Joe Gibbs Racing Reveals First Xfinity Series Driver for 2023

Sammy Smith

Getty Sammy Smith will drive full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Joe Gibbs Racing has provided a big piece of information ahead of its official lineup announcement event. The team has revealed its first full-time Xfinity Series driver for the 2023 season.

Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement on December 6 with a video and a press release. The team confirmed that Smith will return for the 2023 season after he made nine starts during the 2022 season.

The two-time ARCA Menards Series East champion will have Pilot Flying J as his primary partner on the No. 18 Toyota GR Supra. Smith will also have support from Allstate Peterbilt, TMC Transportation, Renda Group, Sinclair Tractor, and Mobil 1.

“This is an opportunity I have been working towards,” Smith said in the press release. “I can’t wait to get behind the wheel full-time and am looking forward to a great season. I learned a lot in 2022 that will really help me to be competitive and run up front in the Xfinity Series.

“Thank you to Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation, Allstate Peterbilt Group, and Toyota Racing Development for supporting me in my racing career. I am excited for next year and appreciate the opportunity.”

Smith Will Have a New Crew Chief

Sammy Smith

GettySammy Smith (front) drives at Phoenix Raceway.

Smith’s first races in the Xfinity Series featured Jason Ratcliff as his crew chief. He was able to secure three top-10 finishes and one top-five while working with the veteran, but he will now have a new figure atop the pit box.

According to the announcement, Jeff Mendeering will be the new crew chief for the No. 18 team. Meendering has spent the past four seasons working with Brandon Jones on the No. 19 team while celebrating five wins.

Prior to joining Joe Gibbs Racing, Meendering also spent two seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing. He was the crew chief for Cole Custer in 2017 and 2018, which resulted in two trips to Victory Lane.

Along with the time in the Xfinity Series, Meendering also worked as a crew chief in the Cup Series. He joined Jeff Gordon for four races in 2007 and then he joined Bobby Labonte for the full season in 2008.

Smith Remains in the Toyota Development Pipeline.

The news that Smith will return to the No. 18 for a full season did not come as a surprise to anyone. The reason is that he performed during his part-time schedule while going toe-to-toe with Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, and other top drivers.

The move also means that Smith will remain in the Toyota Racing pipeline for the foreseeable future. He will continue to gain experience with a championship-winning organization, and he will set himself up for bigger moves in the future.

Smith will not be the only driver competing for both Toyota Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. There are more announcements that will take place on Thursday, December 8, as JGR sets its lineup for the 2023 Xfinity Series season.

“Sammy is a fantastic addition to our 2023 Xfinity lineup. He proved to have the passion and the talent necessary to compete for wins in the races he ran for us in 2022,” said Steve DeSouza, Executive Vice President of Xfinity Series and Driver Development. “We are excited to get him in the No. 18 full-time and know he will be competitive from the jump.”

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