Stock Car Racing NASCAR Erik Jones
Jones aims for stability with Furniture Row
Tuesday, 24 January 2017
Kelly Crandall / Images by LAT
Erik Jones has been successful in every vehicle he's sat in, but it hasn't come easy.
At least not in NASCAR, where Jones has played musical chairs since he arrived on the scene in late 2013. From his tenure at Kyle Busch Motorsports to filling in for a few of his Toyota teammates in the Cup Series, then moving to the Xfinity Series, Jones has spent about as much time learning the sport as he has the names of those he's working with.
That will continue in 2017.
In his graduation to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Jones will make a home at Furniture Row Racing in a newly formed second team. Martin Truex Jr. will be his teammate, and while a familiar face, Chris Gayle, will be Jones' crew chief, everything else will again be new.
"I don't know if it's hindered me, but it's definitely made it more challenging," Jones said Tuesday at the NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway. "I hope I can build a group here at Furniture Row, a group of guys, that I'm with for a long time. I've never had that chance really anywhere throughout my career – in late models, in trucks, Xfinity, anything. I've never had the chance to work with a group of guys more than one year."
Of course, there's no telling how long Jones will be at Furniture Row considering he's deeply linked with Joe Gibbs Racing. However, Gibbs had no room at the inn for Jones, and Furniture Row was happy to expand its operation for the 2015 Truck Series champion.
Ironically, the closest Jones came to working with a group for an extended period was in the Truck Series. After debuting with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2013, Jones ran a partial schedule for the company in 2014 and then won three races on his way to the championship the following season.
"I worked with (the truck team) for two years, and we were able to win the championship there, but for the most part it's been a new group of guys, new crew chief, every year, which is challenging," Jones said. "Especially for a young driver just trying to get to know them for it seems like the first half of the year until you can really gel and get to work together well."
Since then, Jones has made starts in NASCAR's top two divisions while working with four different teams.
In 2015, Jones took over for Denny Hamlin at Bristol in April, finishing 26th. He replaced an injured Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway and was running in the top five when he crashed. Then he drove Matt Kenseth's car during Kenseth's suspension for two races in the playoffs finishing 121th and 19th, respectively. All of that included working with the crew chiefs of those cars.
Last season, Jones made a lone Truck Series start while chasing the Xfinity Series championship (pictured). With Chris Gabehart on the pit box, Jones captured four wins and Rookie of the Year honors.
There's little time for reflecting as Jones again starts over in less than 35 days at Daytona.
"It's going to be busy weekends," Jones said of his rookie year. "I'm fortunate that I had three races in the Cup Series back in 2015 to at least get my feet wet. Unfortunately, those races were all double and triple duty (weekends), so I don't know what a normal Cup weekend brings, but I had a chance to get my feet wet, which is nice.
"It's going to be a big change. The competition is just so much higher. In the Xfinity Series, there were times when we'd go to the racetrack and we'd fire off in practice and be two-tenths faster than second place, and it's like, dang, that's crazy. You don't see that in the Cup Series. You don't see guys that are even a tenth better than second place, so that's a big change. But I'm fortunate to be with a team that was fast all year, and that's positive for me as a rookie. You need fast racecars to go fast, and we'll have that."
01-24-2017 04:10 PM
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