Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: The Joe Gibbs Racing Land Rush

There are currently three opens seats in Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR Xfinity Series program.

Who gets those seats could not only impact who is going to dominate Xfinity over the next few seasons, but also who could be the next generation for JGR and Toyota at the NASCAR Cup Series level.

JGR has been the most dominant Xfinity team for over a decade. Gibbs has won at least eight races every Xfinity season since 2008 (with Kyle Busch doing a lot of that heavy lifting).

It’s won the past two Xfinity championships (Daniel Hemric, Ty Gibbs) and has a solid chance at three-peating, as John Hunter Nemechek leads the series with seven wins.

See also
Bringing the Heat: Daniel Hemric Talks Return to NASCAR Cup Series

JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing can be better at times. But you ask and most will say JGR consistently has the best Xfinity cars.

The current JGR Xfinity lineup consists of Sammy Smith, Nemechek and an all-star car. Smith is headed to JR Motorsports next year, while Nemechek is headed to Cup via a Legacy Motor Club Toyota.

So that leaves the Nos. 18 and 20 wide open. The No. 19 will probably continue to be an all-star car next year with Ryan Truex, Trevor Bayne, the Gibbs Cup drivers and a handful of others filling out the season. Personally, I’d like to see a situation where Truex and his older brother Martin split a car full time in Xfinity, like Benny and Phil Parsons did in Cup in the 1980s and like the Busch brothers did in 2012. But that probably won’t happen.

I’m not terribly interested in that car because it hasn’t made that much of a difference. Truex won in that car and Bayne has had solid runs, but neither one is likely getting anything more than more races in the No. 19 out of that success.

So all eyes turn to the Nos. 18 and 20. Whoever gets those two cars full time would be primed to dominate the series next year. And whichever one of the two new drivers comes out on top could be awarded with Gibbs’ No. 19 Cup ride.

Martin Truex Jr. weighed retirement heavily before committing to this season and 2024. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if next year was the last call for the future Hall of Famer. Some lucky driver from Gibbs’ Xfinity program is likely getting the No. 19 ride, one of the best cars in Cup, in 2025.

And for whoever doesn’t get Truex’s car? Denny Hamlin is 42 years old, so he won’t be racing for too many more years. Plus 23XI Racing and Legacy could expand in the coming years. So there could up to four Toyota rides available in the next handful of years.

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That’s such a huge contrast from a few years ago when drivers like Hemric, Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson and Riley Herbst left because there weren’t enough Toyota seats.

So now, any intelligent driver out there confident in his or her ability should be fighting to get those two full-time JGR Xfinity rides. It may even be a done deal as to who is getting those car and it just hasn’t been announced publicly yet.

Two names emerged this week as the favorites: Chandler Smith and Sheldon Creed.

Sportsnaut reported on Monday (Oct. 9) that Smith is trying to get out of his deal with Kaulig Racing to go Xfinity racing with JGR. Smith was formerly in the TRD pipeline, so it would be a homecoming of sorts.

That speaks to how good Gibbs’ equipment is when Smith, who has won this year and is currently in the Round of 8, is trying to go there for an upgrade. Although there were rumblings he wasn’t happy that the team picked Hemric to move up next year instead of him, so this attempted move could be more about personal feelings than equipment.

Of course, all of this talk could be for naught if Smith is unable to get out of his contract or if he and Kaulig smooth things over.

As for Creed, the second-year driver announced on Wednesday (Oct. 11) he was leaving Richard Childress Racing. He didn’t say yet what his plans were for next year, but JGR instantly becomes the best-looking option if the team is interested in him. And what I mean by “if the team is interested in him” is whether or not he and his camp have the money needed.

Further fueling that Creed-to-Gibbs speculation was a tweet or X by Catchfence’s Lee Spencer that said “You can run but you can’t hide in @JoeGibbsRacing equipment …”

Creed has gone winless in his two seasons with RCR while teammate Austin Hill has set the world on fire. The two had a big feud in the playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway last month. So if you can’t beat ’em, get in better equipment than ’em.

See also
Eyes on Xfinity: Who Replaces Sheldon Creed?

But obviously, any talk of Creed going to JGR is purely speculation as of this moment.

Other drivers who had previously been rumored to go to JGR’s Xfinity program were Herbst, Brandon Jones and Corey Heim. But it appears all three will stay in their current spots for next year.

The puzzle pieces are slowly coming together, but there is still a long way to go in Xfinity silly season. It usually doesn’t wrap up until after the Cup silly season is finished, and well, we’re still not done with Cup silly season.

But pay attention to the various drivers freeing themselves up of their current rides. They could be trying to be a part of the land rush to join JGR.

About the author

Michael.massie 113x150

Michael Massie joined Frontstretch in 2017 and has served as the Content Director since 2020. Massie, a Richmond, Va., native, has covered NASCAR, IndyCar, SRX and the CARS Tour. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad and Green Bay Packers minority owner can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies and Packers.

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Carl D.

So many variables… Noah Gragson is another one. And Dinger.

Tony Everidge

Simple answer. Whoever brings the $$$$$$$. Bottom line.

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