Erik Jones to replace Matt Kenseth in 2018
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- Joe Gibbs Racing finally made it official: Erik Jones will replace Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota Camry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018.
The 21-year-old Cup Series rookie wondered in the Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series before joining JGR satellite team Furniture Row Racing for his inaugural season in the Cup series. Kenseth will not return to JGR following 2017, according to the team.
Kenseth sort of broke the news before last weekend's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway when he said currently doesn't have a job for 2018. Acknowledging the slow start to his season, Kenseth said his goal is to win and qualify for the playoffs before he exits the No. 20 team.
"I'm not really worried about it but as of today, I do not have a job for next year," said Kenseth. "I hope to still be racing. I think I got some wins left in me and hopefully can race for championships.
"I don't have anything lined up at this moment for 2018. I haven't worked on anything
Team owner Joe Gibbs said the organization respects the 2003 champion, and that Kenseth has been a tremendous ambassador for the team's sponsors.
"Matt has been a tremendous asset to our organization over the past five seasons both on and off the track," Gibbs said in a release. "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."
Gibbs said "a number of circumstances" made it clear that Jones would be unable to run a second season with the No. 77 team. Team owner Barney Visser said last year that it was unlikely he'd have Jones' services for more than one season in the No. 77.
In 18 races this season, Jones has five top-10 finishes, including a third-place at Pocono in June. After finishing sixth at Kentucky, Jones sits 52 points behind Kenseth for the final spot in the playoffs.
Jones has eight victories in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and has seven wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he was the series champion in 2015.
Regarding today's announcement - pic.twitter.com/JXjOBqtqPZ— Erik Jones (@erik_jones) July 11, 2017
"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. 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
Furniture Row Racing said the team is working on its 2018 plans, but the only guarantee is that Martin Truex Jr. will return to the No. 78 Toyota.
"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."