Furniture Row Racing owner ‘fairly certain’ Erik Jones will leave after 2017 season

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Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser said that he is “fairly certain” Erik Jones, who has a one-year contract to drive for the team next year, will leave after the 2017 season but is confident in attracting a talented driver to the team’s second car for 2018.

Visser made the comments Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Dailed In” show. Visser’s comments mirror what NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan reported last weekend — that Jones could return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 or ’19. Visser said last weekend that “we hope to make (Jones’ contract) many more” years beyond 2017.

On SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Visser talked more about Jones and looking beyond next season with the organization’s second team.

“If we don’t have him, we will have somebody else,” Visser told host Claire B. Lang. “With how we’re running, we will get a very, very good driver after he leaves, if he leaves, and I’m fairly certain he will. We will attract one of the best drivers in the garage for that second slot I am confident. The cars are just going to be running too well. The first car is running too well. It all builds on itself. It all kind of snowballs in the right direction.”

Lang then asked Visser if he really felt Jones would leave the team.

“I think probably so,” Visser said. “I think that’s most likely. We’re working on that. What I am saying is the team will go on no matter what and people need to understand that when they come looking for jobs.”

Should Jones run only next year at Furniture Row Racing in the Sprint Cup Series, then Joe Gibbs Racing would have to make a change to bring him back. That team’s lineup features former champions Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and former series runner-up Carl Edwards. Kenseth, the team’s oldest driver, will turn 46 during the 2018 season.

Jones said at last weekend’s announcement that he’ll join Furniture Row Racing in 2017 that “I have a one-year agreement with Furniture Row, and I’m not sure where it will go after that. 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.”

Said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, last weekend: “Whether Erik stays in the 77 (at Furniture Row) or another young talent comes up and Erik goes somewhere else, we honestly don’t know at this point.”

Furniture Row Racing is adding a second car to run Jones next year and be a teammate to Martin Truex Jr., who recently signed a two-year contract to stay with the team.

Jones is one of the most prized young drivers in the sport. He’s progressed swiftly through Toyota’s ranks in the Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports and the Xfinity Series with JGR. The 20-year-old won the Camping World Truck Series championship last year, becoming the youngest champion in series history. His three Xfinity wins this season are the most among full-time drivers in that series.