July 19, 2024

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Erik Jones said Thursday that he’s inching toward a contract extension that will keep him in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota for another season.

Jones, 23, is in his third year in the Monster Energy Series, his second season driving for team owner Joe Gibbs. Media reports swirled Thursday around the driver roster for JGR and its affiliate teams, indicating that Jones had reached an agreement in principle to stay put.

RELATED: DiBenedetto out at LFR

“We’re really close. I’ve gotten it and seen it. Nothing’s been signed yet, but we’re definitely really close on getting a deal done,” Jones said about a proposed contract extension. “I hope in the next couple of weeks, I don’t have any plans of going anywhere else, so I see myself hopefully announcing something here pretty soon. But not signed yet, nothing’s done, but definitely going in the right direction.”

🤔 @erik_jones on whether people should rethink No. 20 tattoos & his 2020 @JoeGibbsRacing status: “I wouldn’t be worried about having to cover it up … I’m hoping we can announce something soon. I don’t want to put the cart ahead of the horse at all, but we are really close.” pic.twitter.com/NxHsouYYz8

— Terrin Waack (@TerrinWaack) August 15, 2019

Jones currently ranks 14th in Monster Energy Series standings, and his recent performance has helped to fortify his positioning for the 16-driver playoff grid. He finished 18th last weekend at Michigan, but he had strung together four consecutive top-five efforts before that.

“I think that definitely helped out. It doesn’t hurt,” Jones said. “You want to run well, and you want to run up front, and I felt like over the last two months, we’ve shown we belong there. (Crew chief) Chris (Gayle) and I both have done our jobs well and done everything but win a race, so we’ve got to keep doing it. There’s no reason to let up, but I think that’s definitely helped out.”

Jones’ status update was the latest in a flurry of reports arounds drivers for Joe Gibbs Racing and its affiliate team, Leavine Family Racing. Matt DiBenedetto announced Thursday morning that he wouldn’t return to the LFR No. 95 operation.

That proclamation fueled reports that earmarked Christopher Bell for a jump to the Monster Energy Series in the No. 95 ride, with Jones returning to the No. 20. Though those pieces have yet to officially fall into place, Jones said he wished DiBenedetto well in the next phase of his career.

“I’m sad to see Matt go. He’s done a great job in that car,” Jones said. “I haven’t heard exactly what they’re doing over there. I think most can assume. Matt’s done a good job and I’m sure he’s going to land on his feet. I don’t doubt that. He took a big risk getting in that car this year and made the most of it, so it’s a tough situation for him, but I think he’ll end up being just fine.”

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