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Erik Jones moving forward with merged Petty GMS team

Kyle Larson works through his people to thank, including his wife Katelyn, Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, Cliff Daniels and the rest of his family, as he cites hard times over the past year that made him a better person.

The uncertainty is gone. The path is set.

Now, it’s time to build for Petty GMS Motorsports, the newly merged Cup Series operation between Richard Petty Motorsports and GMS Racing.

But as RPM driver Erik Jones said this week in a media teleconference, the progression of the merger made for some anxiety within his team’s shop.

“There was a lot of that the last couple of months,” said Jones. “Floating around obviously, the rumors start to spread about what’s going to happen and what’s going to be the next step for the race team and I got a lot of those questions from the guys.

“To be honest, I was as straightforward as I could be. I didn’t totally know everything, either. I was trying to stay in the loop and knew a little bit about what was going on, but wasn’t sure how far along the process was with the talks and everything else. So I couldn’t really give them a great answer, either.

“It’s good and bad, right? I couldn’t really give them an easy feeling, but for myself, sometimes not knowing everything is sometimes best, too.”

It all worked out in the end.

Jones remains driver of the No. 43 made famous by Richard Petty, while gaining a teammate in Ty Dillon. Announced as GMS Racing’s Cup driver in October, Dillon will now drive the No. 42 in another nod to the Petty legacy (family patriarch Lee Petty and Kyle Petty both ran the number in their racing careers).

Having been assured by RPM management that he would be kept onboard no matter the direction of the team, Jones said he felt no need to have a ‘Plan B’ in regards to where he’d drive.

He’s also glad the merger didn’t remove elements already in place, such as his new pairing with crew chief Dave Elenz, Dillon’s own new pairing with crew chief Jerame Donley, or the presence of Richard Petty himself. “The King” will be team chairman for Petty GMS, which is owned by Maury Gallagher.

Every bit of familiarity helps. Because as Jones put it this week, things are “a little chaotic” right now for the RPM crew.

Personnel are moving into GMS’ complex in Statesville, North Carolina, where Petty GMS will be based from. They’re also preparing for another round of test sessions with the Next Gen car on Dec. 15 and 17 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Last month’s Next Gen test at Charlotte gave Jones an chance to get acclimated to working with Elenz. The process appears to be moving along. This week, Jones praised Elenz for doing “a good job of having a plan in his head, of how he wants to see things go and how he wants to see things develop.”

“I have a lot of trust in Dave already,” Jones continued. “Although we’ve only known each other really only for, maybe, a couple of months now, I feel like we’re on the same page with a lot of things and what we want to do and how we’re going to go about them.”

Working with Elenz is just one of many changes Jones will roll with in 2022. Jones acknowledges them, but chooses not to overthink them.

It helps that, in his mind, they’ll be for the better.

“...There is a lot of change going on. But I think, for me, what makes it a little easier – it’s all good change,” he said.

“I don’t think anything that’s happening - nothing is negative. All of this is positive stuff and things that are going to help us and help our group, and I think, help me in my career in the Cup Series. I’m excited about it.”