Erik Jones may be left with no other option. With the rumors of Kyle Larson going to Hendrick Motorsports, it leaves Jones with one realistic ride available: JTG Daugherty Racing.
The news of Bubba Wallace moving to a new team started by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin is good news for current free agents, specifically Jones. It allows an extra seat to be open that would’ve possibly been filled by Wallace. With an excess of drivers and limited seats, this is a good scenario.
Here is why Jones and JTG Daugherty Racing need to complete a deal for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Erik Jones’ sponsorship concerns make this his best fit
It was announced in early August that Christopher Bell would replace Jones in the No. 20 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021. Jones’ current sponsors consist of DeWalt, Craftsman, Sports Clips and Reser’s. None of them with the exception of Reser’s will realistically follow the 24-year-old Michigan native to his next team.
In this climate, it is very difficult for a driver to find a good ride without bringing any sponsorship with them. Hendrick Motorsports already has concerns with Alex Bowman’s sponsorship. While Larson likely wouldn’t bring sponsorship, he is viewed as the top free agent of the whole offseason. Chip Ganassi Racing also made its decision with Ross Chastain in the No. 42.
Outside of those two rides, there aren’t any top-tier rides for Jones that are in reach. JTG Daugherty Racing represents a different scenario. Currently, they have Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Preece as their drivers. Preece has really struggled this year and JTG Daugherty Racing as a whole has a huge sponsorship commitment from Kroger. All this sets up for the perfect fit for Jones.
JTG Daugherty Racing can’t land a better driver than Jones
If you would’ve told Brad Daugherty, owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, that he would have a shot at Jones this offseason, he would’ve called you crazy. It was said by Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson that Joe Gibbs Racing and Jones were going in the direction of an extension if Leavine Family Racing wouldn’t have sold their team.
Many candidates have been floated around such as Corey LaJoie, Daniel Hemric and Daniel Suarez. Although, none of those drivers has won a race in the Cup Series or boasts the resume of Jones. The current No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has two wins in three years with the team.
Jones also won the NASCAR Truck Series championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2015. His only season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series resulted in him making the Championship 4, only to finish lower than the other three drivers.
He has been titled the next Joey Logano based on Logano’s situation with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012. If Jones can duplicate that, JTG Daugherty Racing would be signing a great driver for the short-term future.
Other silly season rumors impact Erik Jones and his options
When you look at the landscape of open rides for the 2021 NASCAR season, it shows how Jones is in serious trouble when it comes to landing a ride. It looks as if Stewart-Haas Racing is down to Clint Bowyer and Chase Briscoe, while Hendrick Motorsports is leaning towards Kyle Larson.
Go Fas Racing has been rumored to sign Kaz Grala to the No. 32 car full-time in 2021, while Justin Haley and Corey LaJoie are being eyed by Spire Motorsports. What about Daniel Suarez? The majority of chatter has him pegged at Richard Petty Motorsports.
Matt DiBenedetto has an option that Team Penske can accept or decline by the end of September. If it is declined, Austin Cindric is the driver rumored to take the No. 21 Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing. With Jones struggling to find an opportunity, it will be important for Jones to land this ride with JTG Daugherty Racing if they decide to move on from Preece.
The bottom line
The current landscape of NASCAR has significantly changed this year and beyond. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected sponsorships and forced teams to close shop after the season.
Due to this, many contracts during this year’s silly season have been one-year deals. It looks like they will be normal now and the way teams manage their drivers. For Jones, it could give him an opportunity to find a better fit next season.
This would be the perfect storm for JTG Daugherty Racing. Landing a driver of Jones’ status would be a tremendous opportunity. They are a building organization in need of a driver that can bring them to victory lane. While it might not be an ideal situation for Jones, it is important that Daugherty doesn’t let him slip through his fingers.