To no one’s surprise after Matt Kenseth announcing he likely didn’t have a place at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018, Joe Gibbs Racing has officially announced Erik Jones will be in the No. 20 car for the 2018 season.
Jones has quickly moved up through all the NASCAR national series driving Toyotas along the way, starting with the Camping World Truck series via Kyle Busch Motorsports, and has had an affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing ever since in the Xfinity and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Jones is currently in a one year contract at Toyota Racing Development/JGR partner race team Furniture Row Racing in the No. 77, with the team’s primary sponsorship coming from 5-Hour Energy.
Questions for Furniture Row Racing, Erik Jones, & Joe Gibbs Racing 2018 Season
Three big questions come up for Furniture Row Racing come with Jones moving over to JGR’s No. 20 team. Add your own opinions below in the comments.
1. Will sponsorship allow FRR allow the No. 77 team to continue operating?
2. Will JGR teammates Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Daniel Suarez help Jones’ career more than Jones’ current teammate, Martin Truex Jr.?
3. With Monster Energy being the title sponsor for the whole series, will current Jones/FRR sponsor 5-Hour Energy be able to stay in the sport? They’ve been grandfathered in, but if the No. 77 team shuts down, they’re unlikely to be allowed to follow Jones to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018. Their only option would be to stay with FRR, and NASCAR may not allow that if their primary sponsorship moves car numbers.
My quick take on those three above:
77 Team – Multiple Factors
1. The article linked below from ESPN makes it sound like as it stands now, the No. 77 team is done at the end of the year. It sounds like multiple factors played into it, but that sponsorship doesn’t exist at a critical mass for 2018.
It’s possible 5-Hour Energy is using the change as a way to duck out of Cup sponsorship. Rather than lose Jones to one of the open rides that Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement has created for 2018, JGR jumped to keep the young driver in the Toyota family.
Driver Mentors for Jones
2. Martin Truex, Jr. is a much more even-keeled guy than either Hamlin or Kyle Busch. Suarez is brand new to the Cup sport and is still trying to find his way. Jones likely has soaked up a bunch from Truex this year, and would probably be a better mentor than any driver at JGR.
But Jones has so much natural talent, it’s unlikely he needs a whole lot of driver coaching. If anything, based on the numbers, he’s got three drivers at JGR to compare setups, driving lines, etc. Also, since FRR is already aligned with JGR, this may already be happening, and nothing will really change going to Gibbs in 2018.
5-Hour Energy’s NASCAR Future
3. See answer to number 1. With the 77 shutting down, sponsorship is at least part of the problem. We obviously don’t know the ins and outs of the agreement, but JGR may have been kicking in part of the cost to run the 77 team in order to hold onto Jones.
Were 5-Hour Energy wanting to continue sponsorship, with Jones gone, they might have had to step up sponsorship dollars. It may also be the case they just want to get out. They sponsored Stephen Wallace, Clint Bowyer, and now Jones for this year.
Like other sponsors in the sport, they may have found the return on investment in NASCAR not profitable (like Nature’s Bakery with Danica Patrick). In modern-day NASCAR, the sponsors currently reporting the most success are in the business to business opportunities. 5-Hour Energy is a consumer product. They may want to spend marketing dollars elsewhere, especially with Monster Energy coming in.
Join the Discussion Below
What’s your take on the 77 team, Furniture Row Racing, Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018, etc.?
Leave your thoughts and comments below.
Source: ESPN – Erik Jones to drive #20 JGR Toyota in 2018