Jones expecting ‘crazy year ahead’ in NASCAR driver market

Image by Rusty Jarrett/LAT

Jones expecting ‘crazy year ahead’ in NASCAR driver market


Jones expecting ‘crazy year ahead’ in NASCAR driver market


Erik Jones says he is anticipating a “crazy year ahead” with the number of NASCAR Cup Series drivers who have contracts set to expire, but he has no plans to be a part of that discussion.

“I’ve had a great relationship with (Joe Gibbs Racing) for now the last three years, four if you want to count my year at Furniture Row,” Jones (pictured above) said Wednesday during Daytona 500 Media Day. “So, I’ve had a great time with them and a great relationship. We’ve been able to win the last couple of seasons. I have no intention of leaving my role there. I’d love to continue that.

“There’s a lot of things in motion, I guess, already probably for people, not really for me. But I’m excited to see.”

Other big-name drivers who could be on the market are Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Alex Bowman.

Jones has driven the No. 20 Toyota for two seasons now but has been in the Gibbs camp much longer. In September, Jones signed a one-year extension with the organization, which means he could be back in the middle of ‘Silly Season’ speculation as the season goes on.

“The pressure is on myself from within,” Jones said. “There’s no pressure from the outside, in my opinion. It’s pressure from me trying to perform. I want to run well. I want to win races. I think if you can do that, the rest of the things are going to come with it, and what you want to do. You’ll have as many choices as you want. Hopefully, that’s the case.”

But the 23-year-old then reiterated confidence in partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing for the long term: “I don’t see it ending. I think we’ve got a good thing going, and as long as we can go out and win races, I think that will keep trending the way it has been.”

Jones has tasted success with JGR, but not with the same level of consistency as his star teammates. Image by Russell LaBounty/LAT

Something that Jones does hope changes is the consistency of his success. In three full seasons at the NASCAR Cup Series level, he has won two races, one each of the last two years. Meanwhile, teammates Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. have been trophy hoarders, which Jones knows he needs to start becoming.

“I think we’ve been in position to win a lot of races the last few years and have not necessarily capitalized on them every time,” he said. “We’ve been able to win the last couple, which has great, but we want to win more. We want to be able to go out and win three or four races a year. That’s our goal. That’s what our teammates do, and that’s what we want to do.

“I know we can improve. I know there’s a lot of things we can get better. Chris (Gayle, crew chief) and I have looked that over of what we can do better from our ends. I think we’re going to work on it, do the best we can. Hopefully, we can go out and win a few this year.”