By Jared Turner
Before and since July’s announcement that Erik Jones will join Joe Gibbs Racing’s four-car Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series fleet in 2017, the 21-year-old youngster from Byron, Michigan has impressed his future boss — three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs. Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway was undoubtedly not one of Jones’ more impressive outings, however. Running in the middle of a big pack of cars, Jones triggered a massive wreck on Lap 198 when he lost control of his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Collected in the melee were none other than two Joe Gibbs Racing cars, including that of championship contender Matt Kenseth — the driver whom Jones will replace next season in JGR’s No. 20 Toyota. As a result, Kenseth ultimately failed to advance to the Round of 8. To his credit, Jones took responsibility for the incident. “I just lost it,” the rookie driver said. “It’s unfortunate, and I feel bad for my guys and my team, and I also feel bad for the cars that we took out of the race. It’s just a shame.”
The No. 78 Bunch Is A Paragon Of Resilience
No team has experienced more adversity off the track this season than Furniture Row Racing. And, likewise, no team has risen to the occasion more often. The Denver, Colorado-based organization’s resilience was on full display once again with Sunday’s victory at Kansas, where on Saturday night the team lost road-crew fabricator Jim Watson after Watson suffered a fatal heart attack during a recreational outing. Racing with a heavy heart, driver Martin Truex Jr. dedicated his latest win to Watson, who no doubt would have wanted the show to go on in his absence. Kudos to Truex, crew chief Cole Pearn and the entire No. 78 bunch for time and time again showing tremendous heart in the face of difficult and even painful situations this season.