Matt DiBenedetto’s announcement that he won’t be driving for Leavine Family Racing for the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season likely means one thing – Erik Jones is close to a contract extension to remain with Joe Gibbs Racing.
I mean, why announce this move now if Jones isn’t signing a new deal to come back to JGR for next year.
Jones, was on the hot seat for most of this season as he wasn’t competing for race wins while his other teammates were. I mean, he still is winless in 2019 and has just one career win to his credit in NASCAR’s premiere series. His teammates have won 11 times this season alone.
But, I can make a case to where Jones is one of the hottest drivers in the series right now as he went from 13 points below the cutoff line to make the playoffs to 70+ points up.
That’s why i’s not a secret that this move was made because Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota needs to do something with either Christopher Bell or Jones. JGR has Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. under contract for 2020 already. Bell, recently signed a new contract to remain with JGR/Toyota for 2020 and beyond. Jones, is showing that he deserves to remain as well and is close to an extension. That’s five drivers for four spots.
See the conundrum?
LFR is teamed with Toyota and isn’t getting much from JGR as an alliance. If they can take on Jones or Bell for 2020, they’d likely get more support – ie Furniture Row Racing. Jones, was housed there as a rookie and teamed with Truex Jr.. We all saw how well FRR’s alliance worked out. They were championship contenders each year.
By making this move, it’s a game changer in a good way for LFR in that they can receive more technical support and money from JGR/Toyota.
But, due to NASCAR rule, no organization can field more than four full time entries. That rule is somewhat new and I get why it’s in place. You don’t want JGR, Penske, Hendrick and the top teams of NASCAR showing up and taking over 80-percent of the fields. It also helps keep costs down as the teams know that they’re maxed out with four teams.
So, I applaud the rule but the rule also cost DiBenedetto a job too as it means that we should see an announcement soon that Jones is going to be retained.