NASCAR: One of Cup’s top free agents is off the market

Erik Jones, Petty GMS Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, Petty GMS Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

The long-anticipated signing of a new NASCAR Cup Series contract for Erik Jones took place this past weekend, with Petty GMS Motorsports committing to him for the long haul.

Erik Jones didn’t draw much attention to himself during his first season at Richard Petty Motorsports, finishing in 24th place in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings last year.

But over the offseason, the team merged with GMS Racing to become Petty GMS Motorsports, and Jones almost immediately took a step forward in terms of his performance behind the wheel of the #43 Chevrolet.

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Because of how many winners there have been this year, Jones won’t qualify for this year’s playoffs without a victory in the regular season’s final four races, but don’t let that distract you from how exceptional he has performed throughout the season.

Without a recent 35-point penalty, he would be sitting in a solid 14th place in the point standings. His seven top 10 finishes are more than he had all of last year, and his two top five finishes are his first since he was forced out by Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020.

Given his impressive performance, Jones was seen as one of the top drivers who had not yet signed a contract to compete in 2023.

But despite links to other top teams, such as Stewart-Haas Racing, he stayed consistent in saying that that he was in talks with Petty GMS Motorsports about an extension to remain with the team and that he was looking forward to getting a deal done.

Unlike some others in the world of motorsports, Jones truly meant what he said.

Over the weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Petty GMS Motorsports confirmed that Jones had re-signed with the team on a multi-year deal as they look to continue to elevate their performance and become a true contender at the front.

The progress they have made in the first year of the Gen 7 car certainly indicates that they are capable of pulling that off.

This announcement followed the announcement that the team will be seeking a new driver for the #42 Chevrolet next year.

The team became a two-car operation in 2022 and added Ty Dillon, but he has had a lackluster season thus far, failing to place higher than 10th place in 22 starts. Even without his recent 35-point penalty, he would only sit in 29th in the point standings. The two parties agreed that it was time to move on.

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Noah Gragson is the name most often mentioned when it comes to joining Erik Jones and piloting the #42 Chevrolet during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. He currently competes full-time for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series and part-time for Kaulig Racing in the Cup Series.