JGR announces addition of Sheldon Creed and Chandler Smith, Aric Almiorla to part-time deals

Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) announced today their driver and crew chief lineup for the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. The team will field four Toyota GR Supras – two with full-time drivers and two with a rotating schedule of part-time drivers.

The lineup will be headlined by Sheldon Creed driving the No. 18 GR Supra and Chandler Smith piloting the No. 81 GR Supra. Aric Almirola and John Hunter Nemechek will split driving duties of the team’s No. 20 entry while the No. 19 GR Supra will be driven by Ryan Truex, William Sawalich, Joe Graf Jr., and Taylor Gray.

Creed, the 2020 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champion, joins JGR with 70 career starts in the Xfinity Series. Over the past two seasons, the Alpine, California native has earned 11 top-five finishes and 29 top-10s, including seven runner-up results. Prior to his move to the Xfinity Series, Creed spent three seasons in the Truck Series where he won eight times, highlighted by his championship-winning performance at Phoenix Raceway in 2020. He also won the 2018 ARCA Menards Series championship on the strength of four wins and 16 top-five finishes.

Smith transitions to JGR after a strong rookie season where he won his first career Xfinity Series race at Richmond Raceway in April and tallied eight top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He is no stranger to the Toyota family as Smith raced Toyotas prior to 2023 and claimed five Truck Series victories driving Toyota Tundras.

The majority of the No. 20 team’s schedule will feature a pair of drivers making returns to JGR. Nemechek is back for 10 Xfinity Series races after a stellar 2023 season where he led all drivers in wins (seven), top-five finishes (17), and laps led (1,083) on the way to advancing to the Championship 4. Almirola took a much different journey back to JGR. The Tampa, Florida native last drove for the team in November 2007. In 2006 and 2007, he made his Xfinity Series debut with JGR and started 27 races overall. For the past 12 seasons, Almirola has competed full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series. His resume includes three Cup Series wins and four Xfinity Series victories.

For the third consecutive season, Truex will compete for JGR. The younger brother of JGR Cup Series veteran Martin Truex Jr. scored his long-awaited first career victory last season at Dover Motor Speedway driving JGR’s No. 19 GR Supra. Ryan Truex owns 189 career starts across NASCAR’s top three series. His time with JGR’s Xfinity Series team has been exceptional, including his six-race campaign last season where he posted three top-three finishes.

Graf will be behind the wheel for JGR again in 2024. Last year, he competed in six races for the team and posted a pair of top-10 finishes. Graf is a familiar face in the Xfinity Series, having made 126 career starts over the past five seasons.

Gray will make his Xfinity Series debut in 2024 when he hits the track in the No. 19 Toyota GR Supra. Gray is coming off his rookie NASCAR Truck Series season with TRICON Garage where he earned three top-five finishes and six top-10s. He also ran one ARCA Menards Series race for JGR last season at Talladega Superspeedway. In 2022, Gray claimed three ARCA Menards Series victories and three combined ARCA East and West wins.

Following his 18th birthday on October 3, Sawalich will make his Xfinity Series debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 26 in addition to starts at Martinsville Speedway (November 2) and Phoenix Raceway (November 9) to complete the season. Sawalich will also still compete in the ARCA Menards Series in the No. 18 Toyota Camry for JGR. Last season, the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native won the ARCA Menards Series East championship on the strength of four wins. He also won a pair of ARCA Menards Series races – Berlin Raceway and Toledo Speedway – and the ARCA Menards Series West season finale at Phoenix Raceway to complete a breakout season for the young driver.

“Over the last couple of months, we’ve been working diligently to put together our 2024 Xfinity program which will include the addition of a fourth team,” said Steve DeSouza, EVP NASCAR Xfinity Series/Development at JGR. “Our 2024 roster has a great balance of experience, youth, wisdom, and talent. We believe the veteran drivers will continually benchmark our program, compliment, and challenge each other, as well as assist our younger drivers to further develop their skill set. We are also excited about our crew chiefs and the teams they have assembled. We take a lot of pride in not only our program’s on-track success, but also in the opportunity to develop and promote our team members.”

JGR is adding three first-time crew chiefs to work with Jeff Meendering who returns for his sixth season atop the pit box. Tyler Allen, Seth Chavka, and Sam McAulay all join the Xfinity Series programs after previously serving in engineering roles with JGR’s Cup Series program.

Tyler Allen will lead the No. 20 team with Almirola and Nemechek. Allen has spent the past nine seasons working in various engineering roles within JGR. After being with JGR Xfinity Series team in 2015 and 2016 and winning 19 races, Allen worked as an engineer under crew chief Adam Stevens for the past seven years – first with Kyle Busch from 2017-2020, and most recently working as the lead race engineer for Christopher Bell for the past three seasons. He won the 2019 Cup Series championship with Busch and collected 25 Cup Series victories over those seven years.

Seth Chavka will oversee the No. 19 team after serving as a JGR lead race engineer since 2019 for Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, and Ty Gibbs. Before moving to JGR, Chavka worked at Richard Childress Racing where he went to Cup Series victory lane twice with Austin Dillon in addition to four Xfinity Series wins with Elliott Sadler.

Sam McAulay will be paired with Creed and the No. 18 team. Before this opportunity, McAulay was the lead race engineer for Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Cup Series team for the past eight years. His resume includes 25 victories with Hamlin, including three Daytona 500 series. In 2022, he led Hamlin to a Coca-Cola 600 while serving as interim crew chief. McAulay is familiar with JGR’s Xfinity Series program as he worked as an engineer on the No. 20 Xfinity Series car from 2013-2015.

Crew Chief Jeff Meendering will be team up Smith for the 2024 season. Meendering is the veteran of the group as his resume includes more than 250 starts as a crew chief across NASCAR’s top two series. He has guided teams to eight Xfinity Series wins, including six at JGR. Last season, Meendering led Sammy Smith to a win at Phoenix Raceway, sixth in the final standings and Rookie of the Year honors.

In addition to four Xfinity Series cars, JGR will continue to field a Toyota Camry in the ARCA Menards Series, led by Crew Chief Matt Ross. Sawalich will also defend his 2023 ARCA Menards Series East championship. The 17-year-old does not meet the age requirements of certain tracks, so the remaining six races of the ARCA schedule will be filled by CRAFTSMAN Truck Series regular Tanner Gray.

Tanner Gray has 15 ARCA races under his belt from 2019-2021 where he earned three top-five finishes, nine top-10s, and one pole award. He will also compete full time in Truck Series for TRICON Garage in 2024. His ARCA schedule will include starts at Daytona International Speedway (February 17), Talladega Superspeedway (April 20), Kansas Speedway (May 4 and September 27), Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 24), and Michigan International Speedway (August 16).

John Boarman
John Boarmanhttp://www.tireball.com
Founder and Owner of Tireball Sports.

Recent News

3,411FansLike
1,105FollowersFollow