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3 Reasons to be excited for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season

WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 20: William Byron, driver of the #17 Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Go Rewards 200 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 20, 2022 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will look slightly different in 2023, as both the regular season and overall Champions have been promoted to the Cup Series in 2023.

The 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season will be the 42nd season for NASCAR’s second-tier series and will contain many new faces. With A.J. Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, and Ty Gibbs all becoming full-time drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series, the Xfinity Series is left without three of its top five points finishers, including the 2022 Regular Season Champion (Allmendinger) and 2022 Series Champion (Gibbs).

The 2023 Xfinity season is going to be more unpredictable than it has been in the past, which should make fans of the sport excited for what’s to come. With that being said, here are the top three reasons to be excited for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season that kicks off on Feb. 18 at Daytona.

1. Rookie of the Year Battle: Smith vs. Smith

Of the three 2023 Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year candidates, two of them happen to share a last name, though unrelated.

After winning the 2021 and 2022 ARCA Menards East Championship, Sammy Smith will pilot the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing on a full-time basis in 2023, after participating in nine races for the team in 2022. In his nine races, Smith earned three Top 10 finishes and one Top five finish, with his best finish being third at Watkins Glen. Smith is an early favorite for the award, due to both his ARCA Menards success, and JGR winning back-to-back Xfinity Championships.

The other Smith in the battle for Xfinity Rookie of the Year is Chandler Smith, who will have a change of scenery this season. In 2022, C. Smith finished his second full-time season in the NASCAR Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports, earning three wins, nine Top fives, 16 Top 10 finishes, and finishing third in the Championship standings. After making his Xfinity Series debut for Sam Hunt Racing and Toyota in 2022, he will be joining Kaulig Racing and Chevrolet to pilot the No. 16 car full-time in 2023.

The third Rookie of the Year candidate is from the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, and his name is Parker Retzlaff. Retzlaff, who ran nine Xfinity races and one Truck race in 2022, will move to Jordan Anderson Racing and drive the No. 31 Chevrolet on a full-time basis. Retzlaff’s best finish in the Xfinity Series came for RSS Racing, where he brought the No. 38 Ford home 10th at Richmond in just his second career start.

2. Xfinity “All-Star” Car Lineups

Two Xfinity Series teams have designated one of their car entries for the 2023 season to be considered the team’s “all-star” lineup. The term “all-star car” means that the team will rotate a handful of drivers from any of the top NASCAR series to compete in races to win and earn points toward the Owner’s Championship.

The two NASCAR Xfinity Series teams that have announced an “all-star” entry are Joe Gibbs Racing (No. 19) and Kaulig Racing (No. 10). Both of these teams currently have two full-time driver entries, with an additional third entry that will comprise of multiple drivers.

Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19

The No. 19 Toyota for JGR currently has three drivers that are scheduled to run 20 of the 33 Xfinity races in 2023.

Connor Mosack, who will be competing in the No. 24 Toyota for Sam Hunt Racing for 20 races, will also pilot the No. 19 JGR entry for three races (Chicago, Pocono, and Road America).

Ryan Truex, Martin Truex Jr.’s brother, will compete in the No. 19 for six races in 2023, after competing in the JGR No. 18 for five races and the Sam Hunt Racing No. 24 for one race in 2022.

Joe Graf Jr., who will be competing in the No. 38 Ford for RSS Racing for 28 races, will finish out the remaining five races (Auto Club, Las Vegas (March), Richmond, New Hampshire, and Kansas) with JGR to earn his full-time status in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Myatt Snider will be competing in the No. 19 for six races, which was announced on February 8th.

At the moment, the remaining 13 races have no driver listed. However, Toyota Racing drivers such as Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, Trevor Bayne, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Corey Heim, etc. will likely fill up the remaining schedule.

Kaulig Racing No. 10

After the unexpected announcement that former Kaulig Racing full-time driver Landon Cassill will no longer pilot the No. 10 on a full-time basis, this opened the door for Kaulig Racing and Chevrolet to use the car as an “all-star” entry in 2023.

At this point in time, it is unknown how many drivers will be competing in the No. 10 Chevy in 2023, but there have been a few confirmed entries.

Cassill will still be a member of Kaulig Racing in 2023, but the lack of sponsorship has cut his previously announced full-time season to an unknown amount of races.

Austin Dillon, who drives the No. 3 car in the Cup Series, has been announced as the driver of the No. 10 at Auto Club. Dillon has previously run Xfinity races with Kaulig while being a full-time driver in the Cup Series for Richard Childress Racing.

Justin Haley, who pilots the No. 31 for Kaulig Racing in the Cup Series has also been announced as a driver for the No. 10. Haley will compete in multiple races, including the season opener at Daytona, as Haley has found most of his NASCAR success with Kaulig, piloting the No. 11 to four Xfinity wins.

No other drivers have been confirmed, but it is likely that drivers like Allmendinger, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suárez, and Noah Gragson will fill the remaining schedule. Kyle Busch is also a name that is rumored, but it is unknown if he will compete again in Xfinity after announcing in 2021 he was “retiring” from the Xfinity Series after earning 102 wins.

3. Cole Custer’s Return To The No. 00 and Stewart-Haas Racing

After spending the last three seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series with Stewart-Haas Racing and the No. 41 team, Cole Custer is making his much-anticipated return to the Xfinity Series in 2023. Custer will be driving the No. 00 car once again.

While in the Cup Series, Custer, who is the son of Stewart-Haas Team President Joe Custer, didn’t find the same success he did while driving in Xfinity. Despite winning a race and earning the 2020 Cup Series Rookie of the Year title, Custer recorded an average finish of 20.37 in his three years at SHR, earning just two Top five finishes and 12 Top 10 finishes in 108 races.

Custer’s Xfinity Series stint with SHR from 2017-2019 was nothing short of dominant. In his three full-time Xfinity seasons, Custer earned nine wins, 38 Top fives, and 69 Top 10 finishes in 99 races. Custer finished 5th in the standings during his rookie season and finished second in both 2018 and 2019 before getting called up to the No. 41 team in the NASCAR Cup Series.

In his most recent appearances in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Custer competed in six total races with SS-Green Light Racing in 2021 and 2022, earning one win, two Top fives, and four Top 10 finishes, while earning an average finish of 9.5.

Custer should be one of the favorites for the 2023 Xfinity Series Championship as he will join Riley Herbst (No. 98) in Ford’s top-tier Xfinity equipment with Stewart-Haas.

The start is just days away

As NASCAR celebrates its 75th Anniversary year, the Xfinity Series will be celebrating its 42nd season. The excitement for this season has been building since the moment the checkered flag was waved at Phoenix back in November.  The 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season will kick off on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 5 p.m. for the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300” at Daytona.

DISCLAIMER: All lineup information is current as of February 8th at 4:30 P.M. ET

Featured Image Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images


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