Darlington win had no effect on new deal for Erik Jones

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - SEPTEMBER 07: Erik Jones, driver of the #20 STANLEY Wish For Our Heros Toyota, drives during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Vodka 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on September 07, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

It was coincidence rather than cause-and-effect that Erik Jones’ contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing was announced during the week after the most important victory of his career.

In the wee hours if Monday morning, Jones took the checkered flag in the rain-delayed Bojangles’ Southern 500 to lock up a spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. On Thursday, JGR announced that Jones would return to the No. 20 Toyota for the 2020 season.

But it wasn’t the win the made the difference, as Jones told reporters during a question-and-answer session on Saturday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In fact, the extension had been agreed upon roughly 10 days before Jones took the checkered flag at Darlington.

“I knew we had it done,” Jones said. “It had been maybe a week-and-a-half that we had finally gotten it done. I felt good about it. I had a good idea the last few months that we would get it done, but it was about a week-and-a-half ago that we got it done.

“(The victory) didn’t make a difference, but it definitely made us all a little more excited.”

Nevertheless, the official announcement brought a sense of relief.

“Number one, I am just happy to get the release out and get it set in stone that we are going to be back in the same spot,” Jones said. “It feels good. I’ve had a good relationship with JGR since 2015. I’ve enjoyed racing for them, and I hope I’m there for a long time.

“I hope we can continue to prove that we deserve this ride. I think (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) and I having been doing our job here lately in trying to execute. We have good momentum going now, just need to keep that rolling.”

Greg Engle