Bell has continued to be one of, if not, the most dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and is expected to move up to one of Toyota’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ rides. However, the question is which one, which is where Jones comes into play. The 23-year-old does not have anything secure for the 2020 season, and his lack of wins compared to his JGR teammates has many speculating that he could be replaced by Bell.
Jones’ future is so murky at the moment, that following a second-place finish Sunday at Pocono Raceway, team owner, Joe Gibbs, was still unable to provide any clarity.
“I know people get frustrated because you haven’t made a decision yet on some things. But I just say this: there’s sponsors involved, so many relationships involved, you’re trying to get through all that and work it all out,” Gibbs said. “Yeah, I think honestly that’s part of Erik’s world. It doesn’t go easy sometimes. He knows. I keep him updated; we do. He knows we’re working as hard as we can. Hopefully, it will be one of those things will get put in place here pretty quick.”
The statement continued the on-going trend of leaving the current driver of the No. 20 without a solid plan for the future.
Now, it is very possible Jones, regardless of what happens with the Bell situation, stays inside the Gibbs/Toyota family, with some suggesting that an opening at Leavine Family Racing could be where one of the two drivers ends up.
However, does Jones even deserved to be bumped from his ride? No, he does not, and his numbers prove that.
Now, it’s easy to point to Jones’ win column and say his only win has come at a superspeedway; but, that’s not exactly fair to Jones, especially when you compare him to other drivers that have recently come into the sport.
William Byron, who was dominant in Xfinity, still has not won a race at NASCAR’s highest level.
Ryan Blaney has only won twice, and one of those wins was essentially handed to him thanks to the last-lap chaos at the ROVAL.
Chase Elliott, only started to find his winning ways in his third full-time season, and still has not become a regular fixture upfront yet.
All of these drivers are considered the next big things of the sport, and they all have shown that they need time to develop like Jones, but it’s not just that. Jones has statistically been better than of all of them this season, with more top-five’s and more top-10’s, with only Elliott ahead of him in points.
Yet, for some reason, Jones is being considered a bust by some and has a significant chance of being replaced at season’s end by a driver that would also likely need time to develop before being able to win races on a regular occurrence.
This should not be the case, and it could be argued that if he was able to enter the market, he would be in high demand. Jones is a young driver, that has proven that he can run up front on a weekly basis. What kind of team would not want that?
In fact, if a move to LFR is his only option with the Toyota camp, it could very easily be argued that Jones should weigh his options and maybe see if other teams, like a Stewart-Haas Racing that has aging drivers or a Team Penske who could field a fourth car, would be interested in his services.
This is not to say Bell does not belong in Cup, because he does, but Jones should not be shoved aside so quickly with the potential and promise that he has proven to hold.
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