Jones embracing new challenges at Petty GMS
Rather a lot has modified when you consider life for Erik Jones at the moment versus only a brief two years in the past. It’s not simply the NASCAR Cup Sequence staff firesuit Jones wears now, but in addition the tempo of his days.
Issues are slightly slower with Petty GMS Motorsports. Calmer, even. Jones is in his second season driving the famed No. 43 Chevrolet after spending a few years nestled within the Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota pipeline. It was a spot of excessive expectations and stress, with fixed scrutiny over efficiency and contract conditions.
It wasn’t that Jones needed to depart that world – he wasn’t given a selection when Christopher Bell was given the automotive. However Jones has embraced this chapter with Petty, who bought nearly all of his race staff to Maury Gallagher final winter. It hasn’t affected something for Jones, who’s extra concerned along with his staff than ever earlier than.
“Once I was with JGR, there was involvement and time I spent over there, nevertheless it was loads much less. It was extra of, I used to be within the system and I used to be the driving force, and we went with the move,” Jones advised RACER. “I really feel like at Petty GMS proper now, I’m extra concerned week to week, everyday, with improvement of the automotive, the staff, selections. And that’s one thing I take pleasure in and have had enjoyable with over the past yr.”
Jones is a two-time winner within the Cup Sequence and a former Tenting World Truck Sequence champion. Expectations don’t hassle him, however getting the chance to do one thing completely different, have a special lifestyle, with crew chief Dave Elenz and his No. 43 group has been a nice shock.
“I look again at my profession, I’m 26 now and have been racing since I used to be seven and have been racing inventory automotive since I used to be 13 and have been in NASCAR since I used to be 16,” Jones stated. “So I’ve been doing stuff for nearly 10 years on the Truck stage after which Xfinity and Cup. There’s a lot I’ve discovered in that point, and I really feel like I’ve a giant reminiscence financial institution, plenty of issues I’ve discovered through the years.
“Clearly, I’ve been with good and nice groups and groups which have gained plenty of races, and I’ve been in a position to win races at each stage. So taking that reminiscence financial institution and coming to a gaggle like Petty GMS and taking a few of these notes and data and attempt to combine and attempt to construct… Petty GMs has nice folks, and we’re getting much more folks, nice folks, day by day. And that’s what builds this system. However it’s a piece in progress. That’s been enjoyable, and I’ve loved being part of attempting to get higher every week.”
Jones is aware of he can’t do issues within the No. 43 that he did within the No. 20 as a result of his staff isn’t there but. Not but are they on the stage of dominating races, however they’ve had alternatives to contend for wins.
Jones led 18 laps and completed third at Fontana in late February, bringing early hope that Subsequent Gen had certainly leveled the enjoying area and can be to his benefit. Jones ran inside the highest 10 at Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks, however was concerned in a late warning that dashed hopes of a strong consequence.
Being a playoff staff isn’t a given for the Petty GMS group, however that doesn’t imply they aren’t going to try to earn a postseason berth.
“I believe going into final yr, I knew it was going to be simply considerably of a wrestle,” Jones stated. “The automotive was in a improvement gap, and there was nothing I used to be going to have the ability to do so far as altering the automotive, making it higher with aero, chassis, something. I used to be form of locked into what we had, and we labored by way of that and made the perfect of it. And we had some good runs right here and there, however clearly, for essentially the most half, it was a reasonably difficult yr.
“A number of powerful days and weekends, which wasn’t simple. As a driver, I believe we’re all aggressive and particularly on the Cup stage. Everyone within the Cup Sequence sooner or later gained plenty of races wherever they have been working earlier than Cup. Clearly, I’d been in that place and nonetheless had that drive and fervour, however knew the way it was going to be.
“So it was extra of an outlook for the long run. That was what I had, and that was the one choice I had, and I had to determine the best way to make the perfect of it and the best way to proceed to get higher.”
Jones completed twenty fourth within the level standings final season with six top-10 finishes. He didn’t rating a top-five end.
Elenz was employed to work with Jones this yr after which alongside got here Gallagher. Now Jones and firm have much more assets and a teammate, Ty Dillon, to assist type by way of information.
Jones used the phrase “attention-grabbing” to explain the primary half of his season earlier than the break. Early season pace gave strategy to an Easter week of frustration at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was a turning level within the flawed path, however Jones felt the staff was in a position to flip issues round a few month later.
“Which was actually encouraging to me,” he stated.
A robust automotive within the Coca-Cola 600 didn’t replicate within the end having been caught up in issues outdoors of their management, however at World Vast Expertise Raceway, Jones was again within the prime 10. Ovals have been the positives for Jones.
“However the actually encouraging factor for me was we have been working nicely after which went down a path the place we began to wrestle, and we have been in a position to flip it again round,” Jones stated. “The playoffs are a giant aim after Sonoma. I believe a win is the place we’re at. Earlier than Sonoma, I believed we might level our approach in, however we’re in a win scenario, which we’ve acquired some good tracks arising that we will win at. So, we’ll see. However I’ve been happy with issues. It’s an enormous enchancment from final yr.”
Sixteen races into the ’21 season, Jones sat twenty seventh in factors. A yr later, he’s sixteenth within the standings popping out of the off weekend.
“Simply selecting up that form of hole from one yr to the following is large for us,” stated Jones.
Skilled and battled-tested after a lot time within the sport, Jones is way more comfy in his personal pores and skin. That was by no means an issue within the Truck or Xfinity Sequence, the place it took no time in any respect to win races, nevertheless it’s taken extra effort and persistence to get to that time on the Cup stage.
“I look again now, having gotten into the Cup Sequence at 20 years previous, and I simply want I knew then what I do know now,” stated Jones. “It’s stuff the place, yeah, perhaps you keep within the Xfinity Sequence a pair extra years and study… however there’s nothing that compares while you make that leap to the Cup Sequence. There’s nothing that prepares you for that second. There’s nothing you’ll be able to actually lean on to be prepared. It’s study as you go, and irrespective of how good and gifted you’re, there’s nothing that will get you prepared for that point.
“It’s simply such an adjustment. Not solely from a racing aspect however a private aspect in balancing your weeks and your time.”
A part of his time now could be spent with the ability to get out of the NASCAR storage and race late fashions. Jones comes from grassroots racing, and the final time he was in a position to run as a lot as he’s this yr was 2016. Not solely does doing so let him have enjoyable, nevertheless it’s additionally serving as a shot within the arm for his main job when wanted.
“There’s nothing like attending to go brief monitor race,” Jones stated. “Getting again into that mindset is so completely different when it’s a 150-lap race, which is so completely different for me being a brief race… Doing that once more is simply enjoyable and studying the way it’s modified. As a driver, I like to study and like to get higher, and simply have that data or automobiles on the whole.”
Jones has six races deliberate with the chance to doubtlessly do extra towards the tip of the yr. It helps that almost all NASCAR weekends are actually two days as a substitute of three with a day of journey beforehand.
Regardless of, whereas life has a special calmness to it, Jones continues to be discovering loads of methods to remain fulfilled. It’s not simply his Petty staff and late fashions, however a basis Jones began in August 2021 and studying to youngsters by way of social media.
“I’ve taken on different duties and different issues to maintain me busy, concerned and going in several methods,” he stated.