Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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

2 Comments

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.

 

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch ends the season No. 1

Getty Images
1 Comment

The 2019 season is over and Kyle Busch is the NASCAR Cup champion. And not surprisingly, the younger Busch brother also ends the season as No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

Busch received 39 of 40 possible points to take the No. 1 spot, followed by the other three Championship 4 contenders: Martin Truex Jr. (35 points), and Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick (tied for third place with 28 points each).

The biggest surprises in this week’s standings were Xfinity Series champ Tyler Reddick in fifth and Gander Outdoors Truck Series champ Matt Crafton in sixth.

Here’s this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Finally gets that second title. Last week: Second.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (35 points): Inexcusable pit mistake left him as the championship runner-up for the second year in a row. Last week: Fourth.

(tie) 3. Denny Hamlin (28 points): Came so close to his first championship, only to be fall short yet again. Could this be the closest he’ll ever get? Last week: First.

(tie) 3. Kevin Harvick (28 points): Needed a bit more help than he got going against the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut. Still, a very strong season regardless. Last week: Third.

5. Tyler Reddick (18 points): It’s hard enough to win one championship, but back-to-back championships with two different teams? Should be a force to be reckoned with when he moves to Cup next season. Last week: Unranked.

6. Matt Crafton (14 points): Wins the championship without even winning a race (in fact, his last win was more than two years ago). Thrived on his underdog status and handled the championship race pressure perfectly. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Blaney (12 points): Finished 11th or better, including a win at Talladega, in five of the last six playoff races. Last week: Fifth.

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (11 points): Ends year with four consecutive top 10s, but fell short when it counted: to make it to the championship round and try to defend last year’s title. Last week: Eighth.

(tie) 8. Erik Jones (11 points): Ends season with four top 10s in last five races. That bodes well for next season. Last week: Seventh.

10. Christopher Bell (6 points): Missed his chance to add an Xfinity title to his prior Truck championship. Still, with eight wins, had an outstanding season. Up next: a promotion to the Cup Series. Last week: 10th.

Others receiving votes: Kyle Larson (5 points), Clint Bowyer (5 points), Cole Custer (4 points), Austin Hill (2 points), Brad Keselowski (1 point), Brett Moffitt (1 point).

Zane Smith joins GMS Racing for full-time Truck Series ride

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zane Smith will compete full-time for GMS Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next year, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, 20, joins the team after competing part-time with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this year, where his best result in 10 races was fifth twice.

He will be GMS Racing’s fourth full-time entry next year, joining Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum. Sam Mayer will compete part-time.

Smith will have veteran Kevin “Bono” Manion as his crew chief.

“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Smith said in a press release. “GMS is a championship-caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”

Manion, who has 24 wins across all three national NASCAR series since 2003, joins GMS Racing after serving as a crew chief for DGR-Crosley in 2019, including working with Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum. Manion was crew chief for Smith in 2018 when he made his Truck Series debut at Gateway and finished fifth.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” Manion said in a press release. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”

Sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.

Penalty report from Homestead-Miami Speedway

Leave a comment

NASCAR issued four fines and one suspension for lug nut violations during its championship weekend in Miami.

Cup Series

Mike Wheeler, crew crew chief on Matt DiBenedetto‘s No. 95 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

Xfinity Series

Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 00 Ford, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

Truck Series

Steve Lane, the owner of On Point Motorsports and crew chief on Danny Bohn‘s No. 30 Toyota, was fined $5,000 and suspended one points race for two unsecured lug nuts. The No. 30 truck competed part-time this season and made 16 starts. The team told NBC Sports it will not appeal the penalty.

Trip Bruce III, crew chief on Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, was fined $2,500 for one unsecured lug nut.

Other

NASCAR issued an indefinite suspension to Jeffrey Schmidt for violating its substance abuse policy.

Truck Series gets minor name change for 2020

Getty Images
1 Comment

Four days after the end of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series season, NASCAR announced the series will receive a minor name change for the 2020 season.

The series will be called the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series when the season starts in February at Daytona International Speedway.

This is the second name change for the series in two years.

This season saw the name change from the Camping World Truck Series, which had been the title from 2009-2018.

Gander Outdoors and Camping World are owned by the same company.

Next year will also see a different name for the Cup Series. With the series going to a new sponsorship model, it will simply be called the NASCAR Cup Series.