By AMANDA VINCENT
Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, revealed via an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday morning that the 2016 plans for driver Erik Jones include a full Xfinity Series schedule, along with a partial slate of Sprint Cup Series races.
“We’ve got a plan laid out in the future, and it’s something we can’t, you know, we don’t want to talk about now, but there is no question. This guy, Erik’s headed for Cup,” Gibbs said during the interview, as re-quoted by NASCAR.com. “He’s headed for Cup and we’ve got a path charted that we think is the best to get him ready and to fulfill his goal of being in a Cup car as quick as we can get him there.”
Joe Gibbs Racing is already at its cap of four Sprint Cup Series teams, fielding cars full-time for Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. According to NASCAR rules, for JGR to field a fifth car part-time for Jones at the Sprint Cup level next year, the organization has to have plans to put Jones in a Cup car full-time to compete for Rookie of the Year the following season. It’s unknown whether Jones would be replacing a current JGR driver in 2017 or if Gibbs will work out a deal with another team to get Jones a full-time ride then.
Jones’ regular gig in 2015 is driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series. Busch is a Sprint Cup Series driver for JGR and KBM has an affiliation with the Gibbs organization. In the Truck Series, so far this season, Jones is third in the Truck Series championship points standings on the strength of a win, seven top-fives and nine top-10s in 12 races.
While running full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, Jones also has competed in the Xfinity Series this year, running 17 of the 19 races, so far. In those 17 races, he has two wins, eight top-fives and 14 top-10 finishes, split between the No. 54 and No. 20 entries.
Jones also ran at least part of two Sprint Cup races earlier this season. He subbed for the injured Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway, driving the No. 18 to a 12th-place finish. He also served as a relief driver for Denny Hamlin at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway. He drove Hamlin’s No. 11 to a 26th-place finish, but Hamlin was credited with that finish, as NASCAR rules stipulate that the driver who starts a race in a car is credited for where that car finishes.
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