Coming off a Trucks championship and currently leading the Xfinity points standings, the next natural move for Erik Jones is to drive at the Sprint Cup level. After Furniture Row Racing revealed their plans for 2017, that’s exactly where Jones is heading next season.
Furniture Row will open a new team next season with Jones taking over the No. 77 Camry program. FRR General Manager Joe Garone has flirted with the idea of starting a second team for the last year, but will reportedly finally pull the trigger next season.
“It’s certainly a part of it for the growth of the team,” Garone told Motorsport.com. “It’s been over this journey we started off and Barney (Visser, team owner), his company has funded our car all along and are still there, but Bass Pro Shops really coming on board this last year has really opened up a door for other sponsorships.
“And, it’s kind of settled us to where we feel we’re getting strong enough to support a second effort and it’s no secret we’ve been working on that and we’ll see where that takes us.”
Jones, 20, has three Sprint Cup races under his belt, filling in for Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth on three separate occasions last year. During his two starts — he jumped into the car for an injured Hamlin midway through the race at Kansas — Jones finished 12th and 19th at Texas and Phoenix in the midst of the Chase.
In 86 starts between the Xfinity and Trucks Series, Jones has captured 12 wins and an astonishing 66 top 10s. Jones has 11 top-five finishes in just 19 starts at the Xfinity level this year alone.
While he may be young to start his Sprint Cup career — he doesn’t turn 21 until next summer — Jones is following in the footsteps of another emerging star. Chase Elliott may have fallen off a bit over the last two months, but his start with Hendrick Motorsports along with Ryan Blaney’s consistent season proved rookies can finally be competitive again.
Driving his entire NASCAR career for Joe Gibbs Racing-owned teams, Furniture Row Racing will be no different. Thanks to a team alliance announced prior to the season, the Toyota team now gets to field one of the hottest young drivers in the sport.
Even if Jones is moved over to JGR in the near future, the team has a plethora of young talent to choose from with Daniel Suarez likely the next on deck. Then there’s William Byron, who has already won five times, a rookie record. Even though Matt Tifft is currently out of the car due to a brain tumor, he is another developing driver under the Gibbs umbrella.
Furniture Row’s second car might eventually serve as the development team for JGR, but it’s far from a bad situation for the Denver team. Strapping up future stars alongside a championship contender like Martin Truex Jr.? Yeah, Furniture Row has come a long way.