Sunday is a big day for Erik Jones. As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to his home track Michigan International Speedway, Richard Petty Motorsports confirmed he will return to the #43 Chevrolet Camaro for a second season in 2022.
Jones moved to RPM for 2021 after spending virtually his entire NASCAR career with Toyota. After twenty-four races, he sits twenty-fifth in points with three top-ten finishes and a best run of seventh last Sunday at the Indianapolis Road Course. He has two wins at NASCAR’s top level (plus an exhibition victory in the 2020 Busch Clash and an eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series win at Darlington in May, the latter of which was technically the racing début of the Next Gen car before it is rolled out in 2022). While his contract with RPM was reported as a multi-year deal, it actually contains an option that the team can pick up should both parties be satisfied with his performance.
The news continues a busy week for Jones, who on Saturday announced the founding of the Erik Jones Foundation. The charity supports children’s literacy and efforts in early cancer detection and animal welfare. Prior to Sunday’s race, he spent the morning reading books with fans at the track. During the season pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Jones launched #READwithErik, a social media video campaign in which he read children’s books like The Little Engine That Could and Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!.
The 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, Jones’ 2021 schedule also included making his first Xfinity Series start since 2019 at Watkins Glen two weeks ago for Jordan Anderson Racing. He finished thirty-sixth after a crash.
RPM and the famed #43 have not visited Victory Lane since Aric Almirola in the rain-shortened 2014 Daytona summer event, with the number’s last full-distance win coming in 1999 at Martinsville with the late John Andretti. Although the team has gone through uncertain waters over the years, Jones’ return provides some stability even if he does not bring major sponsorship dollars with him.