The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs began at Darlington Raceway with an event featuring mechanical issues, a fire, and an upset winner. Erik Jones held off Denny Hamlin on the final run to the checkered flag and broke a historic winless streak.
Jones, who drives the No. 43 for Petty GMS Motorsports, won his third career race on September 4, 2022. This victory was 55 years to the day from the last time that the No. 43 was in Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway. Richard Petty was the last driver to achieve this feat. The King won the 1967 Southern 500 on September 4, which was his fourth of 10 consecutive wins that season.
Winning this race was not a simple feat. Jones first had to get one of the top two spots after heading to pit road for the final stop of the night. He then took over as the control car while Kyle Busch dealt with a mechanical issue that sent him to the garage.
Once the race went green, Jones had to hold off Denny Hamlin, the defending winner of the Southern 500, for the final 20 laps. The driver of the No. 11 was within reach of the No. 43, and he had an opportunity to use an aggressive move to take the lead. However, Hamlin raced his former teammate clean and ultimately finished second while Jones celebrated a major moment in his career.
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This Win Was Historic for Another Reason
Jones taking the No. 43 back to Victory Lane at Darlington 55 years after its last visit is a wild statistic. Though it is not the only reason why this win was historic for Petty GMS Motorsports and The King.
This win, which was the first for the 43 since Aric Almirola captured the 2014 Coke Zero 400, was actually a milestone victory for the number. The Southern 500 marked the 200th time that the No. 43 visited Victory Lane in the Cup Series.
“Yeah, it’s cool for multiple reasons for me. Obviously getting No. 200 for the 43 is pretty cool, but just getting a win for the 43, in general, is pretty special,” Jones said during his post-race press conference. “It’s been, I think, seven years, eight years since they last won a race, and before that a multitude of years and especially at a non-plate track, it’s been 20, 30 years.
“Really special. As soon as I came to the 43 team, I got so many racing fans in my family. My grandma specifically was so pumped I was coming to drive the 43 car. I just could not wait to try to get a win for that group, and just wanted it, man. I wanted it more than ever. Getting them back to Victory Lane for the first time in a while has been really a dream come true today.”
Petty posted 200 wins during his Hall of Fame career, but not all of them were in the No. 43. He won two races in the No. 42 — one in 1962 and one in 1966. Petty also won six times in the No. 41 during the 1963 and 1964 seasons.
Petty’s father, Lee, also celebrated a win after driving the No. 43. He controlled the entry at North Wilkesboro Speedway during the 1959 season, and he won after leading 53 of the 160 laps at the short track.
There are seven total drivers that have won a Cup Series race while driving the No. 43. Petty leads the way with 192 wins while Bobby Hamilton and Jim Paschal each had two. John Andretti, Almirola, Lee Petty, and Jones all won once in the iconic number.
Jones Has Multiple Crown Jewels
Jones is not in the playoffs, so this win did not impact the standings or determine which drivers will move on to the Round of 12 after Bristol Motor Speedway. What it did do, however, was add another Crown Jewel to his collection.
Jones only has three career wins, but two of them are among the most important in the sport. He has two Southern 500 victories — one with Petty GMS Motorsports (2022) and one with Joe Gibbs Racing (2019). His other win, which was his career-first, was the 2018 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
With this Crown Jewel win, Jones moves up the all-time leaderboard. He breaks a tie with Michael McDowell (Daytona 500), Austin Cindric (Daytona 500), and Joey Logano (Daytona 500). Jones now joins Austin Dillon (Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600) and Kurt Busch (Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600) as the active drivers with two Crown Jewel wins.