NASCAR: Joe Gibbs Racing Announces New Driver for 2022 Circuit of the Americas Race

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Joe Gibbs Racing recently announced a fifth driver for the team’s “star car” during this season’s NASCAR Xfinity schedule. According to the Gibbs team, 23XI Racing Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace has earned the honors.

After the announcement, Wallace is now set to compete in this Saturday’s Pit Boss 250 at Circuit of the Americas as well as the Pennzoil 150 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Saturday, July 30, Beyond the Flag reports.

NASCAR insiders long-believed Joe Gibbs Racing to name Wallace the driver of the No. 18 Toyota “star car.”

Wallace is the first Cup Series driver to be named as the driver for the No. 18 on the Xfinity circuit. Ty Gibbs primarily drove the car last year (then the No. 54 Toyota) during his come-up, but now drives full-time for his grandfather’s team (still the No. 54). The open driver position arose because Kyle Busch, the full-time Joe Gibbs Racing Cup Series driver who had previously driven in the maximum allowable number of Xfinity Series races (five), retired from NASCAR’s second circuit.

NASCAR’s Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin and NBA Legend Michael Jordan reunited Wallace with Toyota last year

Bubba Wallace, 28, spent his first three NASCAR seasons driving a Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports. Hamlin and Jordan named Wallace the driver of the No. 23 Toyota in the offseason. Wallace previously drove for Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing in select Xfinity Series races back in 2012 and 2014. The Mobile, Ala., native also drove full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series in 2013 and 2014, winning five races.

As for the “star car,” Drew Dollar and Ryan Truex have each driven it once this season; while Trevor Bayne has driven it three times. And with 28 races still left on the schedule, Bayne will race in at least five, while Dollar and Truex will race in three each. John Hunter Nemechek has been confirmed for three as well.

Other possible replacements for Kyle Busch in the Xfinity Series

Do some quick math and you’ll discover that the “star car” is still available for another 12 races even after Wallace’s commitment. Here are two racers who could shore up the schedule.

Chandler Smith: Smith is set to return to Kyle Busch Motorsports for a second full season in the NASCAR Truck Series in 2022 after ending his rookie season with a win. Smith went winless all season, but advanced to the second round of the playoffs with his first career victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. He then won the season finale at Phoenix Raceway ahead of the four Championship 4 drivers, finishing the year with two wins in five races.

Christopher Bell: The Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity Series team promoted Bell to the Cup Series ahead of the 2020 season. In 2021, Bell only started two Xfinity races, finishing first and sixth. Now, as he settles into the full-time Cup Series experience, Bell could moonlight in the Xfinity Series á la Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch. After all, more reps early in a career usually pay dividends later.