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.
He 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 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.
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.
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.
Truex, the younger brother of JGR driver and 2017 Cup champion Martin, 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.