The NASCAR Xfinity Series lineup will be missing some of 2022’s heaviest hitters with the departure of Noah Gragson, Ty Gibbs, and AJ Allmendinger to the Cup Series. What will 2023 look like on the Xfinity circuit?
2023 will be a time of transition for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The aforementioned Xfinity stars making the leap to Cup, Gragson, Allmendinger and Gibbs, were responsible for 62.5% of race wins in 2022. So, who will be filling that void in victory lane?
Cole Custer returns to Stewart-Haas Racing
The Return of Stone Cole Custer in the No. 00. pic.twitter.com/eGyl2wEL1q
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) November 23, 2022
Stewart-Haas Racing announced Cole Custer would be returning to the #00 car in the Xfinity Series for the team. Custer is no stranger to the series or the #00 machine. He raced the car in his three full-time Xfinity Series seasons. Custer won nine races in that time and made the Championship 4 twice. With a gap forming at the top of the series, Custer would be a great pick to return to the Championship 4 in 2023.
A New Era at JR Motorsports
With the departure of Noah Gragson to the Cup Series, a seat at what’s quickly become one of the premier Xfinity Series teams became available. Brandon Jones jumped at the opportunity to make the switch to JR Motorsports from Joe Gibbs Racing, a move that was decided before then-teammate Ty Gibbs wrecked him at Martinsville late last season.
What Gragson and JR Motorsports achieved together cannot be understated, even if their efforts fell short of a championship. He became the first Xfinity Series driver in nearly four decades to win four straight races. His 13 total wins with JR Motorsports will be a high bar for Jones or any JRM driver to reach.
Adding to the change at JR Motorsports will be the man himself, Dale Earnhardt Jr., racing twice in the #88 car in 2023. Earnhardt ran one race per year since 2018, sponsored by Hellmann’s. 2023 will see a second race for Dale Jr. and the #88, sponsored by Bass Pro Shops as part of a renewed partnership between the outdoor outfitter and JRM.
A Fresh Face at Kaulig Racing
As A.J. Allmendinger moves up the Kaulig ladder to the #16 in Cup Series, his former ride in the Xfinity Series is in young, capable hands with Chandler Smith. The former Toyota Racing Development and Kyle Busch Motorsports driver makes the jump up to full-time Xfinity Series racing having claimed five victories in the Truck Series over the past two seasons.
The change sees Kaulig’s Xfinity Team swapping a road course ace in Allmendinger for the well-rounded Smith. Smith has claimed Truck Series victories at short and intermediate tracks, and competed well on the road courses, with top five finishes at both Circuit of The Americas and Sonoma in 2022.
A Home for Hailie Deegan?
After a solid performance in a NASCAR Xfinity Series ride at Las Vegas in 2022, it became an assumption in the sport that Hailie Deegan would be looking at an Xfinity Series drive for 2023. However, as a Ford driver, there’s only a small number of teams Deegan could race for in the Xfinity Series. Furthermore, with the return of Cole Custer to Stewart-Haas Racing, the most coveted Ford seat in the series is now occupied.
So where does that leave Deegan? Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass mentioned on Twitter that Deegan’s future is still to be determined, but it’s possible that she spends another year in the Truck Series before making the move up to Xfinity. Time will tell, but it looks like Hailie Deegan’s full-time Xfinity Series debut may have to wait.
Transition Time at Joe Gibbs Racing
As of this writing, none of the three Xfinity Series seats at Joe Gibbs Racing have been officially filled. It is widely believed that 18-year-old Sammy Smith will be in the #18 car for the team, but there hasn’t been a concrete announcement one way or another on that front. Smith looked very solid on a part-time schedule for the team in 2022, with three top ten finishes in eight races.
With Ty Gibbs moving up to the Cup Series #54 team, and Brandon Jones moving to JR Motorsports, it would seem that John Hunter Nemechek is the favorite to take one of the vacant JGR seats. Nemechek has ran a small handful of races for Gibbs in Xfinity, and even filled in for a suspended Bubba Wallace for 23XI Racing in the Cup Series race at Homestead last season.
That leaves one JGR car still unoccupied for 2023. One could predict that the team will go with a similar “all-star” car like they ran with the #18 previously, filling in varying Toyota drivers.
Elsewhere on the Grid,
A fan favorite driver and TV personality will return to the Xfinity Series full-time in 2023, as Parker Kligerman regains a full-time seat for the first time since 2013. Kligerman has raced part-time across NASCAR’s national series, while also working for NBC on their broadcasts as a pit reporter. Kligerman will be piloting the #48 Chevy for Big Machine Racing in 2023.
Hendrick Motorsports announced earlier this month that the team will field a car in “just a handful of races”. In 2022, Hendrick ran their #17 Chevy four times, with Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman both securing second place finishes at Road America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course respectively.
Richard Childress Racing hasn’t formally announced a second driver for their Xfinity Series Lineup in 2023, but all signs point to Austin Hill returning to the #21 for 2023. Hill has agreed to a part-time Cup Series schedule with Beard Motorsports, but only for six races, leaving full-time racing in Xfinity very much on the table.
Current Confirmed NASCAR Xfinity Series Lineup for 2023:
- JR Motorsports: Sam Mayer, Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, Brandon Jones, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two races)
- Kaulig Racing: Landon Cassill, Daniel Hemric, Chandler Smith
- Stewart-Haas Racing: Cole Custer, Riley Herbst
- Richard Childress Racing: Sheldon Creed
- Big Machine Racing: Parker Kligerman
- JD Motorsports: Bayley Currey
- Jesse Iwuji Motorsports: Jesse Iwuji, Kyle Weatherman
- RSS Racing: Ryan Sieg
- AM Racing: Austin Wayne Self
- BJ McLeod Motorsports: Garrett Smithley
- Jeremy Clements Racing: Jeremy Clements
- Alpha Prime Racing: Ryan Ellis
- ACG Motorsports (part-time): Chris Cockrum
- Hendrick Motorsports (part-time): Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman
Featured Image Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images