Erik Jones confirmed to replace Kenseth at Joe Gibbs Racing

It’s official. Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Tuesday that Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 Toyota in 2018.

Erik Jones confirmed to replace Kenseth at Joe Gibbs Racing
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Erik Jones, Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Erik Jones, Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Erik Jones, Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Erik Jones, Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

The announcement comes just days after Matt Kenseth confirmed he would not return to the organization during his media availability at Kentucky Speedway on Friday.

The decision

Jones, 21, currently pilots the No. 77 Toyota at Furniture Row Racing. The rookie is currently 14th in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings. His best finish this season was third at Pocono Raceway last month.

“Matt (Kenseth) has been a tremendous asset to our organization over the past five seasons both on and off the track,” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “He’s been a great teammate and a great ambassador for our sponsors. We have a great deal of respect for him and we are working hard to get the 20 team into the playoffs to make a run for the championship. We have a great deal of confidence in his abilities to do just that.

“At the same time it’s exciting to have Erik back to run fulltime with us starting next season. When a number of circumstances made it clear over the past few weeks that a second year for the 77 car was probably not viable at this time for Erik, we all agreed that we wanted to keep him in the Toyota racing family and felt it was the right time to make this transition. He is an exciting driver that has already proven to have the ability to compete at the highest level of our sport. He is also shown to be a great representative to our partners and we believe he is at the beginning of a long and successful career.”

Jones' rise to Cup stardom 

Jones made his Cup debut in 2015 substituting for Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway. Busch discovered Jones in 2012 when the youngster out-dueled the veteran in the Snowball Derby. After Jones won the race, Busch recruited the 17-year-old to race trucks at Kyle Busch Motorsports. Jones won in his fifth truck start.

Jones meteoric rise through the NASCAR ranks included a full season in the Camping World Truck Series where he finished fourth in the standings. He graduated to the Xfinity Series in 2015 and won in his ninth career start. In the last five seasons, Jones has scored seven truck wins and eight NXS victories.

“This is a really exciting time in my career for me to make the move back to Joe Gibbs Racing full time in the Cup Series and continue to have the success I’ve had with them over the last few years,” Jones said. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity given to me by Barney Visser and everyone at Furniture Row Racing this year for my first full year in the Cup Series. I’ve learned a lot this year and I’ve had a great group of guys around me each week to lean on as I figured out my rookie season and how to make my way in the Cup Series.

“The 77 team, from myself, crew chief Chris Gayle and every crew member, we’ve come a long way since February and we still have a lot to accomplish this season. We’ve hit our stride the last few weeks with strong finishes and while it’s nice to have my plans for 2018 announced, I’m focused on continuing to improve and get this team a win before the season ends.”

Furniture Row comments

Furniture Row Racing team owner Barney Visser released the following statement:

“Regarding today’s announcement that Erik Jones will drive in the NASCAR Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2018, Furniture Row Racing’s commitment to Jones and the No. 77 team remains the same for the remainder of the season,” Visser said. “Our goal is for Jones to qualify for the playoffs, make a run for the championship and capture Rookie of the Year honors.

“We are working on our team plans for 2018 but don’t have anything concrete to report at this time except that Martin Truex Jr. will continue to drive the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota.”

Furniture Row Racing is expected to make a decision on whether to continue to operate its second team by August 1.

Click on the video to learn more about the move.

 

 

 

 

Kenseth's uncertain future

As for Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion said on Friday his plans are uncertain for 2018. The 45-year-old driver joined JGR in 2013 after 13 Cup seasons with Roush Fenway Racing. He has 38 career Cup wins in 632 starts.

“I certainly hope to still be racing,” Kenseth said. “I think I got some wins left in me and hopefully can race for championships. Right now my focus is on finishing up this year.” He is currently 11th in the standings.

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