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May 11, 2024

Erik Jones returns from injury after significant in-car adjustments

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Discretion was the better part of valor for Erik Jones, who sat out last Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway despite having been cleared to compete.

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Jones suffered a compression fracture of a lower vertebra in a violent collision with the outside wall during a multicar accident April 21 at Talladega and missed the last two races at Dover and Kansas.

He returns this weekend at Darlington Raceway, where he has claimed two of his three career victories, both in the Southern 500.

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“There was probably a possibility coming back right away with the injury, but Dover was not a place where that was going to happen,” Jones said before qualifying on Saturday at Darlington. “Even Kansas was a place that was going to be challenging with high speed and a lot of risk of being an incident — not of your own doing necessarily.

“Coming to Darlington, I feel like you can control your own destiny a bit. There is less risk for an accident like that. Also, three weeks in, I feel like we are on the safe side of 100 percent, and I feel 100 percent.”

Erik Jones drives a throwback paint scheme in NASCAR Cup Series practice at Darlington.
Alex Daus | NASCAR Digital Media

After a significant accident, there’s always evaluation, and Jones’ Legacy Motor Club team has made changes to increase Jones’ comfort in the No. 43 Toyota.

“We’ve changed the seat a lot,” Jones explained. “This will be the first race on that seat. I’m sitting in a pretty different position than I’m used to for almost all of my racing career. Guys that have (gone) through this similar injury have gone through the same transition to their seating position as well.

“Fortunately — it’s not a short race, it’s 400 miles — but it feels short here, I feel like. It will be a good test here, and next week at (North) Wilkesboro (in the NASCAR All-Star Race). How does the seat feel, what can I change before the (Coca-Cola) 600?

“I would say it is two good weeks of that, seeing how I feel, seeing what is bothering me, especially after Darlington tomorrow, and saying this what hurts, this is what we are going to change, and this is how we are going to move forward.”