• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Countdown to the Clash: Erik Jones looks to keep upward trajectory in 2023

ByBrenden Martin

Dec 24, 2022
Erik Jones Charlotte Motor Speedway

Petty GMS Motorsports is putting all the pieces together to rise up the ranks in the NASCAR Cup Series. The iconic Petty name has been a staple in the Cup Series for decades. However, the success of the Pettys behind the wheel has not been met at the ownership level.

2022 saw some life injected into Richard Petty Motorsports when it started its first season in partnership with GMS Racing, a team known for its Truck Series strength. A large part of that life was thanks to the driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro, Erik Jones.

Jones saw massive improvement from his first season with the team in 2021 to his second season in 2022. His average finish jumped from 19.67 to 16.25, tying his second-best season average from 2019 and just shy of a 14th-place average in 2018.

The No. 43 car also finally put Richard Petty back in Victory Lane. Jones won his third career Cup Series race after going winless in 2020 and 2021, taking his second career Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in a wild playoff opener.

The win was the first for the No. 43 car at Darlington since Sept. 4, 1967, exactly 55 years ago to the day. It was also the 200th win for the No. 43, matching Petty’s total career victories as a racer.

The win aside, Jones was a consistent contender near the front of the pack for much of the season, punching in three top-five and 13 top-10 finishes after having zero top fives and six top 10s the year before. He also led 147 laps in 2022, the most for him since leading 172 in 2019.

The Petty GMS partnership will grow even more in 2023, as the team announced during Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway last month that seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson would become a partial owner of the team and will run a few races, with the first being the Daytona 500 in February.

Jones talked about how adding Johnson to the fold will help the team across the board.

Jones is the most experienced driver in the Next-Gen car, having run the 2022 season in it. He will be instrumental in helping Johnson — who retired from full-time racing after the 2020 season to pursue IndyCar — get a hang of the new car and mentor rookie driver Noah Gragson.

Gragson will drive the No. 42 car for PettyGMS full-time in 2023. He replaces Ty Dillion, who is moving to the No. 77 car with Spire Motorsports.

Jones will enter his seventh full-time season in the Cup Series in a year where he will only just be turning 27, putting in at a point where he can hit his prime after getting so much experience in his youth.