NASCAR

Erik Jones to drive Furniture Row #77 in 2017 Cup Series

Furniture Row have officially announced today that Erik Jones will race for them in a second car in next year’s 2017 NASCAR Cup series. Jones will drive the #77 car with sponsorship from 5-Hour Energy, with the team’s current driver Martin Truex Jr being his team-mate in the #78 Toyota Camry.

Reports started emerging of the possible deal for Jones on Friday at Watkins Glen, with today’s announcement also including the reveal of the #77 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry at the New York state circuit. Erik also spoke today in a press conference in which he expressed his excitement for the move up to NASCAR’s premier class:

“It’s hard to say I’m not excited, but anxious at the same time,” Jones said. “Anxious for this day, and excited to be here,. It’s pretty cool for me to be partnered up with Furniture Row and be part of them growing and part of 5‑hour, too. To have such a big company like that be partnered with me is pretty cool this early in my racing career and something I’ve always wanted. Just a good fit all around.

“I’ve had the chance to kind of meet with everybody, get everything lined up, to see it all come together here over the past month or so has been a pretty cool experience for me. Got a lot to do this year yet, but definitely excited for next year.”

Jones has quickly moved up through the NASCAR graduation series ranks having famously made headlines four years ago when he beat Kyle Busch to win the super late model Snowball Derby race. After that, Jones was signed to Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series to get his feet firmly on the rungs of the NASCAR national series ladder.

He would win his first NASCAR championship last year in the Truck Series whilst also making three starts as a substitute driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He filled in for the injured Kyle Busch at Kansas before also racing in Matt Kenseth’s place when the #20 driver was suspended at Texas and Phoenix. He also took over from Denny Hamlin in the #11 car at the Food City 500 at Bristol mid-race when Denny suffered neck spasms.

This year, Erik moved up to the XFINITY series with Joe Gibbs Racing, with the ties between Jones and JGR proving ever stronger.

It looked more than likely that Jones would one day race for the team in Sprint Cup, but this move makes even more sense. Furniture Row and Joe Gibbs Racing have a technical alliance, with the pair both fielding Toyota Camry’s in the series. Jones’ signing to Furniture Row allows JGR to keep him on their books whilst not having to replace one of their drivers currently in their squad.

The deal is also great for Furniture Row themselves, with Martin Truex Jr commenting on the benefits of a two-car team as opposed to a single car:

“I think for us, and the long-term future of our company it’s a good thing. It’s stability. It’s more people, more money coming in,” said Truex Jr, “You could probably race two cars cheaper than one as far as per car. Bringing in more sponsorship will help.

“I think short term it might be a little more challenging. Our shop isn’t real big, not a lot of space. We need to make sure when bringing in more people it doesn’t upset the chemistry we’ve got going on. But Joe (Garone) and (Truex’s crew chief) Cole (Pearn) and those guys will make sure they have people who fit into their system and way they do things and won’t upset the apple cart, so to speak.

“From Toyota side and JGR side, obviously it’s really good for that relationship and anything we can do to keep that going, make that stronger, build that through is going to be good.”

Today’s announcement is a great source of confidence for Jones, but he must keep his eye on the ball in the XFINITY series. Whilst his plans for next year are set in stone, he still has a championship to try and win. He currently sits at the top of ‘the Chase’ grid for the XFINITY series with three wins to his name so far in 2016. He’ll be hoping he can add an XFINITY series title to his Truck Series title before he graduates to the Cup Series at the start of next year.

Featured image courtesy of NASCAR.com – http://static.nascar.com/content/dam/nascar/articles/2016/8/6/main/erik-jones-main.jpg/jcr:content/renditions/original

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