When Erik Jones’ 2021 racing plans slipped deeper into uncertainty this month, he received a text from an unlikely but empathetic peer in Joey Logano.
Jones provided an update on his status in a Tuesday teleconference with reporters, sharing that Logano was among those to reach out in a show of support after the news that he would part ways with Joe Gibbs Racing after the season. That initial conversation after the weekend doubleheader at Michigan led to a lunch invitation, part of Jones’ emphasis on talking to as many people as possible for insights on his next career move.
Jones said he hasn’t been especially close with Logano through the years. (Jones has been immersed in the Toyota system, with Logano aligned with Team Penske and Ford.) But they share a bond as a former driver and soon-to-be-former driver of JGR’s No. 20, with Logano joining Penske in 2013 and amassing 23 wins and a NASCAR Cup Series championship in the years since.
“In this situation for me, I’m just talking to as many people as I can, just trying to get different sides of and seeing what they know and what they went through and how they would do it, and just getting a lot of different opinions,” Jones said. “Joey and I met for lunch that week, and it was a good chat. We sat there for an hour, hour and a half, and kind of talked about what he went through at JGR, and obviously he got moved on from JGR as well around the same age that I was and had to find a different opportunity, so it was really interesting to hear what he went through and then what changed for him.
“Obviously, he went from not being 100 percent competitive where he wanted to be at JGR to being obviously a champion after he left, so I kind of wanted to know what switched for him and what really clicked for him after he left. It was just interesting. It was an enlightening conversation. I thought I learned a lot from him and what he went through.”
Without delving into specific targets, Jones said he was involved in ongoing talks with multiple teams about his options for 2021. His immediate goal for closing out his JGR tenure on a strong note centers on this Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Daytona International Speedway, where Jones’ path to the Cup Series Playoffs hinges on a virtual must-win situation in the regular-season finale.
Jones says he’s been splitting his focus between this season’s aspirations and finding next season’s security, “burning up the phone” since learning Aug. 6 that he would not return to the No. 20 Toyota.
“Just trying to work on opportunities and find out what’s out there for next year because I didn’t have really an inkling that I was going to be in that spot,” Jones says, who had mentioned during the Michigan weekend that he was blindsided by the move. He added Tuesday that he wasn’t bitter about the decision, that he understood the business aspects of the sport. “So I guess that’s probably more of what I’ve been focused on right now, which is unfortunate because I want to be focused on racing 100 percent and be able to do what I need to do there to go and be competitive each and every week — and I’ve been putting in the time on that as well, but it definitely seems like it’s been split more to the side of me trying to work on opportunities for next year.
“I still have a season to finish out with JGR and what I want to do there and still owe them the rest of the season. I’m still under contract with them, but I need to find an opportunity for next year. I still want to be racing in the Cup Series, so I’ve been trying to hustle and trying to find opportunities.”