Furniture Row Racing wrapped up a significant weekend of news Sunday, announcing it will add a second Sprint Cup team for the 2017 season with Erik Jones driving.
Jones, 20, is considered one of NASCAR’s rising stars. He won the 2015 Truck Series championship and has three victories this season in the Xfinity Series. Jones, who drives in Xfinity for Joe Gibbs Racing, has a one-year contract with Furniture Row, according to team owner Barney Visser. Furniture Row has a technical alliance with JGR.
“It’s hard to say I’m not excited but anxious at the same time, anxious for this day, and excited to be here,” Jones said of driving the new No. 77 Toyota. “I’ve had the chance to kind of meet with everybody, get everything lined up; to see it all come together here over the past month or so has been a pretty cool experience for me. Got a lot to do this year yet, but definitely excited for next year.”
On Friday, Furniture Row announced that Martin Truex Jr. had signed a two-year extension with the Denver-based team, the only NASCAR Cup team located west of the Mississippi River.
Visser said the new team will obtain a charter for next season. Having a charter (a kind of franchise) guarantees a team a spot in each race and a certain amount of revenue each season from NASCAR. The team will have a 22-race primary sponsorship from 5-hour Energy.
Visser started Furniture Row in 2005. It had continued as a one-car operation with drivers such as Kenny Wallace, Joe Nemechek, Regan Smith, Kurt Busch and Truex. Furniture Row had its best season in 2015, when Truex finished fourth in the final Cup standings.
“It certainly increases the workload, that’s for sure,” Furniture Row general manager Joe Garone said of adding a second team. “We’ve already started modifying our shop to accommodate the extra cars and extra work, starting to talk to the workforce, looking at personnel, potential new hires.”
Although next season will be Jones’ rookie year, he has some Cup experience. He drove three races in 2015 for JGR, finishing 40th at Kansas, 12th at Texas and 19th at Phoenix.
“It was a big learning curve for me doing those few Cup races,” Jones said. “It’s a totally different aero package from then to what I’m going to be driving there next year. I always felt we had decent speed, but a lot of it was putting the whole race together and all the little things, what you would call special teams. Green flag stops, making sure you’re hitting all those things right was the hardest part for me.
“It’s going to be a lot to add, learning that, getting better at that stuff. That’s things I’ve been trying to work on to try to get better this year. But there’s a lot of things I can take from those few races that I’m going to be able to work on some more. It’s a big jump. You’re going from a field from where 10 to 12 cars can win to a field where 20 cars can win. All those guys are extremely talented. Definitely going to be tough. But I think I’m definitely in a good situation to succeed.