Joe Gibbs Racing expands Xfinity team, adds several new drivers

With John-Hunter Nemechek moving up to the Cup Series and Sammy Smith departing the team for JR Motorsports, there were multiple openings at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) for 2024.

These are highly sought-after rides, with all three of Gibbs’ Xfinity cars reaching Victory Lane this past year. They won a total of eleven races with five different drivers.

Adding a fourth car for Smith

The team has added the No. 81 Toyota Supra to its lineup with Chandler Smith behind the wheel, who returns to Toyota after a year with Kaulig Racing and Chevrolet. Jeff Meendering will be Smith’s crew chief for the 2024 season. 

Smith ended the 2023 season ninth in the championship standings, earning his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Richmond in April.

Kaulig also gave him the opportunity to make his NASCAR Cup debut, with Smith running three races in total. He was impressive, scoring a top-20 in every race and always improving on his previous best result. After failing to make the Daytona 500, he finished 17th on debut at Richmond, then 15th in his return to Daytona and 11th at Talladega.

Additionally, he has five victories in the NASCAR Truck Series, all driving for Toyota and the now defunct Kyle Busch Motorsports team. As a Truck Series competitor, he made the Championship 4 in 2022 and placed third in the final standings. 

He’s also enjoyed success in ARCA Menards Series, winning ten races in just 35 starts.

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

Chandler Smith, Kaulig Racing, Chevrolet Camaro

Creed to compete for an Xfinity title with JGR

The No. 18 Toyota Supra, previously driven by Sammy Smith, will now have Sheldon Creed behind the wheel. Creed leaves Richard Childress Racing, where he has spent the last two seasons. Despite going winless, he’s been a frequent contender at the front of the field. Creed has recorded seven runner-up finishes, and has been close to Victory Lane on several other occasions. 

Winning came easier for him in the Truck Series with eight victories and the 2021 championship on his resume. He also won the 2018 ARCA Menards Series title.

After a contentious playoff race at Martinsville in October, Creed’s now ex-teammate Austin Hill let it slip that the move was a done deal, but the next bit of news also found its way into the public domain before Wednesday’s announcement. Coach Gibbs himself was caught on camera saying that Aric Almirola will be “driving for us now” while speaking to Washington Commanders owner Josh Harris at a game earlier this month.

Sam McCaulay will lead Creed from atop the pit box is among three new crew chiefs being added to JGR’s roster for next year.

Sheldon Creed, Richard Childress Racing, Whelen Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images

Sheldon Creed, Richard Childress Racing, Whelen Chevrolet Camaro

Almirola and Nemechek to split #20 

As expected, the team has now confirmed that Almirola will compete with JGR on a part-time basis in the No. 20 car, which he will share with several others. Nemechek will return for select races  as well. 

Almirola, a veteran of 460 Cup races with three victories at the top level of the sport, already revealed that he will not return to full-time competition next year.

He has four wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, including a surprise victory at Sonoma earlier this year while driving for RSS Racing.

Nemechek won seven races for JGR during the 2023 season, and ended the year fourth in the championship standings.

Tyler Allen will partner with these drivers as the No. 20 car’s crew chief for next year.

Race winner John Hunter Nemechek, Joe Gibbs Racing, Romco Equipment Toyota Supra

Photo by: David Rosenblum / NKP / Motorsport Images

Race winner John Hunter Nemechek, Joe Gibbs Racing, Romco Equipment Toyota Supra

No. 19 to feature several drivers 

Ryan Truex, William Sawalich, Joe Graf Jr., and Taylor Gray will all share the No. 19 Toyota Supra. Seth Chavka will work with these young drivers as crew chief.

Truex, the younger brother of JGR driver and 2017 Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., earned his first career win for the team earlier this year at Dover.

Both Sawalich and Gray will be making their Xfinity debuts next year.

Following his 18th birthday on October 3rd, Sawalich will run the final three races of the 2024 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and Phoenix Raceway.

“Over the last couple of months, we’ve been working diligently to put together our 2024 Xfinity program which will include the addition of a fourth team,” said Steve DeSouza, EVP NASCAR Xfinity Series/Development at JGR. “Our 2024 roster has a great balance of experience, youth, wisdom, and talent. We believe the veteran drivers will continually benchmark our program, compliment, and challenge each other, as well as assist our younger drivers to further develop their skill set. We are also excited about our crew chiefs and the teams they have assembled. We take a lot of pride in not only our program’s on-track success, but also in the opportunity to develop and promote our team members.” 

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