Furniture Row’s addition of Erik Jones comes with high expectations
By Tyler Head
August 7, 2016
WATKINS GLEN – One of the worst kept secrets in the world of NASCAR was confirmed Sunday morning at Watkins Glen International; 20-year-old Erik Jones will drive a second Furniture Row Racing car in the Sprint Cup Series in 2017.
The one-year deal to drive the No. 77 Toyota with sponsorship from 5 Hour Energy caps off a swift climb to the highest level of NASCAR competition for the young star.
“It was three years ago that I made my first [Camping World Truck Series] start there at Martinsville and to be here now is surreal in a way, you know, but I’m excited,” Jones said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.”
Team owner Barney Visser says the
growth of his team over the past few years, the addition of talented
supporting staff within the organization and the support received
from Toyota Racing made fielding a second car possible.
Visser isn’t content simply having another car on the track. He has high expectations for Jones.
“We certainly want to make the Chase [for the Championship] and go beyond,” Visser said. “I think he’s capable of doing that, and if he hasn’t done that we’ll take a long hard look at ourselves and say, ‘What did we do wrong?’”
Making the Chase is a tall task for a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, but Jones feels he’s ready for the challenge.
“I’d love to win a race at some point during the year. I know that’s a big step and a big goal,” Jones said. “To make the Chase would be huge for us. I would say that would be my goal for sure, and I think we can do it.”
Martin Truex Jr., who has been the lone horse in the stable at FRR since joining the team in 2014, said adding Jones should make the organization stronger.
“Being that he’s a young guy and a rookie there might be some things that he notices that we overlook because we’ve been doing this for so long. At the same time there’s a lot of little tricks and there’s a lot of things that – doing this for eight or ten years – we can really help those young guys along.”
Jones meanwhile is looking forward to picking Truex’s brain throughout the season.
“For me to have a teammate like that is going to be big,” Jones said. “I need a guy that I’m going to be able to lean on for a lot of things. I’m going to have a lot of questions I’m sure every week. So I couldn’t really think of a better guy than Martin to do that.”
Before they hit the track the two
drivers will need to get to know each other. Truex and Jones have
only raced against each other three times, and by their accounts have
spent even less time around each other off the track.
“I haven’t spent a lot of time with him but I hope that we can develop that relationship here on the offseason, a little bit this season, and really start that line of communication,” Jones said.
“I don’t know much about him,” Truex admitted Sunday. “Other than watching him and he’s really fast and wins a lot. So we’re looking forward to having another winner on our team.”
Jones has a lot on his plate for his inaugural season, but the young driver’s future beyond 2017 remains an unknown. Jones said Sunday he’s not sure where he’ll be racing after his one-year agreement with FRR is up.