When NASCAR released the entry list for Saturday’s XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge, the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing was listed with TBA (To Be Announced) in the drivers’ slot. On Wednesday, they announced their man for the weekend.
JGR will be fielding 39-year old Owen Kelly this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. For Kelly, this will not be the first time that he’s driven for the team. Back in 2013, Kelly raced in the two standalone road races (Mid-Ohio and Road America) in the No. 54 Monster Energy-sponsored Toyota. That No. 54 is essentially the present No. 18. Kelly finished fourth at Road America that year, but ran into problems at Mid-Ohio and finished 23rd.
Outside of JGR, Kelly has one other start in the XFINITY Series, which occurred back in 2010 at Road America for Baker-Curb Racing. Kelly started ninth and finished fifth that day. He also has one career start in the Sprint Cup Series, finishing 24th in the 2013 Cheez-it 355 at the Glen for then-Phoenix Racing
Kelly is very excited about returning to the XFINITY Series.
“This is a great opportunity; I’d prefer it to be under different circumstances in regard to Matt’s health, but the good news is that he is on the mend, so I’m happy to help out the [No.] 18 team, and I look forward to working with Chris Gayle also,” Kelly said in a press release.
Kelly is alluding to the fact that the seat was originally supposed to be Matt Tifft’s for this weekend. However, Tifft is still on the mend from brain surgery in July. On Wednesday, Tifft tweeted that he’s back in the hospital for studies.
Doing a 5 day study in the hospital for some brain electrical stuff-all wired up! pic.twitter.com/aFX4O73fv5
— Matt Tifft (@matt_tifft) August 9, 2016
Despite the return to the hospital, he is still in high spirits and recovering from the tumor. There is still no timetable for Tifft’s return to racing.
Sponsorship for Kelly will be provided by Tunity, a free app that allows users to scan muted TV programming and get the audio streamed directly to smartphones. It is currently available in both Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android phones.
Additional XFINITY Series driver announcements for Mid-Ohio:
Andy Lally will return to the XFINITY Series for a single engagement this weekend in Mid-Ohio driving the No. 90 for DGR Motorsports. He just got word on Wednesday that its happening. Sponsorship will be provided by BuckedUp Apparel. Texas Motor Speedway has also pledged support.
— Andy Lally (@AndyLally) August 10, 2016
Lally drove the No. 90 last year at Mid-Ohio, but it was actually being fielded by SS-Green Light Racing. Lally qualified 22nd and finished 21st with a very small effort with only a couple of crewmembers working on the car prior to the race. In addition to Mid-Ohio last year, Lally has five other previous starts in the XFINITY Series with a best finish of seventh in 2014 at Road America for Viva Motorsports (now the the part-time Precision Performance Racing).
Obaika Racing has announced that Camping World Truck Series regular Jordan Anderson will return to the XFINITY Series this weekend at Mid-Ohio in the No. 97 Chevrolet, joining up with T.J. Bell. Vroom Brands will remain on both cars as primary sponsor.
Anderson has only one previous start in the XFINITY Series. That came last year at Bristol, where Anderson finished 36th for Mike Harmon. At the time, Anderson was technically driving for Harmon in the Camping World Truck Series. There, Anderson has one career start on a road course (last year at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park). Anderson started 23rd and finished 16th.