Joe Gibbs Racing have made a number of confirmations for the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, but perhaps the most obvious change hasn’t been announced.
Joe Gibbs Racing will be undergoing a number of changes for the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, and most of them have already been formally announced.
One thing that is set to remain the same is that Brandon Jones is set to be back for a fifth season behind the wheel of the #19 Toyota, but beyond that, change abounds.
After a championship-winning 2021 season, Daniel Hemric is set to vacate the #18 Toyota and join Kaulig Racing as the replacement for the Cup Series-bound Justin Haley behind the wheel of the #11 Chevrolet.
Meanwhile, Harrison Burton is set to vacate the #20 Toyota and move up to the Cup Series as the replacement for Matt DiBenedetto behind the wheel of the #21 Ford at Wood Brothers Racing.
As for the #54 Toyota, which has been known as the team’s “star car”, Kyle Busch will not be back for his usual five races, as he retired from Xfinity Series competition after a 2021 season which saw him reach 100 wins (ended with 102).
This car is still set to return, but it is set to be the team’s third car, not the fourth car, as they will be downsizing for 2022.
But perhaps the biggest change, and the one that has long been seen as the most obvious, has still not yet been announced.
The primary driver of the #54 Toyota throughout the 2021 season was Ty Gibbs, the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs. He entered the year having never made a start in any one of NASCAR’s three national series, but he made an immediate impact, winning on debut at the Daytona International Speedway road course.
Gibbs ended up competing in 18 races on the 33-race schedule, and he earned four victories en route to claiming Rookie of the Year honors as the highest finishing driver in the standings who did not qualify for the playoffs.
Of course, had he been playoff eligible, he would have easily been in, and he would have been a championship contender.
His 2021 success wasn’t limited to the Xfinity Series. With 10 wins in 20 races, he won the 2021 ARCA Menard Series championship. In four ARCA Menards Series East starts, he never lost, and in two ARCA Menards Series West starts, he also never lost.
It has not yet officially been announced that Gibbs will compete full-time for his grandfather’s Xfinity Series team next year, but an announcement is believed to be nothing more than a formality at this point.
Plus, Interstate Batteries already confirmed that they will be sponsoring the 19-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native in three races next year.
The only real question that remains is what car number he will use — and, of course, when the official confirmation will be made. Will he replace Hemric behind the wheel of the #18 Toyota? Will he replace Burton behind the wheel of the #20 Toyota? Or will he simply drive the #54 Toyota full-time, making the #18 Toyota or the #20 Toyota the new “star car”? Which number will be axed altogether?
Sooner or later, this should all be made public.