Furniture Row adds second car to stable; Erik Jones to drive
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) Three days after signing Martin Truex Jr. to a contract extension, Furniture Row Racing announced Sunday that it was adding a second car to its NASCAR Cup lineup to be driven next season by Xfinity rookie Erik Jones.
''We're excited to have all the components of a second race team,'' team owner Barney Visser said. ''Today has been a long time coming.''
Visser said the contract with the 20-year-old Jones is for one year, with the hope of extending it. 5-hour Energy will be the primary sponsor for Furniture Row's No. 77 Toyota for 22 races. Visser said the team would secure a charter for next year's Cup season.
''I'm excited, but anxious at the same time,'' said Jones, who had three Cup starts last year for Joe Gibbs Racing. ''It's a big learning curve, it's a big jump. You're going from a field where 10 or 12 cars can win to a field where 20 cars can.
''It's definitely going to be tough, but I think I'm in the best situation to succeed,'' Jones said. ''I'm as ready as I can be. At some point, you've got to make that jump. You've got to sink or swim.''
Furniture Row president Joe Garone said the team had not yet signed a crew chief for the second Toyota.
Jones, a native of Byron, Michigan, won the Truck Series title last year and has three Xfinity wins this year for Joe Gibbs Racing. His move to the Cup series will mark the first time a Toyota development driver has gone from local racing up through the NASCAR national ranks.
''To find a driver like Erik and a sponsor like 5-hour Energy along with our technical agreement with Gibbs, we think we're going to be able to run right up where we need to run,'' Visser said.
Denver-based Furniture Row Racing has emerged as a contender for the Cup title with Truex. He finished fourth last year after making it to the final round of the Chase. This season he has one victory, leads the series in laps led by a wide margin and has clinched another berth in NASCAR's playoffs.
''I'm really excited. I know a lot of things had to come together,'' said 36-year-old Truex, who will have 5-hour Energy on his car for two races in 2017. ''Allowing us to do a second car kind of helps keep those (sponsor) relationships strong, helps us build for the future. I think it bodes well for the future of Furniture Row Racing. I'm excited to work with Erik.''
Truex's No. 78 also has received a boost in sponsorship. Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Boats will increase its primary sponsorship from 12 to 16 races in 2017.