Two days after it was announced Erik Jones would take over driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Cup car in 2018, crew chief Jason Ratcliff said he was “not sure” yet if he would be in his position next year.
“I’m not sure about that right now,” Ratcliff said Thursday on “Tradin’ Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think it’s pretty new, pretty early I should say in the planning stages.
“For me, I’m still focused on this season. I can only focus on one thing at a time and I got my hands full right right now trying to get the 20 car back up front and I think we’ve made a lot of progress, especially in the last month and a half. But we still need a win to lock ourselves in the (playoffs) and put ourselves in position for a championship.”
Eighteen races into the season, Kenseth, as well as the other three JGR teams, remain winless. Kenseth’s last victory came last July at the same track the series visits this weekend, New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Kenseth is currently 11th in the points standings.
With JGR winless, Ratcliff admits the news of Kenseth’s departure at season’s end is “obviously a distraction” to his team. But his crew members have the experience to push through it.
“Thankfully, most of my guys, if not all of them, have been in this sport for a while and they’ve experienced this type of thing throughout their career,” Ratcliff said. “Most of them have been on really good teams before they came to the 20 car and they know what we’re all about and they know the expectations are not only for the 20 but at our organizations.
“Every week put your best car on the track and go out there and push hard to win races and pursue championships.”
Heading to New Hampshire, the No. 20 team has six top 10s, but only two – Charlotte, Pocono – in the last 10 races. He’s only led three times this year, at Richmond (164 laps), Talladega (four laps) and 21 at Daytona before wrecking out.
But at New Hampshire, Kenseth has led 288 laps in the last seven races and won three times in that span. He has finished worse than sixth once (21st, fall 2014).
“We’re going to a really good track this weekend,” Ratcliff siad. “We’ve had some success there and hopefully we can get the thing into victory lane this weekend and that will be a step in the right direction in staying focused on what we need to stay focused on.”