Toyota Racing – NCS Dover Quotes – Erik Jones & Corey Heim – 04.27.24

LEGACY MOTOR CLUB drivers Erik Jones and Corey Heim were made available to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Heim, LEGACY MOTOR CLUB’s reserve driver, will fill-in for Jones as he recovers from a lower back injury suffered from an on-track incident in last Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.


COREY HEIM, reserve driver, No. 43 Dollar Tree/Petty’s 75th Toyota Camry XSE, LEGACY MOTOR CLUB

Can you take us through the process last week?

JONES: “I think, for me, it is pretty straight forward. It hurt when I crashed. I’ve never broken a bone in my life, so I didn’t even know what that would feel like. I got out of the car on my own, and I was feeling better. Obviously, adrenaline is going, and I’m pumped up still. Got to the care center, told them what was wrong – that my back was hurting – they poked and prodded all over me, like they normally do, and I said everything felt okay and I told them multiple times that it felt like muscle strain to me. From there, I got up and I was getting around. I walked into the care center. I got up to leave, and was feeling good, was getting released. I talked to a couple of nurses on the way out, and they said if anything changes, just come right back because they were under the same impression – lot of adrenaline – and they could tell that I was hurting a little bit. By the time I got back to the motorhome, after the interviews, I was in more and more pain as time was passing. Got changed into my clothes, and knew I was going to have to go back. It really hurt, and I had some trouble getting around, so I went back right away, and said there is probably more wrong than what I was letting onto you guys. It is really starting to cause me some pain, so then we made the decision to transport. We took an x-ray there, saw some possible problems, wasn’t really sure with the equipment, so we went ahead and transferred to UAB after that.”

How much pain are you in right now? What is your approach mentally on coming back?

JONES: “To be honest right now, I’m feeling pretty good. As a driver, probably any driver, they want to just hop back in. I would love to say that I could get back in and do it right now. Is that possible? I don’t know. I don’t know how I would truly feel in the car, especially a place like Dover. I get pretty sore at night, and when I’m not moving around. My range of motion is a bit limited right now, but the soreness has faded away. It was pretty bad earlier in the week, and I was just resting. By yesterday and today, I’m feeling better and better. There are certain motions that cause a lot of pain. The thing that is probably the worst – it is allergy season, and when I have to sneeze, that hurts pretty bad, but other than that – sitting here right now, talking, I feel pretty good. As far as coming back, I think it is week-to-week. My injury is fortunately, on the mild side, so we will just have to see how it is healing up, how I’m feeling – again, I’m feeling better and better every day. I have an appointment next week, and kind of will make a decision from there.”

Do you have any idea of the g-forces are? Are you in a back brace? Do you need a scan to get approval to go?

JONES: “I’m not in any back brace. It is kind of up to see how the x-rays look and how everything is healing – making sure everything is healing good with the neurosurgeon I’m seeing in Charlotte. That is kind of week-to-week and how that is looking, so no brace or anything. On the wreck, I went to NASCAR and looked at the car on Tuesday or Wednesday. The wreck was really similar to Ryan Blaney’s at Daytona last summer. The g’s and the impact were similar to that, and kind of talking it over with NASCAR on what has to get fixed to see an improvement there. Obviously, Ryan was uninjured in his, and I had an injury in mine, so trying to figure out what the difference is there, but it was real similar to his wreck.”

What are you trying to do for your mental health?

JONES: “It is a unique perspective for me. I’ve never missed a Cup race and this is my eighth season. I’ve never had the chance to sit back and watch a Cup race in a long time now, and obviously never seen my team perform without me. You have to look the at the positives and at least I’ll be able to take a view of my team from a side that I’m not involved for a weekend at least and see how things look. It is definitely more challenging I thought, waking up this morning, to be honest and getting ready for today and realizing that you are not getting in the car. You see the suit, it’s hanging up, that’s tough. For me, taking a week off, I had another guy text me about it – kind of exactly what you are saying – take this time to reflect and see where you are in life. Yeah, it’s not where we want to be as far as the season yet, and where our team and our cars have been. It is unfortunate to continue that process to get better. I want to be in that, but right now, I’m just trying to find the positives. We can take at least a week and see what the group looks like from the outside, watching in. You can see that advice from people around you – it is going to be interesting to see for myself this weekend.”

Can you take us through your last week?
HEIM: “Yeah, it certainly has been a busy week for me. I’ve never sat in one of these things – till about an hour from now. For sure, just trying to do the best I can for this group. They’ve consistently been getting better throughout the year, and super grateful for everyone at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB, and the people there for doing everything they possibly can to get me ready, including Erik (Jones). He’s sat in all of our meetings. Huge props to him for that, and Jimmie (Johnson) as well. There is just a long list of men and women at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB that have helped me get prepared for this race. I would be lying to you if I wasn’t a little nervous about it, because I’ve never sat in one of these cars before, but my job is to do the best I can for this 43 group until Erik comes back.”

How frustrating is it to not be in the car, but healthy enough to be here?

JONES: “It’s two-fold like you said. I’m not in the car, but the wreck and the injury I had – it could have been a lot worse in a lot of ways. I think that is a testament to the safety. I think NASCAR has gotten some of a bad rap this week, the Next Gen car gets a bad rap. I think the car did its job. Unfortunately, this is an injury that we’ve seen in the Truck Series, and obviously, that is the old-style car and this is the first time we’ve seen this injury in this car, but it is an impact that has caused that injury before. Fortunately, as you said, it’s not worse.”

What are your emotions like being at the track, not being able to race tomorrow?

JONES: “It’s definitely depressing in a way. I never – especially when I was younger, starting my career – never thought I would miss a race for anything. You see guys along the way racing through injuries and sickness, and I was like I will never be one of those guys, I will make every race. As long as I race, there is nothing that can keep me out. I think we all think that as drivers, no matter what age or how old or how long you’ve been doing it. So when you get faced with that reality, it’s definitely a changing perspective for you for sure, but the only thing that went my mind through it – I found out on Tuesday that I wasn’t going to be able to race this weekend, was going and helping these guys get ready. Talking to Corey (Heim) helping him. Talking with Dave (Elenz, crew chief) – obviously he hasn’t worked with anyone else in a minute, and I don’t think anyone ever making their Cup debut, that is a bit of a different weekend for him as well. Just trying to get these guys ready to go is the biggest thing from me.”

What has it been like working with LEGACY MOTOR CLUB on the simulator before this week and during this week?

HEIM: “Working with LEGACY MOTOR CLUB since the start of the year has given me a little bit of a head start, I guess, for this week. You never expect something like this to happen, but at least being able to talk to Dave (Elenz, crew chief) and the other two teams at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB and being able to start those relationships at the beginning of the year and kick start this week a little bit better for me. It’s been a pleasure for sure, just getting the virtual seat time in a Cup car has helped me for sure and being able to tune on the simulator side of things this year. I didn’t really get to dive too deep into things this week, but I think the three or four days that I got in preparation and leaning on all of the drivers at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB to be as ready as I can is the biggest thing for me. I will definitely learn a lot in the next couple of hours, but I think the last three or four days have been really beneficial for me versus over not getting a heads up, that would a lot tougher for sure.”

Can you talk a little bit about the conversations you’ve had with Corey Heim?

JONES: “A lot of it has been the differences in the car. I think I would say making your Cup debut now is somewhat more challenging than when I did it, less practice, completely different car – there is a lot of things that I would say is tougher. When I was getting to make my first Cup start, we will take out when I jumped in Bristol for Denny (Hamlin) – that was kind of last minute – but when I got in for Kyle (Busch) in Kansas – I had a lot of time to prepare and get ready, and then two or three practice throughout the weekend. It is challenging now. I think the biggest thing is setting expectations. I think for me, in my first Cup start, my mind was to win the race. That was probably the wrong plan, and I ended up wrecking myself towards the end of the day, so I think getting expectations set – running all the laps and not crashing – is a great debut for most. I talked to him a little bit about that, and the rest has been just about the car and what the differences are there and trying to prepare going from Trucks and Xfinity to this car and what it is going to be like.”

How important is the advice that Erik Jones has given you?
HEIM: “It’s huge for sure. I think any good advice that I’ve gotten has been real crucial for me throughout the weekend. I think for us, we are just going to try to take it one step at a time. We’ve got the 20-minute practice and then qualifying. We are going to take it stage by stage there. It is certainly not going to be easy, but it is a longer race than I’ve been accustomed to with the Trucks and the Xfinity stuff, and I also have the Xfinity race as well to kind of lean on as well. I’ve got the time this weekend to sort of figure it out. I don’t know if I will feel that I’ve got it figured out by the end of the weekend, but any advice is super important. I’ve been reaching out to as many people as I possibly can to try to gather all of the information and try to have a decent idea. With these 20-minute practices, it is pretty brutal to wrap your head around a completely different kind of race car within that time frame, but my job is just to do the best I can for this 43 group and move forward from there.”

How do you balance the excitement and nerves with knowing you need to go out and execute?

HEIM: “Mentally, I’ve not been able to digest this quite yet. It is definitely kind of a last second and big opportunity for me under unfortunate circumstances. It is definitely cool for me to be able to make my debut with the 43 group. I think they’ve been going the right direction and got a cool paint scheme on the car. I get to be teammates with Jimmie (Johnson) and John Hunter (Nemechek) – to do that is super cool, but in the moment, I’m so focused on practice and qualifying right now, I’ve not really been able to focus on that. I think when I reflect on it – it will be a really cool moment for me, but right now, I’m just focused on the present.”

Toyota Racing PR