2020 plans coming into focus for Erik Jones, Christopher Bell

Dustin Long
NBC Sports

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Erik Jones laughed, but then stated that if any of his fans has a No. 20 tattoo, “I wouldn’t be worried about having to cover it up.”

Although Jones said he has not signed a contraction extension to remain at Joe Gibbs Racing, he stated Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway that “we’re close. I hope we can announce something soon … we’re all really close.”

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With Jones set to remain at JGR in the No. 20 car, a report by The Athletic states that Christopher Bell is expected to move to the No. 95 Toyota at Leavine Family Racing, taking the ride from Matt DiBenedetto, who announced Thursday he would not be back with the team after this season.

Leavine Family Racing issued a statement Thursday on DiBenedetto’s departure after this season and added that “we have no further announcements at this time.”

Bell said Thursday that “nothing is official until it comes from me or whatever team or whatever happens. I have no news to tell you guys right now. We’ll just have to wait for another day.

“Like I’ve said time and time again, my future is not in my hands, so the only thing I can control is if I can go out there and try and win races and do as good as I can and just have to play the cards how they fall.”

Asked if he knew what he was doing for 2020, Bell said: “Not yet. Not at this moment. It’s still all the way up in the air. There’s a number of different cars I could drive next year. I still could run the Xfinity Series. I could go to the Cup Series. It’s not in my hands right now. Just have to go out there and try to continue to win races.”

Where Jones and Bell would race next season was speculated on this summer with the two young drivers key cornerstones in Toyota’s program.

“I was never worried,” Jones said Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I was really comfortable and knew the situation and knew where things were kind of headed and knew that we all had a good plan and I was going to continue to work toward being in the 20 car.”

Jones in his second season at Joe Gibbs Racing. He ran his rookie season in Cup at Furniture Row Racing and replaced Matt Kenseth at JGR in 2018. Jones won the July Daytona race last year.

He enters Saturday night’s Cup race at Bristol (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) 14th in the points. He’s 70 points — more than a full race — ahead of Daniel Suarez, who is the first driver outside a playoff spot.

Bell, who is in his second Xfinity season for Joe Gibbs Racing, has shown he’s ready to move to Cup. Bell has won 13 of his 62 career Xfinity starts (21% winning percentage). This season, Bell has five wins in 21 starts (23.8% winning percentage) heading into Friday night’s Xfinity race at Bristol (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

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