a race, it feels like the year wasn't all that bad. We'll see how it goes. I think the last month has shown there's no giving up, at least from our group. 

What To Watch For

The first thing is practice and qualifying, which didn't happen in April because of rain. So teams will have a better idea of how their cars should start the race at Richmond.

The other thing is tires. Cup teams get nine sets of tires (eight sets of stickers and one set of scuffs from qualifying). If there are early cautions, teams will have to make a decision on whether to come and get tires. That bit Martin Truex Jr. in April as he had to put on scuffs on the last pit stop while other drivers got fresh tires.

Kyle Larson won the race last April, while Kevin Harvick won a year ago and Denny Hamlin won the first Next Gen race there.

As far as drivers who need a win to make the playoffs, three drivers have wins at the track in Cup: Harvick (four), Brad Keselowski (two) and Alex Bowman (one).

Thinking Out Loud

Count me among those who don't understand, or at least not too much, the decision of Kaulig Racing to have AJ Allmendinger compete in the Xfinity race Saturday at Road America.

To do that, he will miss practice and qualifying Saturday at Richmond Raceway. The 20 minutes of practice might not be huge but because he isn't qualifying the car, Allmendinger will have to start at the rear of Sunday's Cup race.

"Some people won’t understand it, but at the end of the day, we don’t care," said AJ Allmendinger about running both Cup and Xfinity races this weekend.

For a driver who is just 17 points out of the playoff cutoff, it would seem silly to give up a shot at stage points in the opening stage by having to start last.

But Allmendinger says if he can run well at Road America — he will be one of the favorites — that it would do more for him and his confidence rather than a 20-minute practice at Richmond.

Maybe so. It just seems a little bizarre to throw away points at this moment. 

Weekly Power Rankings

They Said It                                                                       

"We're working on everything in our place. We know Denny's going to be here." —Joe Gibbs on a looming contract extension for Denny Hamlin at JGR

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

Top NASCAR stories from FOX Sports:

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR Xfinity Series
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

Get more from NASCAR Cup Series Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more