NASCAR driver returning at Darlington after two-race absence

Erik Jones has been sidelined since his crash at Talladega Superspeedway, but he is set to return for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway.
Corey Heim, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR
Corey Heim, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR / Logan Riely/GettyImages

Legacy Motor Club's Erik Jones was technically cleared to return for this past Sunday night's NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, but he opted to sit out to continue to focus on his recovery ahead of this coming Sunday afternoon's race at Darlington Raceway.

Three Sundays ago, after he was involved in a hard wreck at Talladega Superspeedway, Jones complained of back pain. He was transported to a local hospital, and after further evaluation, it was determined that he suffered a compression fracture in a lower vertebra.

The injury forced him to sit out the following weekend's race at Dover Motor Speedway, where he was replaced by reserve driver Corey Heim, who competes full-time for Toyota's Tricon Garage team in the Truck Series. Heim also returned to the No. 43 Toyota for the Kansas race. He recorded respectable finishes of 25th and 22nd place in the first two Cup Series starts of his career.

Erik Jones set for Darlington return

Now Jones is set to return at Darlington, where he is a two-time winner. The 27-year-old Byron, Michigan native has been granted a playoff waiver, meaning that his two missed starts will not count against his playoff eligibility if he ends up being one of the 16 drivers to qualify.

Given the fact that he now finds himself in 27th place in the point standings, 106 points below the cut line, after two missed starts, he will likely need to win a race to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2019. There are 14 races remaining on the 26-race regular season calendar.

Jones' best finish of the 2024 season is his eighth place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, but he is always a threat at the "Lady in Black". He won the Southern 500 at the four-turn, 1.366-mile (2.198-kilometer) egg-shaped oval in Darlington, South Carolina in both 2019 and 2022.

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Fox Sports 1 is set to provide live coverage of the Goodyear 400 from Darlington Raceway beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, May 12. If you have not yet had the chance to start a free trial of FuboTV, do so today and don't miss it!