Joe Gibbs Racing still has a seat available for two NASCAR Xfinity Series races, but the driver for one of them should be considered safe.
Joe Gibbs Racing announced in June that reigning ARCA Menards Series East champion and current points leader Sammy Smith will drive the “star car,” the #18 Toyota, in eight of the remaining races on the NASCAR schedule. 2022 Xfinity Series. Since then, its schedule has been expanded to nine races.
This move filled the “star car” for most of his remaining open runs. Before the announcement was made, there were 11 races for which a driver had not yet been confirmed. Smith has made five starts so far.
Seven drivers have driven the car in the first 23 races of the season, and four drivers, including Smith, are now confirmed for eight of the 10 finals.
As a result, there are still two races left on this year’s schedule without a confirmed driver of the #18 Toyota.
But one of those races is the race at Darlington Raceway on Saturday, September 3, and it goes without saying who will be driving the “star car” in this race.
Joe Gibbs Racing Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin has competed in an Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway for the Joe Gibbs organization for each of the last seven seasons since 2015, so there is no reason to believe that won’t do it again this year. .
TO UPDATE: Hamlin has been confirmed as the driver of the #18 Toyota for this Saturday’s race.
He won three of those seven races, although his 2019 victory was taken from him by a post-race disqualification.
Confirmation of Hamlin’s 2021 Darlington Raceway Xfinity Series start came during race week, so expect it to arrive soon.
In 14 Xfinity Series starts at the track, the 41-year-old Chesterfield, Virginia native has five official wins and three second-place finishes. He finished 12th in his start on the track last year, which was his first finish below eighth (aside from disqualification, which officially dropped him from first to 38th).
Also his four wins in 20 Cup Series starts at the four-turn, 1,366-mile (2,198-kilometer) egg-shaped oval in Darlington, South Carolina, including a win in last year’s playoff race.
Darlington Raceway is in a unique position on the schedule as it hosts the opening of the Cup Series playoffs, but the Xfinity Series race is not a playoff race, even though it takes place a day earlier. . If it were an Xfinity Series playoff race, Hamlin would not be allowed to compete.
Although there are still two NASCAR Xfinity Series races left without a confirmed driver of the #18 Toyota for 2022, the one to focus on is the playoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Saturday, October 8, as it is highly unlikely that anyone other than Hamlin will get the go-ahead for the race at Darlington Raceway.