Getty Images

Erik Jones: Departure of Carl Edwards ‘not something we saw coming’

Leave a comment

Erik Jones said the surprise news of Carl Edwards leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and not competing in 2017 was “not something that we saw coming” during an interview Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Jones will be a rookie in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season with Furniture Row Racing, which is aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones said the news won’t impact his rookie campaign driving the No. 77 Toyota.

Daniel Suarez, the defending Xfinity Series champion, will replace Edwards in the No. 19 Toyota after initially being slated to run his third Xfinity season. Joe Gibbs Racing will announce the move at a 10 a.m. (ET) press conference Wednesday at the team’s race shop.

Jones, the 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion and the 2016 Xfinity Rookie of the Year, was announced as the driver of the No. 77 Toyota last August.

MORE: Ryan: Carl Edwards departure fits guarded personality

The 20-year-old driver said his rapid ascension to the Cup series, which began in the Truck series at 17, didn’t begin to sink in until a trip to Furniture Row Racing’s shop in Denver, Colorado, a few weeks ago.

“I was walking through the shop and looking at all the cars they were putting together,” Jones said on “SiriusXM Speedway” with Dave Moody. “At the time I was looking at the new body for 2017 that I hadn’t seen yet. And walking through the shop, there were some chassis lined up on the floor and every chassis has a serial code on it. It had the chassis number and at the end it had ‘- EJ’ and that was pretty cool. That’s the feeling, you’re walking through and (think) ‘that’s me. That’s my car. They’re putting that car together for me.'”

The last few months have been busy for Furniture Row Racing as it prepares the No. 77 team for its first on-track action in the coming weeks. The first time the completed team will assemble will be on Jan. 31 for a test at Phoenix International Raceway.

Leading the charge for the No. 77 team will be crew chief Chris Gayle, who is coming off a season as crew chief for the No. 18 team in the Xfinity Series thatwon 12 races. When Jones drove the No. 54 car part-time in 2015, he and Gayle won a race at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I didn’t really know him on a personal level so much in 2015,” Jones said. “I spent some time with him (in Denver) last time I was there. I stayed at his house and it’s been fun getting to know him more.”

When Speedweeks rolls around, it will be the first time Jones has driven a Cup car in race conditions since 2015 when he substituted for a suspended Matt Kenseth in two races at the end of the season. That was after he drove for the injured Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway in May of that year.

But the Cup cars have changed dramatically in those two years, with two major reductions in downforce, that Jones said those starts and even his mid-race substitution of Denny Hamlin at Bristol in April 2015 don’t count toward real Cup experience anymore.

“I realized that at a test I did at Kansas last year with the Furniture Row group,” Jones said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The driving style (in 2015) was fairly different than the test I did at Kansas a few months ago. I think it’s a small learning curve. The driver takes whatever they’re given to the maximum performance level that’s allowed.”

The Kansas test with the 2017 rules package also showed a “big change” from what Jones was used to in the Xfinity Series.

“Immediately, the first lap on the track you’re all the way out of the gas using brake,” Jones said. “I don’t think there’s a single mile-and-a-half on the schedule for the Xfinity Series where we used much brake at all and we were using quite a bit at Kansas. It’s definitely a lot different, but I think it’s good. I think putting it in the driver’s hands is what everybody in the Monster Energy Cup Series has been asking for and we’re getting to see that now.”

Jones will make his full-time Cup series debut on Feb. 26 in the Daytona 500.

Snow blankets Martinsville Speedway; race still set to run Sunday

Photo: Toby Whealdon
1 Comment

Snow blanketed Martinsville Speedway on Saturday night, less than 24 hours before the Cup Series runs the STP 500.

The race remains scheduled to take the green flag at 2:07 p.m. ET.

Snow was falling Saturday night and expected to do so through the early hours of Sunday. The National Weather Service’s forecast called for the Martinsville area to receive 2-4 inches Saturday.

Ryan Blaney‘s spotter, Josh Williams, provided video of the scene Saturday night:

 and on Facebook

Kyle Busch seeks alterations to Charlotte Roval after test

Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images for NASCAR

Kyle Busch says he’s raised concerns about a couple of turns on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course to track officials after taking part in a Goodyear test there this week.

Busch, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Larson and Paul Menard tested Tuesday. Wednesday’s session was rained out and rescheduled for May 1. Busch is the winningest active Cup driver on road courses. He has four career road course victories (two at Sonoma and two at Watkins Glen).

Busch, said he talked with Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., and Don Hawk, SMI’s senior vice president of business affairs, about his concerns.

“They have an idea for changes to one of them, but not the other one,’’ Busch said Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.

One area of concern is the chicane on the frontstretch.

“When you’re coming down onto the front straightaway and you have that zone in the infield grass and then you turn (right), you have a direct, head-on impact into the wall on the front straightaway there so that’s kind of a concern,’’ Busch said.

“The chicane on the frontstretch, when you turn to the right (Turn 16 in the above diagram) heading head-on into a wall and then you have to turn back left going along the front straightaway (was an issue raised). When we were testing, it wasn’t bad because you could hop this curve and hop that curve, but then they wanted to straighten that out more from turn seven like at Sonoma, which is more of a 90-degree turn, and would make that angle worse.

“I expressed my displeasure with that idea and then we also had the same thing coming from Turn 7 to Turn 8 where you’re braking in a zone and heading head-on into the front straightaway wall to get back (from the infield course to Turn 1 of the oval). Softening up that corner as well and making that tighter and a softer corner where you can … get back on the main track a little safer.

“Those are some instances that I felt were kind of the worst instances. Other than that, I thought the track was kind of OK. It’s a bit narrow and tight in places, but I think you have that at some other road courses that I have not been at that NASCAR has. Montreal is really narrow, too and it puts on a decent show. I think it will be fine, it will just be different. I think it’s going to be about survival more than anything.”

The Cup series races on the Charlotte’s roval on Sept. 30 on NBC. It is the final race of the first round of the playoffs and will cut the number of title contenders from 16 to 12.

  and on Facebook

Cup starting lineup at Martinsville Speedway

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
1 Comment

Martin Truex Jr. will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Martinsville Speedway after qualifying was canceled by rain and snow Saturday.

“It’s definitely a big advantage to start out front,” Truex said. “First pit box obviously, everyone knows it’s a big deal here and that’s where you want to be so you get that clean stall in and out and not get torn up on pit road.”

The lineup was set by car owner points.

Kyle Busch will join Truex on the front row.

Row 2 will feature Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Teammate Ryan Blaney starts fifth.

Click here for starting lineup

Martinsville Truck race postponed to Sunday after Cup race

Photo: Dustin Long
Leave a comment

The Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck race at Martinsville has been postponed until Sunday afternoon, following the Cup race.

Ben Rhodes led the field to green 2:05 p.m. and held the lead until Mike Senica stalled on the track. Rhodes led the first 23 laps until precipitation red flagged the event at 2:17.

The Truck race will be televised on FS1.