The #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota still needs a driver for three more races on the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule, following a recent confirmation.
Joe Gibbs Racing recently confirmed that Sammy Smith, who competes for Kyle Busch Motorsports in ARCA Menards Series East and currently leads the point standings, is set to make his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut behind the wheel of the #18 Toyota at Road America two weekends from now.
This race at Road America is the first of eight on the schedule for the 18-year-old Johnston, Iowa native behind the wheel of the #18 Toyota, also known as the Joe Gibbs Racing “star car”, this year.
Smith is the seventh driver confirmed of the #18 Toyota for 2022. The other six, Drew Dollar, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Truex, Bubba Wallace, John Hunter Nemechek, and Connor Mosack, have already competed in the car at some point throughout the season’s first 14 races.
Four of those drivers, Dollar, Bayne, Wallace, and Nemechek, have more starts planned throughout the season’s final 19 races.
With Smith having been confirmed for eight of those 19 races and those other four drivers having been confirmed for eight others, the “star car” still needs a driver for three races.
One of those races is the upcoming race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the second at the track this season, on Saturday, July 9. The other two are a bit farther off: the race at Darlington Raceway on Saturday, September 3 and the playoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Saturday, October 8.
Denny Hamlin has competed in an Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway for the team in each of the last seven seasons, so expect that trend to continue.
As for the other two races, Kyle Busch competed in the second race at Atlanta Motor Speedway last season and Ty Gibbs competed in the playoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
Busch has since stopped competing in the Xfinity Series, as he had said he would do for many years once he reached 100 wins, and Gibbs now competes full-time behind the wheel of the #54 Toyota. So the two drivers who combined to compete in 22 of last year’s 33 races behind the wheel of the “star car” are out of the picture.
Who will Joe Gibbs Racing select to drive the #18 Toyota for these three races? While Hamlin seems like an obvious selection for one of them, the other two remain big question marks.
Will they bring in somebody new, or will they expand the schedule or schedules of a driver or drivers already confirmed for the “star car” — perhaps Bayne, who drove the car at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March? With the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway coming up in just a few weeks, expect an announcement in the near future.