NASCAR: Full-time driver change confirmed for 2024

Noah Gragson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Noah Gragson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

John Hunter Nemechek is officially set to replace Noah Gragson at Legacy Motor Club for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.

When John Hunter Nemechek opted to leave Front Row Motorsports after his rookie NASCAR Cup Series season in 2020, his goal was to get back to the Cup Series eventually in a more competitive ride.

He knew it was a long-term goal that would not happen overnight. So the Mooresville, North Carolina native realigned with Toyota and dropped down to the Truck Series, where he competed for Kyle Busch Motorsports for two seasons.

He won seven Truck Series races, including several over Kyle Busch himself in second place, and made one Championship 4 appearance.

Amid Kyle Busch Motorsports’ switch from Toyota to Chevrolet, Nemechek was faced with an uncertain future. But his performance led to a full-time promotion to the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing, where he currently sits in second place in the point standings with five victories in 25 races after competing in select events in 2021 and 2022.

Earlier this summer, Nemechek was linked to Legacy Motor Club’s No. 42 car for the 2024 season. Noah Gragson had been struggling, recording just two top 20 finishes in 21 starts, and Nemechek had long been viewed as one of the top prospects in the Toyota talent pipleline.

So with Legacy Motor Club set to switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year, Nemechek was linked to the seat, and when Gragson was suspended indefinitely by both the team and NASCAR for “liking” an inappropriate social media meme before ultimately requesting his release from the team, Nemechek moving to the No. 42 Toyota was viewed as inevitable.

Plus, let’s not forget that Legacy Motor Club is simply a rebrand of Petty GMS Motorsports, which was formed ahead of the 2022 season when Richard Petty Motorsports and GMS Racing merged. Nemechek is a former GMS Racing driver.

Now the move has been confirmed, and Legacy Motor Club’s lineup for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season has been solidified.

Erik Jones is set to return for a fourth season with the team behind the wheel of the No. 43 car. He has not competed for Toyota since his third and final season with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020.

And of course, team co-owner Jimmie Johnson is set to compete in select races for a manufacturer other than Chevrolet for the first time in his illustrious career.

With Nemechek being a Toyota driver, it is worth mentioning that he obviously wasn’t going to fill in for Gragson throughout the rest of the 2023 season in a Chevrolet, even as the practical shoo-in for the seat next year. Plus, he has the 2023 Xfinity Series championship to focus on, as he remains one of the favorites.

So far, Josh Berry, Mike Rockenfeller, and Carson Hocevar have spent time behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet following Gragson’s release.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Keep in mind, while Nemechek is in his 11th season of competition in one (or more) of NASCAR’s three national series, he is still just 26 years old. So it appears as though his gamble has paid off, and if Legacy Motor Club can become more competitive as a third Toyota team as opposed to an eighth Chevrolet team, Nemechek has what it takes to be a factor in the Cup Series for years to come.