By AMANDA VINCENT
On Sunday morning, Furniture Row Racing announced that it was expanding to include a second full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry in 2017. NASCAR Xfinity Series driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, Erik Jones, will make the move to the Sprint Cup level to drive the No. 77 Toyota for FRR next season as a teammate to Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota.
“We have a contract with Erik for one year, and we hope to make that many more,” Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser said.”
Truex, who is in his third year as driver of the No. 78 signed a two-year contract extension with Furniture Row Racing, to begin in 2017, according to an announcement from the race team on Thursday. Truex is in his third year with FRR.
“From the 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,” Truex said.
5-Hour Energy will be the primary sponsor of Jones’ No. 77 Cup car for 22 races this season. The energy shot company has been a sponsor of Sprint Cup Series driver, Clint Bowyer, since 2012. Bowyer formed a driver/sponsor partnership with the company while the driver was at Michael Waltrip Racing. 5-Hour Energy made the move with Bowyer to HScott Motorsports for 2016 upon the closure of MWR. Bowyer will move to Stewart-Haas Racing to assume driving duties of the No. 14 next year, upon the retirement of Tony Stewart from full-time competition as a driver.
“Obviously, they’ve been working on it for quite awhile,” Truex said. “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. You could probably race two cars cheaper than one, as far as per car. Bringing in more sponsorship will help.”
Jones has been a driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports and/or Joe Gibbs Racing for Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series competition since 2013, competing in the Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports and in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team for which KBM owner Kyle Busch drives in the Sprint Cup and Xfinity series. Jones competed part-time in a KBM Truck Series entry in 2013 and 2014 before reaching the age of 18, and then, competed in the series full-time last year, claiming the 2015 Camping World Truck Series championship.
The 2016 season is Jones’ first full-time season in the Xfinity Series for JGR. So far, after 20 races, he has three wins on the season. While running full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, Jones competed in 23 of 33 Xfinity races last year, winning twice.
Jones also made three official Sprint Cup Series starts for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015, serving as a fill-in driver. He ran a race early in the season as a substitute for the injured Busch and then started two additional races late in the year for the suspended Matt Kenseth. Jones also ran most of the Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway in April 2015, filling-in for Denny Hamlin after Hamlin started the race but then had to relinquish driving duties because of a health issue. Jones’ best finish of record at the Cup level is a 12th-place showing at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, driving the No. 20 normally piloted by Kenseth.
Furniture Row Racing has a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I just can’t believe this is really happening,” Jones said. “We have been talking about Cup racing for a while, but to actually make the announcement is surreal. This is every young driver’s dream, to be with a manufacturer like Toyota, an organization like Furniture Row with its successful technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, and an incredible sponsor like 5-Hour Energy, who is so well known for promoting its racing program.”
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