NASCAR: Joe Gibbs Racing announce new driver for #18 car

Bubba Wallace, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Sammy Smith is set to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in eight of the remaining races on the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.

When the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series began, Joe Gibbs Racing weren’t even close to having their driver lineup solidified for the “star car” for the full 33-race season.

But as the season has progressed, they have made several announcements regarding which drivers will get a chance pilot the #18 Toyota in select races this year, alongside full-time drivers Brandon Jones in the #19 Toyota and Ty Gibbs in the #54 Toyota.

The latest announcement came earlier this week, when the team announced that Sammy Smith, who competes for Kyle Busch Motorsports in ARCA Menards Series East, is set to drive the #18 Toyota in eight of the season’s remaining 19 races.

Smith, the reigning ARCA Menards Series East champion with Joe Gibbs Racing, leads the series standings again through four of seven races in 2022 with three victories and a fifth place finish. He is set to make his Xfinity Series debut in the race at Road America on Saturday, July 2.

The 18-year-old Johnston, Iowa native is also set to compete in the races at Pocono Raceway (Saturday, July 23), Michigan International Speedway (Saturday, August 6), Watkins Glen International (Saturday, August 20), Kansas Speedway (Saturday, September 10), Bristol Motor Speedway (Friday, September 16), Martinsville Speedway (Saturday, October 29), and Phoenix Raceway (Saturday, November 5).

Through 14 races this season, the #18 Toyota has been driven by Trevor Bayne, Ryan Truex, Drew Dollar, John Hunter Nemechek, Bubba Wallace, and Connor Mosack.

Bayne and Truex have each driven it in fourth races, Dollar and Nemechek have each driven it in two, and Wallace and Mosack have each driven it in one.

Bayne is set to drive it in four more, Dollar is set to drive it in two more, and Wallace and Nemechek are each set to drive it in one more. Combined with Smith’s eight starts, that leaves three races for which a driver of the #18 Toyota has not yet been confirmed.

Those three races are the races at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Saturday, July 9), Darlington Raceway (Saturday, September 3), and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Saturday, October 8). Ty Gibbs, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch, respectively, competed in those races in last year.

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Gibbs, the primary driver of the “star car” in 2021, is now a full-time driver, and Busch is not driving the “star car” at all in 2022, as he retired from Xfinity Series competition after reaching 100 career wins last year. Prior to this season, Busch hadn’t not competed in the series since 2002. As for Hamlin, he has competed in an Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway in each of the last seven seasons, so expect that trend to continue in 2022.