Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday afternoon that Erik Jones would take over the #20 car in 2018. After one year at Furniture Row Racing in the #77, Jones will move to the #1 Toyota team. Probably the worst kept secret in the garage area this season. Matt Kenseth forced the issue last weekend in Kentucky when he said he didn’t know what his 2018 plans were.
Erik Jones is part of the new
Gillette Young Guns in the sport. He kind of gets forgotten about though when people talk about young talent. It’s always Chase Elliott, Chase Elliott, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and that’s it. The Chase Elliott hype train has smothered everyone else including Erik Jones who has more Truck and Xfinity wins than those three guys. Yet he gets overlooked so this begs the question;
Is Erik Jones Elite Enough To Drive At JGR?
The age old debate rages on, is Erik Jones elite or is it the equipment that he’s in? Such a stupid simple minded argument coming from people who think Dale Sr. could still win races in 2017. Erik Jones is definitely elite enough to race at JGR and pilot the #20 car.
Let’s set aside the fact he’s incredibly fast in everything he gets in. Pre-2012 Snowball Derby Erik Jones was running for his family’s team. He wasn’t in the best equipment his entire life (looking at someone in a blue chevy). With that family equipment he beat Kyle Busch straight up. His talent was immediately recognized at that moment.
He went on to win the 2015 Truck Series championship, he nearly won the 2016 Xfinity Championship. For the record he had 7 Truck Series wins and 6 Xfinity Series wins before he became a full time Cup driver in 2017. More than any of his JGR teammates before they reached the Cup series.
Kyle Busch: 5 Xfinity wins & 0 Truck wins before his first full season in Cup. When he did reach the Cup series he won twice in his rookie season. Kyle Busch is a freak talent behind the wheel, no one disputes that. Does Erik Jones have that raw speed and talent Kyle does? Yes but he’s also more measured at times and the parity in the Cup series is way higher now.
Denny Hamlin: 0 Xfinity wins & 0 Truck wins before his first full season in Cup. Hamlin had a meteoric rise to the Cup series. One full Xfinity season in 2004 with 0 wins led to a Cup ride in 2005. He proved his worth in 2005 by sweeping the Cup races at Pocono and winning 2 Xfinity races that year too. His one year in Xfinity was reminiscent of the path Jones has taken.
Daniel Suarez: 3 Xfinity wins & 1 Truck win before his first full season in Cup. Suarez and Jones are both rookies this season and in 18 races they’ve split the season when you look at them head to head. Both have finished 9 races better than the other. Suarez was thrust into the #19 car after Carl Edwards shock retirement but he’s performed admirably.
Erik Jones is 100% elite enough to race at JGR. Is he an elite driver through? Well that’s still up in the air, his 6th place at Kentucky helped to move the needle a little. He won’t be truly elite until he wins a Cup Championship, only then can the needle move into the red.
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