LEBANON, Tenn. — Silly Season is in full swing, if you had not yet noticed.
A day after both Martin Truex Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. announced contract extensions, it appears another Cup Series veteran could be inking a fresh deal of his own in the near future.
No. 43 Petty GMS Motorsports driver Erik Jones offered a glimpse into his contract negotiations with the team for 2023 on Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway — hinting an agreement might be just around the corner.
“We‘re getting close,” he said, before qualifying 23rd for Sunday’s Ally 400 (5 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN). “Obviously, I‘ve been in talks with Petty GMS now for about a month I guess at this point. Just kind of finishing things up. Back and forth on all the little stuff, right, that makes a difference. We‘re going through that but I feel like we‘re getting close.”
After a down year in his first campaign with the No. 43 last season, the revamped and expanded Petty GMS has seen a bit of a resurgence in 2022 with Jones leading the charge. The 26-year-old managed just six total top 10s last year — after output in the teens in each of his four full-time seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing — but he’s nearly on pace to double that 2021 figure in ’22, with five already.
Seeing that year-over-year improvement — not to mention being able to bounce ideas and take feedback from his Hall of Fame team owner — helped Jones know he has found a comfortable home for the time being, and one that he can continue to build foundation with.
“I think (I‘ll be back in the No. 43) as far at this point so we‘ll see,” he said. “Obviously gotta button a few things up here, but I‘ve been happy with the group and happy with where we‘ve been going. We‘ve been racing well. Want to stay over there for sure.
” … We‘ve got stuff we can continue to get better on and keep getting better at, but I‘ve been happy with my team, with Dave (Elenz, No. 43 crew chief) and everybody there.”
Given his pedigree as a top talent at the lower national series level — he has 16 combined wins between the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series — and relatively young age to have the amount of Cup starts (199) that he does, there was some speculation Jones could be a hot prospect in the Silly Season market.
From the sounds of it, the Michigan native hasn’t dialogued at all with other teams — and might not have been interested, anyway.
“I haven‘t heard from (the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team, which has an opening for 2023),” he said.
“I can‘t really talk to other teams at this point but I‘ve been happy with being in the 43 car, especially this season with what we‘ve done as far as as a group and the way we‘re going, the direction we‘re going.”