When the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season begins, one of the top teams will feature a considerably different lineup. Two of Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers will move on while another may or may not return. JGR has four cars that run each week, and all could potentially have new drivers.
Kaulig Racing announced on Saturday, Sept. 25, that Daniel Hemric will leave JGR at the end of the 2021 season and take over the No. 11 Chevrolet Camaro. He will become the second man to depart the organization, following Harrison Burton who signed a deal to join Wood Brothers Racing in the Cup Series in 2022.
These two departures mean that JGR will have to find new drivers for the No. 20 Toyota Supra and the No. 18 Toyota Supra. However, there are questions about the other two stock cars in the building as the end of the 2021 season approaches. JGR has yet to announce plans for the No. 19 and the No. 54.
Will Brandon Jones Return to the No. 19 in 2022?
A seven-year veteran of the Xfinity Series with six full seasons on his resume, Jones is in his fourth year with JGR and is in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive time. He originally joined the team in 2018 after two seasons with Richard Childress Racing and has locked up four total wins in the No. 19 Toyota.
Jones has continued to sign one-year extensions with JGR, keeping him in the Xfinity Series. For example, the team announced in October 2019 that Jones would return for the 2020 season. JGR then issued a press release and announced another one-year extension in October 2020 that kept Jones around for 2021.
JGR has yet to provide updates about whether Jones will return to the No. 19 for a fifth season. However, this timing is nothing new. The organization previously waited until mid-October or later in previous years to provide updates about Jones and his contract situation. JGR will likely continue to follow this timeline and will wait to make any announcements until near the end of the season.
Will the No. 54 Continue To Rotate Drivers or Rely on 1?
The other stock car with major questions is the No. 54 Toyota Supra. This stock car has served as the ride for up-and-comers and Cup Series drivers alike to test out some tracks throughout the Xfinity Series season.
Kyle Busch, for example, has made a multitude of starts in the No. 54, but he announced during the 2021 season that he will “retire” from the Xfinity Series season. He will not make his standard five starts in 2022, opening up the seat for another driver or a rotating cast.
Additionally, Ty Gibbs will most likely take over one of the JGR cars on a full-time basis in 2022, according to a report by Fox Sports writer Bob Pockrass. The plan, as of July, is for Gibbs to run full-time in either the No. 20 or the No. 54. He has already made 15 starts in the No. 54, posting three wins and an average finish of 8.6.
If Gibbs goes to the No. 20, JGR will have to find other drivers for at least 20 dates on the Xfinity Series calendar. The Toyota Cup Series roster could fill some of the gaps, but NASCAR has strict rules about full-time Cup Series drivers only making five starts each year in lower series.
JGR could address this sudden availability of seat time by adding another full-time driver to the roster. John Hunter Nemechek is a member of the Toyota family who has yet to announce plans for the 2022 season. The team could also move forward with only three cars instead of four. There are several options on the table for the perennial playoff organization, all of which will make the 2022 Xfinity Series season more fascinating.
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