Erik Jones feels comfortable and shows potential with Petty GMS Racing.

by Bob Folkras
FOX Sports NASCAR Author

Fort Worth, Texas — Richard Petty is coming to the track more often these days, and he has good reason to see his famous number 43 on the track.

Erik Jones’ six-year Cup career has shown signs of the potential that many have been waiting to see him.

Jones finished 17th in the cup standings halfway through the regular season, the same position he scored in his final year at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020.

He was 24th on Petty Enterprises’ rankings last year, with no six top-10s and no top-5s in 36 races. He already has 4 top 10s and 1 top 5 this year.

difference? New Team: GMS Racing acquires Andy Murstein, a major shareholder of Petty Enterprises, and rebrands the organization as Petty GMS Racing. New Team Leader: Engineer Dave Elnz is now leading the group.

Eric Jones in the 2022 season

Eric Jones in the 2022 season

Ahead of the Goodyear 400 earlier this month, Erik Jones said he wants to ride the wave of momentum moving forward.

And with all that, Jones has a bit of a new attitude with the new NASCAR Next Gen car, which has reset the pitch for at least a while while the team struggles to find ways to speed things up.

“I’ve learned a lot in five years at the racetrack and I’ve gotten better as a driver, no doubt about it,” Jones said. “But the level of comfort is higher than ever. I feel like I can ask questions and make suggestions to anyone in the store.

“I feel like I’m considering them. I’m comfortable with the group and I’m happy with the group, in the sense that I’m comfortable asking the questions I need to improve myself and my team.”

This year Jones hasn’t been all around roses and he’s had some tough times in recent weeks, but he thinks his team is in a better position to weather those setbacks.

“At this time last year, we would have had one or two good results,” Jones said. “But it was kind of sporadic. It wasn’t like we were running consistently well.

“But this year it seems we ran better than some finals. [have shown].”

Jones had a disappointing day in Sunday’s All-Star race, but was able to compete in the main event at least after winning a fan vote.

All-Star Race Eric Jones

All-Star Race Eric Jones

Erik Jones would like to thank the fans for voting for the All-Star Race.

There’s nothing wrong with Patty’s driver when it comes to fan votes, but it also shows that Jones has some popularity. Fans love the story of his perseverance. Jones was a notable prospect who moved to the Cup after winning the Camping World Truck Series title in 2015 and winning four Xfinity races in 2016.

He spent one year at Furniture Row Racing and then three at JGR. There, he won two before getting off the ride.

“It feels good to be in the best position I’ve been in the last five years,” Jones said. “I’m definitely the happiest and most comfortable lately.”

Then the management of Petty GMS will be delighted. If Jones continues to post good finishes, he’ll be a candidate for an open ride and his name is often mentioned as a possibility to fill the Stewart-Haas Racing vacancy when Aric Almirola retires at the end of the season.

That’s probably why Jones already spoke early about staying with Petty GMS. Jones’ Petty legacy car and No. I have something to say about being the focus of a two-car organization called Ty Dillon in 42.

Time will tell for sure whether Jones will stay, but he knows that mood and level of comfort matter when choosing a race team.

“There hasn’t been a single weekend I haven’t been excited about coming to the racetrack,” Jones said of this season. “And that’s a good feeling. That’s all.

“And even the weekend we had a hard time … it was still fun because we’re getting better.”

It’s been a while since Jones had that type of view.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t last year… I was frustrated before the weekend. I knew it was going to be a tough weekend just because we had a hard time,” Jones said.

“Sometimes in a 20-something car [at JGR]I felt upset and a little trapped, and I felt like I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do.”

The difference is that Jones is confident in Elenz’s engineering background, which won the Xfinity Championship as crew chief at JR Motorpsorts.

“It doesn’t seem to have changed the feedback at all,” Jones said. “I think Dave and I are really good at clicking. I think he has a good intuition about what the car should start with.

“And I feel like he and I are probably pretty similar in many ways, and I think that makes things easier.”

He also sees his “boss” a little more often. Due to the pandemic, most race weekends last year were not weekends. The team showed up, took a look at their technique, and ran all the races in one day.

Richard Petty and Erik Jones of Darlington

Richard Petty and Erik Jones of Darlington

NASCAR legend Richard Petty and current #43 driver Erik Jones joined Chris Myers and Clint Bowyer before a reverse race in Darlington.

Now the cup teams practice the day before the race and pass the qualifiers. And the format increased the number of races in which NASCAR icon Petty, with a record 200 cup wins and a record tie for seven titles, entered.

“It’s always fun to have him on the track,” Jones said. “He’s coming a little more now we’re practicing. He didn’t really like coming just for the race.

“He didn’t get along with people. And I think that’s what he really enjoys. It’s just spending time with everyone on the team and being involved in it. I love seeing him on the racetrack, especially when we’re running.”

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think out loud

It was a crazy finish to Sunday’s All-Star race when Ryan Blaney thought he had won the race, realized that the race had to start over again, and had to retake the window he had dropped when he thought he had won. .

NASCAR saw the spear nets up and Blaney put his hands on the steering wheel, which made NASCAR think it was probably latching onto the latch coming to the green as it resumed over and over again.

Denny Hamlin, who finished second behind Blaney, said it was impossible to lock the window sill from the inside (the other crew member got caught before the race) and it was an unsafe situation.

Denny Hamlin on the Windows Net Incident

Denny Hamlin on the Windows Net Incident

Angry Denny Hamlin says NASCAR should put black flag Ryan Blaney for the window net.

Blaney said he didn’t feel safe.

Given that this is a safety issue and the rules are different in the All-Star race (generally the race would be over when Blaney thought it was over), NASCAR was able to get Blaney down into the pit to make sure the window nets were in place. immersed.

If it is locked, please return the seat. If not, decide whether or not you should go to the back of the field.

However, knowing that leaving two wheels behind could lead to a major accident, NASCAR didn’t know if it was locked or not, so instead of going green, it should have made the mistake of checking to see if it was latched.

social spotlight

Today’s Statistics

Ryan Blaney finished fourth in the All-Star Race with 171 (all of his last three races) in his career.

they said

“If I had been in his position, I would have been angry too. You are in second place and the man makes a mistake and puts down the window sill. And you expect it to come to you and the leader gets a black flag.” — Ryan Blaney on Denny Hamlin’s comment after the All-Star race

Bob Pockrass has spent decades dealing with motorsports, including the Daytona 500 in his last 30s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after working for ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @.Bob Folklas. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

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