DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Erik Jones is heading into the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season in a similar position to the one that he was in a year ago — the final year of a contract. It took until early September for an extension to get done between Jones and Joe Gibbs Racing, but in the end, a deal was reached.
But, the deal was only for one season. We’re heading into that season Sunday at the Daytona International Speedway. Jones, will pilot the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing for a third straight year. He hears the things we hear. He knows what’s at stake.
See, last year, JGR had Christopher Bell waiting in the wings. He was in the middle of a second straight dominating season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and was ready to move up to a full time NASCAR Cup Series season for 2020. The problem is, JGR and all the other teams in NASCAR are capped at four full time teams.
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were all under contract for the 2020 season. Jones wasn’t. Jones, only had one career win to his credit as the season was nearing the playoffs.
Hamlin, Busch and Truex would combine for 18 of the 19 wins at JGR last year. They all three made the Championship 4 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Jones, well he finally won a race at the Southern 500, which netted him a contract extension, but being a first round exit in the playoffs for a second straight year put him back on the hotseat again for 2020.
“I’ve had a great relationship with (Joe Gibbs Racing) for the last three years, four if you want to count my year at Furniture Row,” Jones said Wednesday morning. “I’ve had a great time with them and a great relationship. We’ve been able to win the last couple of seasons. I have no intention of leaving my role there. I’d love to continue that.”
Jones, said that there are a lot of things in motion already but not necessarily for him. That could put him in another pressure packed season. Jones, is embracing it since he just went though it last year.
“The pressure is on myself from within,” Jones continued. “There’s no pressure from the outside, in my opinion. It’s pressure from me trying to perform. I want to run well. I want to win races. I think if you can do that, the rest of the things are going to come with it, and what you want to do. You’ll have as many choices as you want. Hopefully, that’s the case.
“I think we’ve been in position to win a lot of races the last few years and have not necessarily capitalized on them every time. We’ve been able to win the last couple, which has great, but we want to win more. We want to be able to go out and win three or four races a year. That’s our goal. That’s what our teammates do, and that’s what we want to do.
“I know we can improve. I know there’s a lot of things we can get better. Chris (Gayle) and I have looked that over of what we can do better from our ends. I think we’re going to work on it, do the best we can. Hopefully, we can go out and win a few this year.”
The difference in this year and last though is that there’s so many potential big rides that may be left that weren’t there in 2019. Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney with Team Penske are free agents too at seasons end. So is Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing. So is Matt DiBenedetto (Wood Brothers) and Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports). Oh yeah, you can’t forget about the retirement coming from Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) too.
Despite that, Jones doesn’t see himself leaving if any of those rides remain available.
“I don’t see it ending,” Jones said of his relationship with JGR. “I think we’ve got a good thing going, and as long as we can go out and win races, I think that will keep trending the way it has been.”