Joe Gibbs Racing has set its 2018 Xfinity Series lineup, with Brandon Jones (above) named to drive the No. 19 Camry full-time and Chris Gabehart as his crew chief. Jones, who drove for Richard Childress Racing the past two seasons, won his first Xfinity Seies pole for the season-opening race at Daytona. He also drove in the Camping World Truck Series, K&N Pro Series East and ARCA in 2017.
Christopher Bell, who was previously announced for a full-time program with the team, will pilot the No. 20. Jason Ratliff will move from the No. 20 Cup team to be Bell’s crew chief.
Ryan Preece, whose limited two-race deal in 2017 was highlighted by an emotional first Xfinity Series victory at Iowa, will drive a part-time schedule in the No. 18 Camry. Eric Phillips will serve as the crew chief for the 18, which will be shared between Kyle Busch (for seven races), Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and others.
Preece ran in Xfinity full-time in 2016 but made a risky decision to funnel resources into a two-race deal with JGR in July at Iowa and New Hampshire. He impressed by driving the No. 20 Toyota to a second-place finish at Loudon behind teammate Kyle Busch before winning at Iowa. The two weekends earned the 26-year-old a seat for the September race at Kentucky, where he finished fourth.
“Our NASCAR Xfinity Series program is so important to us at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Joe Gibbs said. “We are focused on the opportunities we have this weekend in Miami of course, but excited about the talented lineup of drivers we will have competing for us in 2018. The addition of Brandon Jones to our lineup will provide tremendous competition to the Series and give us two opportunities to run for the Xfinity Driver’s Championship, as well as the Owner’s Championship next season. For as young as he is, Brandon has gained a lot of experience across several different series and we are excited to see what he can do in our equipment and with Chris (Gabehart) leading that team.
“Jason [Ratcliff] is someone we obviously have a lot of confidence in having had great success for us in both the Xfinity and Cup Series,” He added. “Having Chris [Gabehart] and Eric [Phillips] back gives us proven winners atop each pit box. We believe their experience and ability to work together will really help the development of our young drivers and help our veterans compete for wins each weekend.”