News surfaced on Monday afternoon that Richard Petty Motorsports has found a driver to replace Bubba Wallace in the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro for the 2021 season. Wallace is joining Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin for a highly-anticipated new Cup Series team, but his departure leaves an empty seat. According to Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal, current Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones will be the man to control the No. 43.
A relatively young driver at the age of 24, Jones has competed across NASCAR's three top series. He has competed in 42 races in the Truck Series, 78 in the Xfinity Series, and 144 in the Cup Series. Jones has also won a championship in one of the series while partnering with one of the sport's biggest names. Here is everything to know about Wallace's reported replacement.
Kyle Busch Motorsports
Like many of his peers, Jones came to national attention while racing in NASCAR's Truck Series. He partnered with Kyle Busch Motorsports and took part in "age-eligible" races, which allowed drivers under the age of 18 at ovals shorter than 2,000 meters and at road courses. Jones found success during these events, finishing among the top-10 each time. He also won the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway at the age of 17 years, five months and eight days, becoming the youngest driver to win at the time.prevnext
In 2015, Jones took part in his first "age-eligible" season with Kyle Busch Motorsports. He competed in 23 races, winning three, and led nearly 3,500 laps. Jones was a force to be reckoned with on the track, defeating future Cup Series competitor Tyler Reddick at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. He then faced off with Reddick once again, as well as Matt Crafton, in the championship race. Jones defeated both and hoisted the trophy for the first time in his career.prevnext
Move to Xfinity Series
While Jones was competing full-time in the Truck Series and racking up wins, he was also making a career move. He joined Joe Gibbs Racing on a part-time basis in order to race in the Xfinity Series. He took part in 23 of the 33 races during the 2015 series, splitting time between the No. 20 and the No. 54 Toyotas. He won two races in 2015, including one at Texas Motor Speedway. He also completed a weekend sweep in Iowa by winning the Truck Series and the Xfinity Series races.prevnext
Jones made the full-time move to the Xfinity Series for the 2016 season, competing in all 33 races. He drove the No. 20 Toyota for JGR and enjoyed the best season of his career. He secured four wins and 15 top-five finishes during the season. Jones secured the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize two separate times and reached the championship round of the playoffs. He ultimately finished fourth overall in the points behind Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier.prevnext
Move to Cup Series
While Jones unofficially made his Cup Series debut in 2015 as an injury replacement for Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, he did not move to the top level of NASCAR until the 2017 season. He spent the year with Furniture Row Racing due to charter rules before ultimately making the full-time switch to JGR in 2018. Jones did not win a race during his rookie season but still secure five top-five finishes.prevnext
Once he moved to JGR full-time, Jones found success on NASCAR's top series. He secured the first Cup Series win of his career, defeating Martin Truex Jr. in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. This win sent him to the playoffs, where he competed in the round of 16. However, he struggled during races at Las Vegas and the Charlotte Roval, failing to move on to the round of 12. Jones finished his first season with JGR 15th in points.prevnext
Departure From JGR0comments
Following three full-time Cup Series seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones learned that he would not return to the team for the 2021 season. He had an expiring contract and was set to become a free agent, but he expected to return due to "positive talks" with the race team. However, the news that Christopher Bell would replace him in the No. 20 Toyota Camry "blindsided" Jones.
"I found out really the same day as everybody. I guess it was on Thursday morning I was told, and Thursday night, we kind of announced everything. I was blindsided a little bit. I didn’t really expect it coming from our talks. I thought we were moving in a good direction," Jones said, per NBC Sports. "But at the end of the day, I’ve had a great, really, eight years almost with Joe Gibbs Racing between Xfinity and Cup, and I’m thankful for that time. And it’s been good to see the support that’s been out there the last few days on social media and everybody that’s coming out … has been awesome."prev