NASCAR: Toyota getting back a driver they lost last year?

Chandler Smith, Kaulig Racing, Chevrolet, Sammy Smith, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, NASCAR Xfinity Series (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Chandler Smith, Kaulig Racing, Chevrolet, Sammy Smith, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, NASCAR Xfinity Series (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Chandler Smith is one of several young drivers whom Toyota have lost in recent years, but they might get him back for the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

After spending several years competing for Toyota, including the 2021 and 2022 seasons as a full-time driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Truck Series, Chandler Smith signed a multi-year contract to drive for Kaulig Racing beginning in 2023.

Driving the No. 16 Chevrolet, Smith won a race and placed ninth in the championship standings. He even got the opportunity to compete in three Cup Series races for Kaulig Racing in 2023, and he showed well in all three.

But with teammate Daniel Hemric set to replace the Rick Ware Racing-bound Justin Haley at Kaulig Racing’s Cup Series team and Ty Dillon likely to replace A.J. Allmendinger, Smith will not remain with the organization next year.

Chandler Smith is rumored to be joining Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

The move would reunite Smith with Toyota just one year after he had ironically been viewed as a potential Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity Series driver before leaving the manufacturer.

Toyota have lost a number of young drivers, including Smith, in recent seasons, so getting him back in 2024 would certainly be a plus, especially given the fact that Joe Gibbs Racing need to perform a complete Xfinity Series lineup overhaul for the second straight season.

After last season, Ty Gibbs was promoted to the Cup Series, while Brandon Jones left for JR Motorsports. But John Hunter Nemechek and Sammy Smith were named their replacements, and Chandler Smith, despite being viewed as one of Toyota’s top young prospects at the time, ended up with Chevrolet at Kaulig Racing instead.

After the 2023 season, Nemechek is set to move to the Cup Series with Legacy Motor Club as Noah Gragson’s replacement, while Sammy Smith is set to join JR Motorsports as the replacement for the Stewart-Haas Racing-bound Josh Berry.

Now Toyota have the opportunity to get back one of their top young prospects, and at Joe Gibbs Racing, Smith finds himself in a position where he can potentially make an impact to demonstrate his potential as a future Cup Series driver, especially with Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. likely nearing the end of their respective careers.

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Sheldon Creed is also rumored to join Joe Gibbs Racing next year after it was announced that Jesse Love is set to replace him alongside Austin Hill at Richard Childress Racing. In fact, this move is more “leaked” than “rumored” at this point.