Erik Jones certain, Chris Buescher unsure about prospects in 2017
DALLAS -- Rookie Xfinity Series driver Erik Jones said Joe Gibbs Racing knows what it plans to do with him in 2017.
“There’s a plan in place that will be in motion here later in the year,” Jones said Wednesday at Texas Motor Speedway’s Media Day at Gilley’s. “There’s a plan in place and really, my performance this year isn’t going to be indicative of where that’s going to end up.”
Jones didn’t give specifics on the team’s plan. The 20-year old driver is five races into the Xfinity season with the No. 20 team for JGR after winning last year’s Camping World Truck Series title for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
All four Sprint Cup rides at JGR are filled, but the team formed a technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing before this season. Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser has expressed interest in fielding a second car.
Jones, who won twice in the Xfinity Series in 2015 in a part-time capacity, is seventh in the points standings. The Michigan native has three top-five finishes and won the pole at Phoenix.
“I’m pretty focused this year on hopefully getting this Xfinity championship, that would be pretty great momentum for me,” Jones said. “Just excited to see what the next few years are going to bring.”
Knowing where he’ll be a year from now has eased a week-to-week burden that had been on Jones his entire career.
“It’s the first time in my career where I’ve been in a position like this, where I am set in my future at this point at least, and that’s a great feeling as a young driver, not to really have to really fight every week,” Jones said. “I still fight every week, like I have always, but it’s nice not to have that added pressure of not knowing what the future holds or what’s going to happen. It’s definitely a little bit more relaxed knowing that I can just go out and do my best and hey, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”
It’s a slightly different story for defending Xfinity Series champion Chris Buescher.
The Texas native is in his first full-time Sprint Cup season, driving the No. 34 Ford in a partnership between Roush Fenway Racing and Front Row Motorsports. The 23-year-old driver doesn’t know yet where he’ll be competing in 2017 but said the possibility remains that he could be right where he is a year from now.
“We don’t have anything figured out yet beyond this year,” Buescher said. “I’m still under contract with Roush as a development driver. I do not know what next year holds. It could be the same, could be different. We haven’t gotten that far, we’ve barely gotten far enough as to discuss how this year is all going to work out.”
Buescher would be surprised if he learned his fate any time soon.
“It’s usually January of next year before I hear anything,” Buescher said. “That would be pretty typical for me not to hear anything through this calendar year.”
Through five races, which included the first anniversary of his Sprint Cup debut at Auto Club Speedway, Buescher is 35th in the point standings. His best finish is 26th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
These results come with Roush sharing an open book of engineering data with Front Row Motorsports.
“Just a matter of trying to get this year flowing nice and smooth and get the results better,” Buescher said. “We’ve haven’t gotten the finishes we need to get, but we have had some speed at a couple of the races so far and a couple we need a lot of improvement.”