Joe Graf Jr. Misses COTA Race With Knee Issue, Here’s His Replacement

Joe Graf Jr.

Getty Joe Graf Jr. poses during NASCAR media days.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers headed to the rain-soaked Circuit of the Americas on Saturday, May 22, to qualify for the Pit Boss 250. However, Joe Graf Jr. did not take part due to an injury. He announced that he would miss the race and that Ross Chastain would make the start for him.

“Unfortunately, I will not be competing at the Circuit of the Americas today,” Graf said in a statement on Twitter. “Earlier this week I strained my knee; I didn’t think it would be an issue, but with the massive breaking [sic] demands at COTA it hurt us a lot yesterday.

“I don’t feel I would be able to run the race today because of it. Huge thanks to Ross Chastain for filling in our G-Coin Chevrolet Camaro today!” Graf added. “Looking forward to being back in the car at Charlotte Motor Speedway next week!”

The Xfinity Series race will take place Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET. FS1 will provide coverage with Adam Alexander, Bubba Wallace, and Ryan Blaney in the booth. PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will provide audio of the action.

Graf Has Started All 10 Races of the Xfinity Series Season

Joe Graf Jr.

GettyJoe Graf Jr. competes in an Xfinity Series race.

The 22-year-old Graf is currently in the midst of his second full-time Xfinity Series season. He drives for SS Green Light Racing along with JJ Yeley and Cody Ware, controlling the No. 07 Chevrolet Camaro. He has a season-best finish of 11th at Daytona International Speedway.

Prior to announcing that he would miss Saturday’s qualifying sessions, Graf had taken part in the Friday practice sessions. He turned in the 40th-fastest time while dealing with his knee strain, per Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass. Now Chastain will try to improve this time while getting some extra practice laps at COTA.

Chastain will be one of several Cup Series drivers pulling double-duty during the trip to Austin. The list also includes Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, AJ Allmendinger, Cole Custer, and Austin Cindric. Circuit of the Americas is an entirely new track for the vast majority of these drivers, and the extra time will help them prepare for Sunday.

Chastain Has Not Competed in Xfinity Since November 2020

Ross Chastain

GettyRoss Chastain competes in an Xfinity Series race.

A seven-year veteran of the Xfinity Series, Chastain last ran a full-time season in 2020. He competed for Kaulig Racing, posting 15 top-five finishes in the No. 38 Chevrolet Camaro. Chastain finished the season seventh in the Xfinity championship race.

Chastain made the leap back to the Cup Series after the season, joining Chip Ganassi Racing and driving the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro. The team needed a full-time driver after firing Kyle Larson for his use of a racial slur and then finishing out the season with Matt Kenseth.

While Chastain has not won a race or cracked the top-five in the 2021 season, he has consistently run in the top-20 at a variety of tracks. His worst two starts were on the Daytona Road Course (39th) and Bristol Motor Speedway on dirt (35th). According to Racing Reference, Chastain’s best finish of the season is seventh in the Daytona 500.

The veteran has struggled in the past in road course races. He has made six starts ahead of the trip to Circuit of the Americas, posting a career-best finish of 22nd at the Charlotte Roval. Now Chastain will try to surpass this mark after logging some laps on Saturday.

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