Two of their Toyota Camrys are in contention for the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series owner’s championship. But Joe Gibbs Racing already has their eyes on 2018 along with a new driver they’re adding to the lineup: Brandon Jones.
JGR announced their plans for the future Wednesday, maintaining an XFINITY presence. They ran three full-time cars this season, the No. 19 for Matt Tifft and the Nos. 18 and 20 for a mix of drivers, including Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Christopher Bell, and Ryan Preece.
But with Tifft moving to the No. 2 of Richard Childress Racing next year, that opens up a spot. Brandon Jones will move over from RCR’s No. 33 to replace Tifft on a full-time basis. Chris Gabehart will be Jones’ crew chief as the team hopes to continue its 2017 success.
“Our NASCAR XFINITY Series program is so important to us at Joe Gibbs Racing,” explained team owner Joe Gibbs. “We believe [our crew chief’s] experience and ability to work together will really help the development of our young drivers and help our veterans compete for wins each weekend.”
Jones, 20, from Atlanta, Ga., has completed two years in the XFINITY Series. He’s earned 17 top 10s, making the playoffs in 2016 and finishing 10th in the standings. Jones also has four career wins in the ARCA Racing Series.
“I’m really fortunate to have gotten as much experience as I have to this point of my career,” said Jones in a team release. “Very thankful to have worked with so many great people and teams over the past several years.”
Jones will also gain a full-time teammate. Truck Series driver Christopher Bell will move up to the No. 20 full-time with Jason Ratcliff as his crew chief. In 2017, Ratcliff was the head wrench for Matt Kenseth in JGR’s Cup Series No. 20.
Bell, 23, from Norman, Okla., has completed two full-time seasons in the Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He’s earned seven wins and 40 top 10s, challenging for the championship in both years.
Bell has five top 10s in seven XFINITY starts this year, including a win at Kansas Speedway.
Ryan Preece, 27, from Berlin, Conn., will pilot the No. 18 car part-time next season. Preece has competed in three XFINITY races this season for JGR with finishes of second, first, and fourth. Eric Phillips will serve as crew chief for the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion.
“Obviously, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities that I have already had with JGR this season,”said Preece. “Now, to be able to increase the number of races next season is a great step in my career. I’m looking forward to going out there and make the most out of the opportunity.”
JGR’s Cup drivers will fill the other races on the schedule in the No. 18 next season.
Preece and Bell will drive the No. 18 and No. 20 in this weekend’s Ford EcoBoost 300. Saturday’s XFINITY Series season finale will be held at 3:30 p.m. ET with television coverage on NBCSN.