Erik Jones will be the heir apparent to the King’s #43. On Wednesday, Richard Petty Motorsports announced the two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner will take over the #43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for the 2021 season and beyond.
“Erik is an exceptionally talented driver, and we are excited to have him join our team,” stated team CEO Brian Moffitt. “At only 24 years old, Erik is part of NASCAR’s next generation of stars. He has won races at every level in NASCAR he has competed in – including in the NASCAR Cup Series. Erik is a proven winner and we look forward to providing him with the opportunity to add more wins to this already impressive résumé.”
It will be quite a change of pace for Jones, who has spent the entirety of his NASCAR career in the Toyota camp. Jones climbed through the ranks for the Japanese manufacturer with Kyle Busch Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, which included winning the 2014 Truck Series championship and an Xfinity Series Championship Round appearance in 2016. He began racing full-time in the Cup Series with JGR ally Furniture Row Racing in 2017 before taking over JGR’s #20 in 2018. He scored his first Cup win at the Daytona July race as a rookie, followed by a second victory at Darlington in the famed Southern 500 a year later.
However, despite winning a wild Busch Clash in February, he missed the 2020 playoffs and currently sits seventeenth in points with a best finish of second at Talladega in early October. In August, JGR announced rookie Christopher Bell would replace Jones in the #20, leaving the latter without a ride.
“It is an incredible honor to have Richard Petty want you to drive for his race team and with the car number he made famous,” Jones said. “Richard Petty Motorsports has a rich history in the sport, but they are not resting on that history. They still have something to prove, and I have something to prove. We are both motivated to write a new chapter. I am proud to be a part of Richard Petty Motorsports.”
Jones replaces Bubba Wallace in the #43. Assuming no surprise developments, the move resembles a trade of sort between the Chevrolet and Toyota camps as Wallace, a former JGR driver, will likely return to the latter with a new team formed by Michael Jordan and JGR’s Denny Hamlin. For Jones, it will be his first time racing a Chevrolet in a national series since a part-time schedule in the now-ARCA Menards Series in 2012 with Venturini Motorsports, though the team fielded both Chevys and Toyotas.
Crew chief Jerry Baxter, who joined RPM in 2020 and reunited with Wallace, will remain with the team. In a way, this is also a reunion for him and Jones as they were colleagues at Kyle Busch Motorsports when the crew chief first worked with Wallace.