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Erik Jones looking ahead to fresh start with Richard Petty Motorsports

Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton, and Dale Jarrett review the top storylines from the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season and look ahead to what the 2021 season has in store from a schedule, driver, and team perspective.

Things will be much different for Erik Jones in 2021.

Jones spent the first four years of his Cup Series career aligned with powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing, starting with satellite team Furniture Row Racing before joining JGR in 2018.

He earned two wins under the JGR banner, as well as this past season’s Busch Clash at Daytona.

But after going winless in the regular season and missing the playoffs, Jones was replaced by Christopher Bell.

The 24-year-old from Byron, Michigan signed with Richard Petty Motorsports, where he’ll be the next driver to carry the legendary No. 43.

Expectations and resources are more modest at RPM than at his previous home. But Jones will also be the sole focus of the single-car operation.

So far, he sees enough to believe that he can make a fresh start.

“I think the goal is to continue to build and take what they’ve been able to work and improve on the last few years, and get that better and better,” Jones said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio “Late Shift” on Monday night. “I think their alliance with (Richard Childress Racing) has been really strong the last few years, and that’s helped them as well.

“I’m excited to get over there and do something totally different - a single-car team that’s working to get back to Victory Lane. That’s the ultimate goal for the season. There’s definitely tracks we can go and accomplish that ... For me, that’s an exciting opportunity.”

Jones will partner with crew chief Jerry Baxter, who remains at RPM after working with Bubba Wallace this past season. Wallace has left RPM to join the new 23XI Racing team.

In 2020, the No. 43 team enjoyed an uptick in performance. Wallace earned five top-five finishes and finished 22nd in the standings, both career-best showings.

Jones is confident that he and Baxter can continue that momentum together, and perhaps bring RPM its first playoff berth since 2014 with Aric Almirola.

“I think Jerry and I are on the same page,” Jones said. “We’re both really looking forward to next year and what we’re going to be able to go out and accomplish with that car is gonna surprise a lot of people.

“I’ve been up to the shop now and got to see what they have to work with. For me, it’s been really encouraging. (There’s) a lot of good things they have going that are going to be really positive for next year.”