NASCAR: Joe Gibbs Racing announce new driver for No. 19 car

Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Joe Gibbs Racing have announced a new driver for the No. 19 Toyota for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, confirming Joe Graf Jr. for five races.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver lineup is still coming together for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

Both of their full-time drivers from last year, Ty Gibbs and Brandon Jones, have moved on, with Gibbs replacing the Richard Childress Racing-bound Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing’s Cup Series team and Jones replacing the Cup Series-bound Noah Gragson at JR Motorsports.

Sammy Smith and John Hunter Nemechek, who each spent time driving the team’s “star car” throughout the 2022 season, are set to take over as full-time drivers in 2023, though with different car numbers.

Smith is set to drive the No. 18 Toyota, which had been the “star car”, while Nemechek is set to drive the No. 20 Toyota, which wasn’t in the team’s lineup last year. The No. 19 Toyota, which had been driven by Jones, is set to be the new “star car”, while the No. 54 Toyota, which had been driven by Gibbs, is no longer in the lineup.

Ryan Truex, who also drove the “star car” last year, is set to return for select races this year. After competing in five races for the team in 2022, he is set to compete in six in 2023, though his schedule hasn’t been announced.

The announcement of Truex’s return still left Joe Gibbs Racing needing to fill the No. 19 Toyota for 27 races.

Now they have filled it for five of those 27 races, announcing a five-race deal for Joe Graf Jr. for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

The 24-year-old Mahwah, New Jersey native is set to compete at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday, February 25; Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 4; Richmond Raceway on Saturday, April 1; New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, July 15; and Kansas Speedway on Saturday, September 9.

While his deal with Joe Gibbs Racing is only for five races, Graf is set to run the full 2023 schedule, as he had already announced a deal with RSS Racing to compete in the other 28 races behind the wheel of the No. 38 Ford, beginning with the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Graf made select starts with Richard Childress Racing in 2019 before becoming a full-time driver for SS-Green Light Racing in 2020. He competed part-time for SS-Green Light Racing during the 2021 and 2022 seasons and also made one start with both RSS Racing and B.J. McLeod Motorsports in 2022.

In 93 career Xfinity Series starts, Graf has two top 10 finishes. Both finishes, a 10th place finish in 2021 and an eighth place finish in 2022, came at Talladega Superspeedway.

Graf competed in the ARCA Menards Series in 2018 and 2019 for Chad Bryant Racing. In 39 starts, he earned one win at Berlin Raceway, with that win coming in 2018. He finished in a career-high fifth place in the championship standings in 2019 with 13 top 10 finishes in 20 starts.

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The 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season is scheduled to start on Saturday, February 18 with the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 5:00 p.m. ET.