Recently, there has been a growing intrigue surrounding what the future holds for XFINITY Series driver Christopher Bell.
What is Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota going to do with him in 2019? While they’ve made it clear they don’t want to lose the rising star, there has still been no formal announcement regarding his future. Will Furniture Row Racing, who is currently searching for sponsorship, restart a second team? Will an organization like Leavine Family Racing be lured to switch brands to ensure a ride for Bell in exchange for assistance from JGR? Or, will they keep him in XFINITY for another year, risking frustrating a driver who could make himself one of the hottest free agents around?
Meanwhile, there is another young Toyota driver that has also been impressive and like Bell, but no plans announced for next season yet. That would be Ryan Preece, who has made quite the name for himself with the limited amount of opportunities he has received.
In eight starts he has: qualified in the top-10 all but once, finished in the top-five six times, led in three races, scored the pole at Daytona International Speedway, and won at Bristol Motor Speedway. In addition to all of the stats above, his success has come with a schedule that hasn’t featured the same type of track twice.
Yet his future still remains uncertain, all while there have been multiple statements regarding the future of Bell, creating an interesting situation.
This concern surrounding Bell is warranted as they are hoping not to lose another talented driver from their fleet. Kyle Larson originally was a Toyota Racing Development driver before leaving and eventually becoming the success story that he has been with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Chevrolet organization. There was also William Byron who drove for Kyle Busch Motorsports, but is now with Hendrick Motorsports.
Despite trying to set themselves on the right foot, though, JGR may end up with one regardless if Preece is offered a full-time deal somewhere else.
The potential for another team/manufacture to get their hands on a proven young driver if they can provide funding and a full-time ride is there, especially when you look around and see that both Chevy and Ford do not have the youth depth that is showcased with Toyota. All of sudden, a young free agent could be huge for the future of an organization and/or a manufacturer, especially as it appears Bell will remain with the Gibbs/Toyota family in some capacity.
The biggest thing is sponsorship which is a tall mountain to climb though, Preece’s strong performances would provide a strong pitch.
Regardless, with all the uncertainty of silly season, the 27-year-old has made certain that he deserves a deal.
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