RELATED: Jones to drive No. 20 for JGR
LOUDON, N.H. – Given how quickly and suddenly the Matt Kenseth/Erik Jones No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota swap happened over the past two weeks, a safe assumption would be that this was the plan all along.
Not so, according to Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., Jones’s future former teammate.
“It was exciting going to two cars and I know it was something that Barney (Visser, team owner) has thought about and talked about for a long time and I know his plans originally were not for this team to be a one-year deal,” Truex Jr. said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Following significant improvement from a dismal 2014 campaign to stellar 2015-16 seasons, the then-single-car Furniture Row expanded to a dual-team operation for 2017, bringing on the uber-talented, young Jones for his rookie year on loan from JGR.
It was no secret Jones would eventually return to the organization that brought him onto the NASCAR national scene via the Kyle Busch Motorsports feeder program – where he won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title – but indications point to it all coming to fruition sooner than anticipated, particularly for an ousted Kenseth, currently jobless for next year.
RELATED: Jones talks about moving to No. 20
Furniture Row is now faced with the decision of whether to field the No. 77 Toyota next season – and if so, with whom behind the wheel. Truex maintained that, while the decision isn’t his to make, there is no consensus yet.
“Well, I’ll leave that up to Barney and Joe (Garone, team president) and everybody that runs the show. I mean, our team has been incredible – it’s been awesome to be a part of it,” said Truex, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader.
“We’ll just have to see how it all pans out, but I’ve enjoyed working with Erik. He’s been a good teammate. He’s a great kid. Love talking to him and hearing his point of view and things, so it would have been nice to have him for a couple years. That program, I feel like, just keeps getting stronger each and every week and they had a good run last weekend and it’s a shame to see that happen that quickly, but we’ll just have to see how it all pans out and hopefully we’ll be two cars, but I guess you never know.”
Even if the organization chooses to downsize back to a single car, don’t expect it to impact Truex’s on-track performance a whole lot, if any. A Homestead championship contender two years ago, Truex followed that up by winning four races last season – second only to series champion Jimmie Johnson.
“I wouldn’t think (it would impact us),” he said. “I mean, we’ve got a really, really tight group of guys that have done a good job working together over the last few years and have a lot of trust and confidence in each other and I think one of the strongest parts of our team is just everybody doing their own jobs and understanding what they are and doing them really well, so I don’t see anything changing.
“I’m sure there’ll be more guys at the shop, they’ll do something different there if they go to one car, but we’ll just have to wait and see, honestly. … I don’t think that decision has been made yet.”