Erik Jones’ extension with Joe Gibbs Racing is now official less than a week after he won at Darlington.
The team announced Friday afternoon that Jones would return to the No. 20 car. It’s a move that was reported in August by multiple outlets after Matt DiBenedetto said he wasn’t returning to Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 in 2020. That No. 95 car is expected to be occupied by Christopher Bell next season.
“I’m so happy to finally have my plans for 2020 confirmed and to talk about it,” Jones said in a team statement. “I’m excited to be staying with Joe Gibbs Racing and the 20 team and to continue the success that we have built over the last two years in the Cup Series. I put my heart and soul into this and this race team. This is my living and how I want to make a career and what I want to do. I’ve been racing with JGR since 2014 and it’s really cool to be able to continue with the foundation we’ve built over the years and hopefully win more races and contend for championships together.”
Jones replaced Kenseth at JGR
Jones’ contract was up at the end of the 2019 season and the extension is for just one season, per multiple reports. He took over the No. 20 car ahead of the 2018 season after one year at Furniture Row Racing. He replaced Matt Kenseth at JGR.
“Erik has accomplished so much in our sport already and yet, he really is just at the start of a long career,” Joe Gibbs said in a statement “He’s been a part of Joe Gibbs Racing for almost his entire professional career and we’re excited to see what the future holds for him.”
Jones, 23, got his first win of 2019 and the second of his career when he beat Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch to the checkered flag early Monday morning. The win means all four of JGR’s drivers have recorded victories in 2019, though Jones is the only one who doesn’t have four.
Jones is also considerably younger and less experienced than teammates Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. Busch is the youngest of the three at 34 and has been racing full-time in the Cup Series since 2005.
It does seem a bit baffling why JGR wouldn’t want to tie up Jones past the 2020 season, but the team has a space problem because of the excellence of its drivers. Bell, 24, has been tearing up the Xfinity Series over the last two seasons but is very likely heading to LFR because JGR is at NASCAR’s four-car cap.
Given their youth and success, Jones and Bell seem positioned to be key drivers for Toyota and JGR for the next 10 seasons. We’ll see if that ends up happening. Things change quickly in NASCAR.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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