Joe Gibbs Racing is certainly going to be part of the discussion for race wins and the championship next year in the NASCAR XFINITY Series after revealing their 2018 driver/crew chief line-up on Wednesday afternoon.
“Our NASCAR XFINITY Series program is so important to us at Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “We are focused on the opportunities we have this weekend in Miami of course, but excited about the talented lineup of drivers we will have competing for us in 2018. The addition of Brandon Jones to our lineup will provide tremendous competition to the Series and give us two opportunities to run for the XFINITY Driver’s Championship, as well as the Owner’s Championship next season. For as young as he is, Brandon has gained a lot of experience across several different series and we are excited to see what he can do in our equipment and with Chris (Gabehart) leading that team.”
As announced last month, Christopher Bell will run his first full schedule in the XFINITY Series behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota Tundra. Bell is one of the drivers in the Championship 4 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title this weekend, and scored his first career XFINITY win at Kansas Speedway in October.
Serving as the team’s crew chief will be Jason Ratcliff, who has spent the past five years calling the shots for Matt Kenseth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Ratcliff led the No. 20 to eight wins and best points standings finish of second in 2013.
Brandon Jones will move from Richard Childress Racing to JGR in 2018 to drive the No. 19 Toyota Camry full-time. Jones is currently in the midst of his second full season of XFINITY competition, currently 16th in the standings with three top-10’s; he finished 10th in points last year.
“I’m really fortunate to have gotten as much experience as I have to this point of my career and very thankful to have worked with so many great people and teams over the past several years,” said Jones. “When you look at what JGR has done with Toyota in the XFINITY Series over the past decade the results speak for themselves and I’m excited to go out next season knowing I have an opportunity to be successful each and every week.”
Chris Gabehart will call the shots for Jones, as he enters his second season on top of the box. Gabehart has been successful to date, scoring nine wins and 39 top-10’s in 64 races, including a fourth-place standings result with Erik Jones in 2016.
The organization will also continue to field a third entry, which will see their Cup drivers split time behind the wheel. Kyle Busch is expected to run seven races, along with fellow stars Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, and Denny Hamlin. Also on-board to run some of the events is Ryan Preece with at least 10 races on his schedule in 2018. He ran three events in 2017, scoring his first series victory at Iowa Speedway.
“Obviously I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities that I have already had with JGR this season and now to be able to increase the number of races next season is a great step in my career,” said Preece. “I’m looking forward to going out there and make the most out of the opportunity.”
Eric Phillips will be the crew chief, entering his third season on the pit box with the team. He led Suarez to a fifth-place points finish in 2015, before scoring five victories (four with Busch, one with Hamlin) this season.
“We’re proud of our crew chiefs in that series as well,” Gibbs added. “Jason (Ratcliff) is someone we obviously have a lot of confidence in having had great success for us in both the XFINITY and Cup Series. Having Chris (Gabehart) and Eric (Phillips) back gives us proven winners atop each pit box. We believe their experience and ability to work together will really help the development of our young drivers and help our veterans compete for wins each weekend.”
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