Erik Jones set for 2017 with Furniture Row Racing, but plan is uncertain beyond then

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Erik Jones will move into the Sprint Cup Series with Furniture Row Racing next season, but his future – and those of other Toyota drivers – isn’t set beyond 2017.

As expected, Jones was announced Sunday morning as the new teammate to Martin Truex Jr. in a No. 77 Toyota with sponsorship from 5-hour Energy (which will be on the Camry for 22 races; no other sponsors were announced). Team owner Barney Visser confirmed that Jones’ contract with the team is for one year and “we hope to make that many more” beyond 2017.

If Jones excels with the Denver-based team (which he visited last Monday for the first time), there is a good possibility he could stay at Furniture Row – but it also might depend on the status of his current Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez and the plans of several sponsors.

“I have a one-year agreement with Furniture Row, and I’m not sure where it will go after that,” Jones, 20, said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into it. As next year goes on, we’ll be able to know better. But honestly, I don’t think many of us know what the total plan is there.”

Multiple sources told NBC Sports that Jones still could return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 or 2019. Among the scenarios being considered could involve Kenseth, 44, driving for two more seasons in the No. 20 at JGR before Jones returning, and Suarez, who recently earned his first Xfinity win in his second full season, being promoted to Cup with Furniture Row.

Kenseth and sponsor DeWalt (which will replace Dollar General next year as the No. 20’s primary sponsor) have deals through the end of 2017.

Jones, who is racing full time in Xfinity this season with JGR after winning the 2015 Camping World Truck Series championship, has been under contract with Gibbs since 2014 and still has a contractual relationship with JGR. Jones declined to confirm that because “they don’t really like to talk about that kind of stuff.”

“His (Cup) contract is Furniture Row Racing,” Visser said. “I don’t know what his deal is (with JGR) or if he has a deal. I know we’ve got him and hope to keep him.

Regardless of Jones’ status, Furniture Row will campaign two Sprint Cup Toyotas beyond 2017. Team general manager Joe Garone said 5-hour Energy has an option to return in 2018.

JGR and Furniture Row also have multiyear deals with Toyota Racing Development, which wants to expand its lineup in the future beyond the four cars at JGR and two at FRR.

“We don’t really like to talk about (contract) terms,” TRD president David Wilson said. “Our focus is ’17; ’18 is still open. That will happen organically. We have a number of options.

“I think the point really we wanted to make today is for Toyota and Furniture Row, adding an additional team isn’t a one-year deal. My intention is to run at least six Toyotas in the Cup Series from ’17 forward. Whether Erik stays in the 77 or another young talent comes up, and Erik goes somewhere else, we honestly don’t know at this point.”

It also is unclear how Furniture Row will obtain a second charter, but Visser said his team won’t be running Jones’ No. 77 as an “open” car in 2017.

“There’s several charters out there that we’re hearing are available,” Visser said. “We’ve been looking at it some. We’re not exactly sure where we’re going to be on that. We are going to get a charter, but we’re not sure who we’re going to get it from yet.”

Xfinity race results, point standings after Bristol

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Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.

Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.

Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.

Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.

Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points

Austin Cindric – 2,050

Justin Allgaier – 2,033

Noah Gragson – 2,025

Brandon Jones – 2,020

Justin Haley – 2,018

Harrison Burton – 2,014

Ross Chastain – 2,010

Ryan Sieg – 2,002

Michael Annett – 2,002

Riley Herbst – 2,001

Brandon Brown – 2,000

Click here for the re-seeded standings.

Click here for the normal point standings.

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.

Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.

“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

More: Race results, playoff standings

Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.

Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey EarnhardtMichael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.


Fans not allowed at Las Vegas races

Fans not allowed
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.

A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.

“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.

“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19.  While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige.  We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”

Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.

The Las Vegas Raiders announced last month that they would not have fans at any of the team’s home games in its inaugural season there.

The Truck playoff race will be at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 on FS1. The Xfinity playoff opener will be at  7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 26 on NBCSN. The Cup playoff race will be 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

Fans holding tickets for those events will be contacted by the speedway ticket services department to discuss credits for future races or refunds.

Pit crew change for Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson teams

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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson each will have a pit crew change for Saturday night’s playoff race at Bristol.

The change is the result of an injury to one pit crew member.

Dustin Lineback, jackman for Bowman’s team is out with an injury, the team stated. Kyle Tudor, who has been Johnson’s jackman, moves over to that role for Bowman’s team. Eric Ludwig, a backup for Hendrick Motorsports, moves up to be the jackman for Johnson.

MORE: Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, forecast, lineup

Bowman enters the elimination race 27 points ahead of teammate William Byron, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the second round. Bowman opened the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He followed that by placing ninth at Richmond. Bowman was collected in a crash and finished 37th in the May Bristol race.

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, seeks his first victory of the season. He finished third at Bristol in May.