Crew chief Jerry Baxter is expecting Erik Jones to go through a “culture shock” at Richard Petty Motorsports.
After departing from Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones is set to take the seat of the No. 43 Chevrolet at RPM, replacing the former driver, Bubba Wallace. Having spent all his NASCAR career with JGR until now, it will be a new experience for Jones to be a part of a different team.
In that light, his new crew chief is expecting Jones to take time to adapt to the new environment.
“I’m sure this is going to be a culture shock to him to come to our deal and see what we have to offer,” Baxter said.
“We’re not a really bad race team, and I’m pretty excited about what’s going to happen here. I really am excited about it, and so are all my people.”
Last season, Baxter and Wallace finished in the 22nd spot. But with Jones behind the wheels, the crew chief is expecting an improvement in their position in the 2021 season.
“That’s a tough order when you have four Hendrick cars and four Penske cars and four Gibbs cars, and on and on, and you sort of it all out. We finished 22nd; it’s not terrible. But hopefully, we can get in the teens and just rock it a little better.”
As for Jones, he is similarly expecting to bring about improvement in the JGR team. Jones’ highest finish in his Cup career was the 15th place finish in the 2018 season. A top-20 finish in the 2021 season is an achievable target, the driver believes.
“They (Petty) took a huge step last year, like (Baxter) said, and I think they’re just continuing to grow that relationship with (Childress), and that’s continuing to make them stronger,” said Jones. “I think there’s even more stuff we can do this year that’s going to make us better. Hopefully, I can bring some knowledge from what I’ve done over at JGR and their group and continue to help RPM.
“It’s going to be interesting to see. Obviously, it’s a little tough with the development freeze – we’re not really able to go in and make parts and make things that are better than what they’ve had. But there’s still some aero development and stuff there that we can go out and hopefully work on.”
[Read More: ‘Re-invigorated’ Erik Jones excited to make a fresh start with RPM]