Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Creed, Smith join JGR Xfinity, sextet to split two all-star cars

Sheldon Creed hopes his new home Joe Gibbs Racing will be a friendlier place than his last stop as he will pilot the #18 Toyota GR Supra for the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. Chandler Smith returns to Toyota as his partner in the #81, while JGR will also field a pair of multi-driver cars.

Creed spent the last two years at Richard Childress Racing. Despite not winning a race, he barely missed out on the 2023 Championship Round following an entanglement with his team-mate Austin Hill that virtually assured him a messy divorce from the team. In heading to Toyota, he returns to the manufacturer with whom he won the 2018 ARCA Menards Series championship.

Smith was a Toyota development driver who finished third in the 2022 Truck Series championship before defecting to Chevrolet’s Kaulig Racing for his Xfinity rookie season. He finished ninth in points with a win at Richmond, but elected to return to Toyota amidst a reshuffling at Kaulig.

The team will also field the #20 for Aric Almirola and John Hunter Nemechek and the #19 for the quartet of Joe Graf Jr., Taylor Gray, William Sawalich, and Ryan Truex.

Almirola stepped away from full-time Cup Series racing after 2023, rejoining the organisation with whom he began his national series career in the 2000s. He raced part-time for JGR from 2005 to 2007, scoring just one win in controversial fashion, before moving to the Cup Series with Chevrolet. While a Cup full-timer, he made sporadic Xfinity starts that included winning at Sonoma in June.

“20 years ago, I got a phone call from Coach and JD Gibbs that changed my life,” reads a statement from Almirola. “I am so grateful and humbled that Coach called and asked me to come back home to JGR and finish my career here. God works in ways that we can not always understand and god has quite the sense of humour. I left JGR because all I wanted was a path to Cup and I didn’t see it happening with their driver lineup at the time. I wanted so desperately to race full time and progress as a racer. Now all I want is to race part time in order to spend more time with family, have fun behind the wheel, and help others achieve their goals. I am incredibly blessed to have this opportunity with so many familiar faces from 20 years ago and with the new relationships that will be built. I pray that I will be able to contribute both on and off the track honouring God along the way.”

Nemechek will run ten races in the #20, the same car he dominated the 2023 season with as he scored seven wins and reached the Championship Round. He will race for new Toyota ally Legacy Motor Club in the Cup Series in 2024.

Graf ran six races for JGR in 2023 as part of a full-time campaign which he split with RSS Racing, notching two top tens and finishing twenty-third in points. Gray and Sawalich will make their Xfinity débuts; the former placed fifteenth in the 2023 standings, running all but the first three races, while the latter is the reigning ARCA East champion who made six Truck starts.

Truex, whose older brother Martin races for JGR’s Cup team, continues his limited slate with the Xfinity division. He won at Dover in April.

“Over the last couple of months, we’ve been working diligently to put together our 2024 Xfinity programme which will include the addition of a fourth team,” commented Xfinity head Steve DeSouza. “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.”