Image Reference: Wikipedia
Despite some good top-half runs this season, Joe Gibbs Racing felt its best to give someone like Christopher Bell a go in the No.20 Toyota Cup car from 2021.
That means Erik Jones is out of a ride and will be a free agent at the end of this season.
It’s a difficult decision to see that happen, having won 2-3 Cup races for them.
And he wasn’t able to get past at least the first Playoffs round unluckily, not his fault in 2018-2019 and none at all in 2020.
But when it comes to competition with the other three JGR cars, Erik Jones hasn’t been consistently consistent over the past three years there in a Cup car.
Now let’s explore a few options on where Erik Jones will end up next year.
Gaunt Brothers Racing
It can’t be Hamlin-Jordan Racing, where they will have Bubba Wallace as their only driver, and MBM Motorsports, who doesn’t have a charter.
If Toyota wants to keep Erik Jones around, then it will only be at Gaunt Brothers Racing.
The existing sponsors are there, thanks to Toyota USA.
Gaunt Bros. should seek extra funding to move to the next level.
Finding a charter would help cover the whole season & get the best of the No.96 Toyota Camry.
Should this happen, then slotting Jones it is doable.
He can still be part of Joe Gibbs Racing’s 6th satellite team & achieve the results his way.
If he goes in the No.48, Hendrick has great revenge out there stealing another Toyota/Kyle Busch Motorsports talent.
Look at Noah Gragson in the JR Motorsports Xfinity team and William Byron in the No.24 Hendrick Chevy, both past Toyota/KBM alumni.
Don’t forget Alex Bowman drove a Toyota in the past for the former BK Racing as a Cup Rookie back in 2014.
Enter Erik Jones when he joins Byron, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman in an all youthful-look Hendrick Team.
He won’t need any $$$ backing himself as Ally Financial will cover the whole season for this No.48 team.
All it matters is for Erik Jones to put the No.48 on par like the rest of the other three cars & compete in the top half.
That kind of near completion would help Jones guide this number plate back to both victory lane and possibly the championship that Jimmie Johnson last succeeded 3-4 years ago.
JTG Daugherty Racing
Should the new Toyota B team only run with Bubba as the only driver & someone took over the No.48 seat, then going to the No.37 squad is a good option?
If so, he will replace Ryan Preece, whose performances so far this season are way off than Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is producing in the sister No.47 team.
He will have no problem getting the best out of this race car with occasional top-half battles & regular Top 15-20 finishes.
That way, Jones and Stenhouse are closely competing against one another in a decent Chevy race car as Hendrick’s satellite team.
Plus, there are some decent sponsors that JTG covers with them alone as all he has to break past the limited-budget category and battle regularly in the midfield.
There’s a chance that Jones will hopefully return the No.37 to its expected standard, where Chris Buescher made a decent impact from 2017-2019 before returning to Roush Fenway Racing this year in the No.17 Ford Mustang.
Right now, Spire may be battling towards the back end of the field.
But at the same time, they’re also a start-up Cup operation having started last year with one shock win to their name from Justin Haley during the 2019 Coke Zero 400.
One man who still works at Spire under their well-known sports business/marketing arm & also the one who used to work at Furniture Row Racing in the past is Joe Garone.
Garone can be a great reference to keep Erik Jones’s career alive at the top level by joining this team as one of their full-time drivers alongside Justin Haley.
Since Spire is expanding to two cars next year, they can battle in the midfield group as long as they have decent sponsors & an upgraded alliance with Chip Ganassi Racing/Chevy engines.
And coincidentally, both of the Spire’s charters inherit from the former Toyota affiliate ashes of Furniture Row and Leavine.
Richard Petty Motorsports
Now since the planned departure of Bubba Wallace, pretty much most of the rumors died down.
That means no Toyota engine switch and maybe no new investor providing extra funding to the organization.
So nothing much changed with RPM continues to race under Chevy power as Richard Childress Racing’s 3rd satellite team alongside Victory Junction, US Air Force, World Wide Technology & STP as their only sponsors without Bubba.
Erik Jones can only replace Bubba if RPM can get the extra investors to inject more money or get some sponsorship himself.
With the extra financial muscle to invest in better equipment, it would get the best out of Er. Jones and be on Austin Dillon & Tyler Reddick’s standard.
It’s something RPM wants to do & hire someone who can respectfully inherit the foundations that Bubba built over the last three years & take to the next level.
It’s hard to say right now which next ride suits Erik Jones better.
He’s a race winner at the top level before and deserves another chance elsewhere.
If I had a chance to be Erik Jones’s agent, advising him to replace Jimmie Johnson in the No.48 car would keep his ambitions alive.
From there, Erik Jones can learn how to improve his consistency in the hope of winning the championship.
Should the Hendrick call-up not happen, then there’s always another ride Erik Jones can take, such as JTG Daugherty Racing, who needs close competition to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Otherwise, he can take over the foundations that Daniel Suarez built at Gaunt Bros. as their potential full-time driver.
But it will depend if Gaunt can get the charter plus upgraded technical support, so they aim for better targets.
Apart from that, RPM would most likely hire a diverse driver that follows the pattern back in 2014 with Aric Almirola and then Bubba Wallace, with Suarez as Bubba’s replacement.
And I think a move Spire would be a backward step at this stage as they’re a limited-budget team right now and planning to do it seriously when the Next Gen chassis arrives in 2022.