TRACKING THE CHANGES: XFINITY Series Silly Season
From one season to the next, NASCAR is never short of changes as there are always drivers in new rides entering another year of NASCAR XFINITY Series competition.
The 2019 campaign will be no different, so let’s review where things stand as of January 9, 2019.
After success in the ARCA Series and a limited Gander Outdoor Truck Series schedule in 2018, Zane Smith will make the next step of his racing career in running eight NASCAR XFINITY Series races for JR Motorsports.
Smith will be just one of the drivers who will jump behind the wheel of the No. 9 entry that is expected to be campaigned full-time with different faces behind the wheel. Taylor Moyer will lead the effort in his first year as a crew chief after spending the last four years as an engineer at Hendrick Motorsports.
After placing second in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series standings, Noah Gragson will move up to the XFINITY Series, driving the No. 1 full-time for JR Motorsports. He will be working with Dave Elenz, who led Tyler Reddick to the series championship in 2018.
Tyler Reddick will remain in the series after winning the title, but with a different team. After scoring his first career championship with JR Motorsports, he will try to go back-to-back with Richard Childress Racing as he replaces Daniel Hemric. Hemric, meanwhile, will move up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Citing a lack of sponsorship, Roush Fenway Racing has shut down both the No. 16 and No. 60 XFINITY Series team heading into 2019.
Ryan Reed drove the No. 16 Ford full-time for the past five years with Lilly’s Diabetes sponsoring, scoring two victories and seven top-five’s in 165 races. With the funding pulled at the end of 2018, it has left the California native without any plans announced thus far in the off-season.
The No. 60 Ford was split among three drivers – Ty Majeski, Austin Cindric, and Chase Briscoe. Majeski is the only one of those who has yet to announce his plans for the 2019 campaign.
Austin Cindric spent last year bouncing between two teams – Team Penske and Roush Fenway Racing – en route to completing the full schedule, and making the playoffs in the process. He will have consistency for 2019, behind the wheel for Team Penske for all 33 events on the calendar.
After scoring his first career XFINITY Series victory on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL for Stewart-Haas Racing, Chase Briscoe will run the full schedule for the team. SHR is making a big shift in 2019, campaigning two drivers full-time (Briscoe and Cole Custer) for the driver’s championship rather than having just one chase the title with the other car split among drivers.
Brandon Jones is back with Joe Gibbs Racing for 2019, but will have a new crew chief on the pit box as Jeff Meendering will be calling the shots. Meendering spent that past two seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing as the crew chief for Custer.
Chris Gabehart, who worked with Jones in 2018, will move up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to work with Denny Hamlin.
Additionally, the No. 18 XFINITY Series entry for JGR with have a new crew chief, with Ben Beshore calling the shots. Beshore worked as an engineer for Kyle Busch in the Cup Series previously. He replaces Eric Phillips, who will be Hamlin’s car chief in 2019.
Ross Chastain looked like he had everything in place, announcing that he would drive full-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in the XFINITY Series in 2019 after a victory earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
However, it was announced that CGR will be shutting down their team due to a lack of funding. The news came following sponsor DC Solar’s offices were raided by the FBI.
“Due to a lack of sponsorship funding we will cease operation of the No. 42 Xfinity team in 2019,” Chip Ganassi released in a statement. “This was a difficult decision for me to make and it comes with much anguish as this is a championship caliber team (having won six races and finished second in the owners championship) and more importantly because it affects a number of good people’s livelihoods. Running a car without proper funding is difficult to do.”
Chastain has yet to announce any plans for 2019 since the reveal from Ganassi.
Chastain wasn’t the only driver to win in the XFINITY Series last year behind the wheel of the No. 42 for Ganassi as John Hunter Nemechek went to victory lane at Kansas Speedway. The second-generation racer will get to run full-time in NASCAR’s second-tier division after signing a deal with GMS Racing.
“It was great last year to run in the XFINITY Series and win a race last year,” he told POPULAR SPEED in December. “So to be in a seat full-time every week, it’s only going to mean that much more. Just very blessed and thankful for the opportunity that’s been presented. Really looking forward to the future and seeing what myself and the great people at GMS with a great infrastructure can do.”
GMS Racing had a successful year in both the XFINITY Series and Truck Series, with Justin Haley taking them to victory lane on three occasions behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado. Haley will now have the opportunity to prove himself in the XFINITY Series, as he was announced as the full-time driver for Kaulig Racing.
Ryan Truex drove for Kaulig Racing in 2018, scoring 11 top-10’s en route to placing 12th in the year-end standings. The younger brother of Martin Truex Jr. has yet to announce plans for 2019.
Blake Koch drove for Kaulig Racing in 2017, scoring a total of five top-10 finishes. After taking a year off, he will be back behind the wheel in 2019 full-time for JD Motorsports.
Vinnie Miller will be back full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, just with a different team. After running all 33 races last year for JD Motorsports, he will make the shift over to B.J. McLeod Motorsports in 2019.
After bouncing around between sub-par rides, Jeffrey Earnhardt will get a chance to prove himself in top-tier equipment in 2019. He announced that he will be running a total of nine races for Joe Gibbs Racing.
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