NASCAR: Erik Jones ‘pretty close’ to 2021 Cup deal

Erik Jones believes that he is “pretty close” to securing a deal for the 2021 NASCAR season and that he will be back in the Cup Series.

It has been two months since Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed that Erik Jones will not be back behind the wheel of the #20 Toyota for what would have been a fourth year in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Christopher Bell, who won a series-high 15 races for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity Series team in 2018 and 2019, was promoted to the Cup Series with the Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated Leavine Family Racing ahead of the 2020 season.

With Leavine Family Racing having been sold for next year and the #95 Toyota no longer going to be in operation, Joe Gibbs Racing were forced to pick between Jones and Bell, and they went with the latter.

Jones, meanwhile, still doesn’t have anything solidified for next year, and it appears as though a number of options which once existed are no longer on the table.

However, the 24-year-old Byron, Michigan native, who has admitted before that not having a job lined up for next year worries him, is feeling confident that he will have something to announce in the near future. In fact, he feels that an announcement could be made within the next week or two, and that this announcement will be for a Cup Series ride.

“I feel like we’re getting pretty close,” the two-time Cup Series race winner said when asked about his progress in terms of being back in the sport next year following his Joe Gibbs Racing departure. “It’s been a long couple of months just working with different opportunities and teams and trying to find what’s out there.

“The ball was already in motion for a lot of guys and what they were already doing for 2021, so we had to kind of really burn the phone up and knock on some doors and see what opportunities were out there. But at the end of it now, I think we’re getting really close to something for next year and kind of where we’re going to be and what we’re going to be doing.

“Definitely feel like it’s going to be in the Cup Series. Hopefully over the next week or two we can get something locked down and finish it up.”

Among the notable rides without confirmed full-time drivers for next year are the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, which is currently driven by Alex Bowman. Bowman is set to move to the #48 Chevrolet as the replacement for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson after he retires. The #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, which is currently driven by Clint Bowyer, is also without a confirmed driver.

There are a number of other seats available for next year as well, but the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet and the #32 Go Fas Racing Ford stand out, given the fact that Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie both opted to leave their respective teams for new opportunities.

Wallace has already locked in a deal with the new team started by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin.

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Gaunt Brothers Racing have also confirmed that Daniel Suarez won’t be back behind the wheel of the #96 Toyota next year, while JTG Daugherty Racing have not confirmed the driver of the #37 Chevrolet, which is currently driven by Ryan Preece, and Wood Brothers Racing have not confirmed the driver of the #21 Ford, which is currently driven by Matt DiBenedetto.