Erik Jones has taken advantage of the latest in technology to prepare for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 as well as a two-day side trip to Utah.
The NASCAR Cup Series rookie driver has never driven a lap on the 10-turn, 1.99-mile Sonoma Raceway road course nor driven a lap in a Cup car on a road course. So last Tuesday the driver of the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota did the next best thing by spending most of the morning on a race simulator to gain some experience that he believes will pay big dividends over the weekend.
“I don’t do a ton of work on the simulator but I did spend about four hours there making laps and learning everything I could,” said Jones. “I think it’s helpful. It gives you a visual of the track and a few marks and a few shift points and stuff. I won’t totally rely on the information but, for a road course, it’s pretty accurate. It will definitely give me some kind of mark or point to go off of when I get in there and do the real thing.”
The Furniture Row Racing driver does have five road course starts in NASCAR’s national series: one win (2015) and a third-place finish (2014) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Canadian Tire Park in Ontario, Canada; one start each in the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series at Watkins Glen International (finished 12th), Mid-Ohio (finished sixth) and Road America (finished 21st).
Jones, along with Furniture Row Racing teammate Martin Truex, Jr., their crew chiefs Chris Gayle and Cole Pearn, and fellow Toyota driver Daniel Suarez, stopped in Utah for two days on the way to Sonoma to spend time with members of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard and Speedskating teams on behalf of Toyota.
They spent Tuesday training with members of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams at the Center of Excellence in Park City. The Toyota team members and members of the media participated in workouts and simulator exercises. Jones was a quick study on the alpine simulator, especially considering he has never skied, virtually or in the real world.
“It was great to see the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team athletes and the dedication they have to be successful at the highest level of the sport,” said Jones. “We got to participate in a few of their routines and I definitely liked the downhill ski simulator the best. I’ve never skied before so it took a little getting used to but I got the hang of it and would love to try it again.”
Wednesday will be spent at the U.S. Ski Jump training facility in Park City and the Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City with the U.S. Speedskating team. Toyota is the Official Automotive and Mobility Partner of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team.
The Byron, Mich., native is currently 16th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 15 races. He is eight points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 15th place and 52 behind Joey Logano for 10th.
The 110-lap, 350-kilometer Toyota/Save Mart 350 will consist of three stages of 25/25/60 laps (laps 26/50/110). Sunday’s race will air live beginning at 1 p.m. MT (3 p.m. ET) on Fox Sports 1, SiriusXM 90 and PRN. Qualifying (multi-car, three rounds) is scheduled for Saturday at 12:45 p.m. MT (2:45 p.m. ET) on FS1.