If Christopher Bell is moving up to the Cup Series in 2020, it sure doesn’t look like it’ll be at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Erik Jones said Friday that he’s working on a contract extension with JGR. Jones, 22, is in his second season with the four-car team and said he’s hopeful an agreement would be reached in the next couple months.
“Obviously both sides are fighting against each other with the extension, but I think there’s a middle ground,” Jones said. “We’re pretty close to where we both want to be. I want to be there for a long time and JGR [Joe Gibbs Racing] I think wants to continue our relationship for a long time, so I feel like it’s pretty close.”
Bell won the 2017 Truck Series title with Kyle Busch Motorsports and seven races in his first full season of Xfinity competition with JGR in 2018. He’s on a quick path toward the Cup Series.
But there’s no space at JGR. Kyle Busch recently signed a contract extension with the team. Martin Truex Jr. is 18 months removed from a Cup title and joined after Furniture Row Racing shut down following the 2018 season. Denny Hamlin signed a contract extension before the 2017 season and, like Busch, has won two races in 2019.
So for some, Jones looked to be the odd man out at JGR if the team wanted to promote Bell to the Cup Series in 2020. But that idea doesn’t make much sense even removing Jones’ potential contract extension from the equation. Jones is two years younger than Bell and won a Truck Series title in 2015 before moving to the Xfinity Series full-time in 2016.
Bell is on the path Jones was on. It’d be quite hasty if JGR moved Jones out of the way for Bell so soon. At the moment, an arrangement similar to the one JGR had for Jones’ rookie season looks the likeliest for Bell. Furniture Row expanded to two teams in 2017, as Jones drove the No. 77 car for a season before moving over to JGR to take Matt Kenseth’s spot.
“I never really pictured Erik being my hole,” Bell said when he was asked about Cup opportunities at JGR. “If you look at the Gibbs camp right now, I can’t really picture anyone being my hole because all four of their Camrys are running exceptional right now. If you watch any of the races, all four of them are right in the top five. I don’t know. I don’t know where I’m going to land. I’m just enjoying the ride right now.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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