Furniture Row Racing expected to announce Erik Jones will drive for team in 2017


Furniture Row Racing is expected to announce Sunday morning that 20-year-old Erik Jones will drive a second Sprint Cup car for the team next season, sources have told NBC Sports.

Sources also have told NBC Sports that 5-hour Energy is expected to sponsor Jones in some races next year.

Asked about the report, Jones told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns before Xfinity qualifying Friday: “I’m not able to really confirm anything. I’d be excited if I got the opportunity.”

The announcement will complete Jones’ meteoric rise in racing. He was discovered by Kyle Busch after beating Busch in the 2012 Snowball Derby at age 16.

Jones became the youngest winner in a NASCAR national touring series race at the time when he won the Camping World Truck Series race at Phoenix in Nov. 2013 at age 17. Jones became the youngest Camping World Truck Series champion in 2015 at 19 years, 5 months and 21 days.

He drove in his first Sprint Cup race April 19, 2015, at Bristol, filling in for Denny Hamlin, who suffered neck spasms and could not continue after a lengthy delay because of rain. Jones made his first Sprint Cup start May 9, 2015, at Kansas Speedway, filling in for an injured Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway. Jones also drove for Matt Kenseth last November after Kenseth was suspended two races for intentionally wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville.

Jones is coming off a victory last weekend at Iowa Speedway — his fifth in 45 series starts. His three wins this season are the most of any full-time Xfinity driver. He ranks fourth in the points heading into Saturday’s series race at Watkins Glen.

In the NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan, Toyota Racing Development President and General Manager David Wilson talked about Toyota’s interest in expanding the number of cars it has.

“As one of three manufacturers, we aspire to have roughly one-third of the field,” Wilson said in last month’s podcast. “Having said that, I think the other thing we have really come to appreciate, quality, quality organizations, quality drivers go a lot further than just having numbers.

“I’d like to have a couple of more and it’s something we’re looking at. We’ve recently been talking a lot about our driver development engagement and ultimately the pinnacle of that, the graduation for a driver development program is to see them at the Cup level. Currently, we’re looking at the future and love to see some growth out of Furniture Row.”

Toyota has scored Sprint Cup victories this season with all four of Joe Gibbs Racing’s teams — Carl Edwards, Hamlin, Kenseth and Busch — and Furniture Row Racing with Martin Truex Jr.

Nate Ryan contributed to this story