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MENCS: Erik Jones To Replace Matt Kenseth in JGR No. 20 in 2018

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Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday that Erik Jones, driver of the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing entry, will replace Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 in 2018.

The announcement comes days after Kenseth announced at Kentucky that he “didn’t have a ride at this moment for next year [2018].” He added “I do not think I will have an option to race at JGR next year, unfortunately.”

Jones, 21, inherits the entry that Kenseth have driven for since he joined the organization in  2013.

In addition, according to a Joe Gibbs Racing statement, Kenseth will not be back with the organization following the 2017 season.

“Matt has been a tremendous asset to our organization over the past five seasons both on and off the track,” Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, said in a team release. “He’s been a great teammate and a great ambassador for our sponsors. We have a great deal of respect for him and we are working hard to get the 20 team into the playoffs to make a run for the championship. We have a great deal of confidence in his abilities to do just that.

“At the same time it’s exciting to have Erik back to run full time with us starting next season. When a number of circumstances made it clear over the past few weeks that a second year for the 77 car was probably not viable at this time for Erik, we all agreed that we wanted to keep him in the Toyota racing family and felt it was the right time to make this transition. He is an exciting driver that has already proven to have the ability to compete at the highest level of our sport. He is also shown to be a great representative to our partners and we believe he is at the beginning of a long and successful career.”

In 2017, Jones has five top-10 finishes in the first 18 races, including a season-best third-place showing at Pocono.

Jones, the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion, has eight career victories in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and seven wins in the NCWTS

“This is a really exciting time in my career for me to make the move back to Joe Gibbs Racing full time in the Cup Series and continue to have the success I’ve had with them over the last few years,” Jones said. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity given to me by Barney Visser and everyone at Furniture Row Racing this year for my first full year in the Cup Series. I’ve learned a lot this year and I’ve had a great group of guys around me each week to lean on as I figured out my rookie season and how to make my way in the Cup Series.”

In a statement released to the media by Furniture Row Racing, the organization pledged its support for Jones, as well as for Jones’ teammate Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78.

“Regarding today’s announcement that Erik Jones will drive in the NASCAR Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2018, Furniture Row Racing’s commitment to Jones and the No. 77 team remains the same for the remainder of the season,” Barney Visser, owner of Furniture Row Racing, said. “Our goal is for Jones to qualify for the playoffs, make a run for the championship and capture Rookie of the Year honors.

“We are working on our team plans for 2018 but don’t have anything concrete to report at this time except that Martin Truex Jr. will continue to drive the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota.”

Where, if anywhere, will Kenseth land in 2018? Only time will tell.

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About Jacob Mullins

Jacob Mullins serves as the managing editor and senior NASCAR writer covering all three national touring series's. You can find him on on Twitter at @JMulls15. An intercollegiate athletic administrator by trade, Mullins can be found at the big tracks as well as the local short tracks in the Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Mullins enjoys social media, photography and graphic design. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Mullins follows all forms of racing, Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles) and college football (Virginia Tech Hokies).

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