Erik Jones kicked off NASCAR Sunday on Aug. 22 by making a major announcement. He revealed that he will return to Richard Petty Motorsports for the 2022 Cup Series season and will be back behind the wheel of the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro.
The Michigan native made the announcement at his home state track before climbing into the No. 43 for 200 laps around Michigan International Speedway. He revealed that the deal finally came together as he prepared to take on the two-mile oval in Michigan’s Irish Hills and that he can now focus on finishing out the 2021 season strong before climbing into the Next Gen car in 2022.
“Actually, yes. I can officially announce that we have put pen to paper and that I’ll be back in the No. 43 next year,” Jones said prior to the Aug. 22 race, per “Jayski.” “That was literally done yesterday while I was out doing some stuff. It’s cool to have it done. I’m just happy to have it done at this point in the season and to be able to focus not only on the rest of this year but work on getting next year settled in with a new car and everything going on there. So yeah, I’m happy we can finally say it and get it out there. We’ve been really close on everything the last couple of weeks and just finished everything up.”
Jones Joined RPM Ahead of the 2021 Season
The 25-year-old is currently in his first full-time season with the single-car team, his fifth overall in the NASCAR Cup Series. He spent the first season of his career (2017) with Furniture Row Racing before moving to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Jones lost his seat at the end of the 2020 season after compiling a total of two wins and 28 top-five finishes during his three years with the team. JGR announced that Christopher Bell would join the team and take over the No. 20 for 2021, making Jones a free agent.
However, Jones did not remain a free agent for very long. He landed with RPM after Bubba Wallace announced that he would join forces with Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan over at 23XI Racing.
Jones Posted His Best Finish of 2021 at Indianapolis
While he has yet to reach Victory Lane for RPM, Jones has turned in some strong performances during his first season with his team. He has posted three top-10 finishes in the No. 43, including a season-best seventh-place run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
Jones started the Cup Series race 28th overall, well behind the big names. He avoided several incidents that sent other drivers to the garage and brought out the caution flag, including a chain reaction caused by a piece of curb in Turns 5 and 6. William Byron, Joey Logano, James Davison, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece, Ross Chastain, Justin Haley, and Daniel Suarez all suffered damage, but Jones avoided any issues.
The driver of the No. 43 continued to make moves for the remainder of Stage 3. He fought his way through the pack, avoided another incident involving Chase Briscoe and Denny Hamlin, and crossed the finish line seventh overall. He added 37 points to his season total and built his confidence heading toward the remaining races on the schedule.