Erik Jones is in a contract year. He’d like to be back with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021. Both sides are trying to work something out. But, Jones was on the playoff bubble last year and it took his win in the Southern 500 to get a one-year contract extension.
When you drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, barely getting into the playoffs isn’t good enough. Then, factor in bowing out in the opening round of the playoffs in his first two seasons there, well that will get you even more scrutinized.
Throw in his teammates winning 18 of the 36 races run a year ago and taking three of the spots into the Championship 4 and you get a lot of pressure on the Michigan native in 2020.
With Christopher Bell needing to eventually work is way over to JGR in the future and the other three looking like they’ll be in place for 2021, is Jones on his way out?
Success on the track will make it hard to replace him.
Unfortunately, he’s not having much of it again. He’s winless to start the season. So is his teammate Kyle Busch, but Busch also won the championship last year and is +89 in the playoff standings.
Jones, remains on the outside looking in as we’re past the halfway mark of the regular season. With Cole Custer stealing a win on Sunday at the Kentucky Speedway, Jones is 19th in the standings, -42.
He said a few weeks ago that he’s not a 16th place car. Well, he’s not. He’s had a top five in two of his last five starts. But, he’s not finishing races off either up front on a regular basis either.
This was supposed to be the time Jones got onto the good side of the playoff standings. He was only a handful of points out coming into Sunday’s race. He leaves over 40 out. He had three straight top seven finishes here including a third place run last year.
He leaves with a 22nd place result and a potential of missing the playoffs all together if he doesn’t win over the next month.
Custer’s win stole a potential spot from Jones. He would be 18 points out right now.
Same for Austin Dillon. He should be in 16th +17 over the first spot out. Instead, he’s -24 to 16th. That’s a large swing.
Dillon hasn’t won a race since 2018. He needs stage points, top 10s and a little bit of luck if he wants to top one of the Hendrick cars and force his way in.
Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won since 2017 and holds the last spot. He missed the playoffs a year ago. His teammate William Byron is 15th, but has never won at all before. He’s only six points clear of Johnson.
This is going to be a wild ending to the regular season, especially since we race twice at Daytona, once of the ROVAL and the other on the high banked superspeedway.