Jones to make 150th Cup start at Homestead

Entering a new season of racing and joining forces with a new team, Erik Jones is set to achieve a significant start in his fifth full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the driver of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will reach 150 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native from Byron, Michigan, Jones made his unofficial Cup Series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway in April 2015. Following an early rain delay, Jones relieved Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry when Hamlin relinquished his seat due to neck spasms. Dropping to the rear of the field, Jones finished in 26th place, though Hamlin was credited for the result since he started the race.

A month later, Jones made his official Cup Series debut at Kansas Speedway when he piloted the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry in place of Kyle Busch, who was recovering from injuries sustained following a harrowing late-race accident from the Xfinity Series’ season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. 

During the event at Kansas, Jones was competitive as he led a single lap and ran upfront against the sport’s elite. His race, however, came to an end with 72 laps remaining when he got loose entering Turn 4 and made contact with the outside wall while running in the top five. Limping back to pit road and the garage with damage, Jones settled in 40th place in his series’ debut.

In November, Jones competed in two of the final three Cup Series races of the season when he took over the No. 20 Toyota Camry for JGR, replacing Matt Kenseth, who was serving a two-race suspension after intentionally wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway at the start of the month. At Texas Motor Speedway, Jones recorded a strong 12th-place result. He went on to finish 19th the following race at Phoenix Raceway.

Following the 2016 season, where he finished in fourth place in the final NASCAR Xfinity Series standings with four victories and the series’ Rookie-of-the-Year title, Jones graduated to the Cup Series the following season. For the 2017 season, he joined Furniture Row Racing to drive the No. 77 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry with support from crew chief Chris Gabehart.

Jones’ rookie season in the Cup Series, however, started off on a low note when he was involved in a multi-car wreck past the midway portion of the Daytona 500. He rallied three races later by achieving his first top-10 career finish in the Cup circuit at Phoenix Raceway.

Through the first half of the 2017 Cup season, Jones recorded five top-10 results, including a career-best third-place result at Pocono Raceway in June and was in 14th place in the regular-season standings.

Five races later, Jones recorded another third-place result at Michigan International Speedway, his home track. The following race at Bristol Motor Speedway, he achieved his first Cup career pole position. During the main event, he led a race-high 260 laps before settling in a career-best runner-up result behind Kyle Busch.

Though he finished fifth and sixth in the following two races, Jones fell short in making the 2017 Cup Playoffs. Nonetheless, he went on to post three top-10 results throughout the 10-race Playoffs and concluded his rookie season in 19th place in the final standings. When all was said and done, Jones claimed the 2017 Cup Rookie-of-the-Year title over names like Daniel Suarez and Ty Dillon. In doing so, he became the first competitor to achieve the Rookie-of-the-Year title across NASCAR’s top three national touring series (Cup, Xfinity and Truck).

In 2018, Jones returned to Joe Gibbs Racing and replaced Matt Kenseth as driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry with continuous support from Chris Gabehart.

Like his rookie season, however, Jones was involved in a multi-car accident during the Daytona 500. Finishing in 36th place with a DNF, he rebounded by finishing in the top 10 in four of the following six events.

Through the first 17 events of the 2018 Cup season, Jones and JGR’s No. 20 team achieved seven top-10 results, a best on-track result of fourth place at Texas Motor Speedway in April and were in 14th place in the regular-season standings.

The following race at Daytona International Speedway, Jones rallied from being involved in a multi-car wreck near the midway point to overtake ex-teammate Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap and score his maiden Cup victory in his 57th series start. In becoming the ninth different competitor to win a Cup race for JGR, Jones secured his spot to the 2018 Cup Playoffs. 

Following his victory at Daytona, Jones went on to finish in the top 10 in six of the remaining eight regular-season events, including a runner-up result at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September. 

During the first round of the Playoffs, Jones achieved results of 40th, 11th and 30th, which were enough to eliminate him from title contention along with names like Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon and teammate Denny Hamlin. He went on to finish in the top 10 in four of the remaining seven Playoff races before concluding his sophomore Cup season in a career-best 15th place in the standings. He also earned nine top-five results and a career-high 18 top-10 results.

Remaining at JGR, Jones kickstarted the 2019 season on a strong note by finishing in third place in the Daytona 500 while being a part of a JGR 1-2-3 finish with race winner Denny Hamlin and runner-up Kyle Busch.

Through the first 24 events of the 2019 Cup season, Jones achieved 12 top-10 results, a best result of second place at Pocono in and was in 14th place in the regular-season standings.

For the following race at Darlington Raceway, where he made his 100th Cup career start, Jones held off a late challenge from teammate Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson to claim his first elusive Cup victory of the season and second of his career. The Southern 500 victory was enough for him to race his way into the Playoffs for a second consecutive season.

Though he entered the 2019 Cup Playoffs with late momentum, Jones’ title run came to an early end following the first round of the Playoffs, where he recorded results of 36th, 38th and 40th. For his 38th-place result, it occurred at Richmond in September, where initially, he finished in fourth place until he was disqualified due to his car failing post-race inspection.

Following his early exit from title contention, Jones went on to finish in the top 10 in three of the final seven races of the season, including a third-place result in the season-finale event at Homestead, before concluding the season in 16th place in the final standings. While he achieved one victory throughout the entire season, he also achieved a career-high 10 top-five results.

Jones opening the 2020 Cup Series season on a high, bizarre note by winning the non-points Busch Clash at Daytona with a wrecked race car after being involved in three late-race multi-car wrecks but continuing and receiving a late draft from teammate Denny Hamlin, who was a lap behind, to storm away from a downsized field during an overtime restart.

Compared to his previous two Cup seasons, Jones did not record a single victory throughout the 2020 season. He also did not make the Playoffs as he only achieved nine top-five results, a season-best result of second place at Talladega Superspeedway in October, 13 top-10 results and a final points result of 17th place.

Three months prior to the conclusion of the 2020 season, JGR announced that Jones will not be returning to the organization and that Christopher Bell will be replacing him as driver of the No. 20 Toyota. Two months later, nonetheless, Jones was able to secure a ride with Richard Petty Motorsports and pilot the iconic No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, replacing Bubba Wallace, for the new season. 

Jones commenced his first run with Richard Petty Motorsports on a low note after being involved in an early multi-car pileup and eliminated from contention. He is coming off a 14th-place result from the Daytona International Speedway Road Course.

Through 149 previous starts in the Cup Series, Jones has achieved two career wins and two poles along with 33 top-five results, 62 top-10 results, 647 laps led and an average result of 16.1.

Catch Jones’ 150th Cup career start at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, February 28, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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Andrew Kim
An avid motorsports enthusiast from California with aspirations of working in any form of communications, PR or digital/social media in motorsports.

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