There have been questions about the Toyota pipeline in NASCAR since Kyle Busch announced that his Truck Series team would move to Chevrolet. Now a report by RACER indicates that TRD has a replacement.
Kelly Crandall provided the report on October 5. She said that multiple sources told RACER that David Gilliland will move from Ford Performance to the Toyota Racing family for the 2023 season while expanding to four entries. Crandall’s report stated that Tanner and Taylor Gray will both remain with the team for another season.
DGR has not yet announced any news about a potential move to Toyota Racing. The organization declined to comment on the report to Heavy while focusing on the No. 17’s pursuit of an owners’ title. David Gilliland, in particular, told RACER that the team’s plans are still being finalized.
DGR made its debut in the Truck Series during the 2018 season with a variety of drivers. The team was part of the Toyota family at the time, and it remained so through 2019. Tyler Ankrum took DGR — then DGR-Crosley — and Toyota to Victory Lane at Kentucky Speedway during the 2019 season and then the team switched to Ford Performance for 2020 and beyond.
If DGR moves to Toyota Racing as expected, the organization will shake up the complexion of the Truck Series. The 2022 season has featured only two Ford Performance teams — DGR and Front Row Motorsports. 2023 will potentially have only Zane Smith’s No. 38 as the only Ford in the field.
This Move Provides a Rising Driver With an Opportunity
With DGR moving to Toyota Racing and expanding to four entries, there will now be a potential seat for a rising NASCAR driver. Corey Heim has earned a reputation as a solid prospect after winning two of his seven starts in the Camping World Truck Series and two of his starts in the ARCA Menards Series.
Toyota Racing President David Wilson spoke about the Toyota pipeline after Busch announced his move to Richard Childress Racing and KBM’s move to Chevrolet. He specifically stated that both John Hunter Nemechek and Heim would remain at Toyota Racing.
“I’ll suggest that the Toyota drivers that are part of our program will remain a part of our program,” Wilson told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on September 13. “This is the time of year where there is always a lot of discussion. Everyone wants to, of course, have a plan and have an understanding and have a comfort level as to where their seat is going to land next year.”
Heim is a natural fit to move up to the Truck Series on a full-time basis, and RACER reports that he will indeed do so with DGR. Nemechek’s future is less clear, but he would make sense as a replacement for Brandon Jones at Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity Series program after the driver of the No. 19 moves to JR Motorsports.
2 Other Drivers Face Questions After This Reported Move
While DGR’s potential move to Toyota Racing provides a seat for Heim, it also creates questions about two other drivers. How will this affect Hailie Deegan and Ryan Preece during future seasons?
Deegan has been a full-time driver for DGR since the start of the 2020 ARCA Menards Series season, which led to two full-time seasons in the Camping World Truck Series. She has made history by becoming the only female driver with multiple top-10 finishes. This includes two in the 2022 Truck Series season.
Deegan acknowledged in a YouTube video on October 4 that she does not have anything to announce regarding her 2023 NASCAR plans. She said that she is still working through some things and that she wishes she had it figured out already. For now, she will prepare to make her Xfinity Series debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before finishing out the final two races of the Truck Series season.
Preece, for comparison, signed with Stewart-Haas Racing as a reserve driver prior to the 2022 season. This deal included part-time schedules across all three national NASCAR series with Ford-affiliated teams.
Preece has made two points-paying Cup Series starts for Rick Ware Racing, three Xfinity Series starts for BJ McLeod Motorsports, and nine Truck Series starts for David Gilliland Racing. Preece has also delivered two wins for DGR. He won the Truck Series race at Nashville Superspeedway in 2021 and then returned to Victory Lane at the Tennessee track in 2022.
Preece and Deegan are both in the Ford Performance family, so it appears that they are unlikely to make future starts for DGR. Of course, this all remains in flux until the team provides an official announcement about its plans and driver lineup.