Reports surfaced on Monday that Richard Petty Motorsports had found a driver to replace Bubba Wallace in the iconic No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro. Wednesday morning, the racing team confirmed the news with a slick video. RPM officially introduced Erik Jones as the new driver for the 2021 season and beyond, announcing that he signed a multi-year contract.
The King himself, Petty, narrated the video and spoke about the importance of No. 43. The seven-time champion talked about his own ups and downs while different versions of the racecar flashed across the screen. He then explained that every driver has added his own chapter to the number's legacy and that a new era begins today. Jones then lifted his head and smiled for the camera, confirming that he is joining RPM.
"It's two numbers — a four and a 3," Petty says in the announcement video. "To some, that's all there is. Just two numbers. But to those in racing, it's the 43, the number. It's a staple in NASCAR, a lasting legacy that continues today and beyond."
The youngest driver to win NASCAR's Truck Series, Jones has found success throughout his racing career. He partnered with Kyle Busch Motorsports and racked up solid finishes before turning 18 years old. 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.
Jones continued to find success in the Xfinity Series, racing full-time during the 2016 season. He won four races out of 33, secured the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus twice and reached the championship race. Jones ultimately finished the year fourth behind Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier.
Since joining the Cup Series on a full-time basis, Jones has started 144 races. He has remained competitive while accruing two wins, 33 top-five finishes and 62 top-10 finishes. His first win came during the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway and then he won the historic Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.0comments
"Erik is an exceptionally talented driver, and we are excited to have him join our team," Brian Moffitt, chief executive officer at Richard Petty Motorsports, said in a press release. "At only 24-years old, Erik is part of NASCAR's next generation of stars. He has won races at every level in NASCAR he has competed in – including in the NASCAR Cup Series. Erik is a proven winner and we look forward to providing him with the opportunity to add more wins to this already impressive resume."
Jones will jump to No. 43 for the 2021 season, but he still has more work to do first. The 2020 playoffs are nearly complete, but there are two more races remaining before the field cuts to only four drivers. The Cup Series will then head to Phoenix to find the 2020 champion. Jones is out of the playoffs, but he can still make some noise in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.