Jones looks to continue 2022 improvement at Darlington
Darlington Raceway isn’t “too hard to tame” for Erik Jones.
In his first-ever Cup Series race at the 1.366-mile South Carolina track in 2017, Jones finished fifth. He won his third visit two years later. And of his eight career starts, six have produced top-10 results.
“It’s just one of those places where I first went about six or seven years ago and raced and just enjoyed it, just had fun with it,” Jones told NASCAR. .com. “Some places where you go and unload, it’s like wow, it’s a struggle, I just can’t understand. But Darlington has never been like that for me. I’ve always felt at the easy.
DARLINGTON: Weekend schedule | Paint Schemes | Betting odds
The same sentiment is in place as NASCAR heads there this weekend for its annual comeback extravaganza. The Cup Series has practice and qualifying on Saturday (10:30 a.m. ET, FS1) before Sunday’s Goodyear 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1), the 12th points-paying event of the 2022 season.
Jones’ No. 43 Chevrolet Petty GMS Motorsports will sport a 1959 “Petty Blue” paint job in honor of team co-owner and seven-time champion Richard Petty. Jones is excited about the all-blue envelope – he wanted to perform it last year but didn’t get the chance – and also about the upcoming competition itself, which is understandable.
For the first time since 2020, when he was with Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 20 Toyota, Jones posted a consecutive top 10. He came sixth at Talladega Superspeedway (run 25 circuits; lost the lead on the last lap) two weeks ago and 10th at Dover Motor Speedway last week.
“It’s just a great momentum for the team, a great confidence for the team,” Jones said. “It keeps the guys moving forward. Keeps them focused. And keep me focused, right? Sometimes when you go out and struggle from week to week, it’s hard to stay focused and keep going. And that can sometimes be mentally draining. When you run well, however, everything feels much better and it makes life much easier.
Jones’ results in 2022 are on track to be, if not already, better than 2021. He has one top five (Auto Club Speedway) and four top 10s. Last year he finished with no top five, six top 10s.
This is Jones’ second season in the #43 machine. What is different, however, is that GMS Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports merged to form Petty GMS Motorsports. It is now a two-car team rather than one. Jones’ teammate is Ty Dillon in No. 42.
“We’re in a much better position than we were a year ago, and it’s just a good feeling when you can improve your year like this,” Jones said. “I’ve seen improvements over this year from week to week as a team, as an organization, getting stronger in many different aspects. Not just the car, but the pit team, the the road team and the workshop team.Everyone keeps getting better and better.
Nowhere better to continue this trend than Darlington.
One of Jones’ goals is to put No. 43 back in Victory Lane, where he’s parked 199 times before. Ninety-four races have passed since Jones’ last victory. It’s been eight years since the #43 car captured a checkered flag (Aric Almirola, Daytona-2 2014). Petty propelled him to three Darlington wins between 1966 and 1967.
“A win definitely gives you confidence anywhere,” Jones said. “You feel like you’ve done it once, you can do it again, can’t you?” And coming back to Darlington is always on my mind.