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What Is Chandler Smith’s Path to the Cup Series?

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What’s Happening?

Chandler Smith is one of the top prospects in NASCAR today, and he has impressed in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series. With Toyota potentially having some driver movement this off-season, what is Chandler Smith’s path to the Cup Series?

  • Joe Gibbs Racing has an uncertain future. They do not know if Martin Truex Jr. will return for 2025, potentially opening up a seat.
  • However, Toyota has more than just Chandler Smith in the pipeline. This means a potential opening at JGR is not guaranteed to go to Smith.
  • Fans are excited to see how Chandler Smith’s career pans out. He’s one of the most intriguing prospects in NASCAR, and he could develop into a very good Cup Series driver.

Potential Toyota Openings

Chandler Smith is absolutely ready to jump up to the Cup Series. At the end of this year, he will have four lower series seasons under his belt including at least eight wins. Unlike Xfinity Series drivers like Jesse Love, who is incredibly young, Smith has enough experience to jump up.

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The most obvious potential open seat for Chandler Smith is the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 car. It would make a lot of sense given that Smith currently drives for them in the Xfinity Series. However, it’s not quite that simple.

Toyota has another hot prospect in their pipeline, Corey Heim. He was the one Toyota tabbed as their reserve driver, racing for Erik Jones twice as Jones recovered from a back injury sustained during a crash at Talladega.

Heim also received sponsorship from Safelite, a Toyota company. Toyota loves Heim, which puts Smith’s bid for that seat at JGR into some question.

Now, it’s possible a seat could open up for both drivers. 23XI Racing and Legacy Motor Club have both been mentioned in multiple reports as race teams potentially looking for a charter, with 23XI being by far the most mentioned of the two.

Should one of those two Toyota teams buy a charter, that opens up potentially two seats at Toyota. Heim could slot into the 23XI or legacy Motor Club car, while Smith drives the JGR No. 19, provided Truex Jr. retires.

However, those are all big ifs. Should only one or even no seats open up at Toyota, Smith may have to wait another year.

If Not 2025, Then When Can He Jump Up to Cup?

It all depends on how 2024 plays out. If Truex Jr. doesn’t retire, then Smith may have to wait on Truex Jr. again. If Truex Jr. does retire, but, it’s Corey Heim taking the spot instead of Smith, Smith may have to look elsewhere.

In that case, he has to look at Denny Hamlin in more ways than one. Either Hamlin could buy a charter and bring Smith in, or, Hamlin could venture off to 23XI racing with that new charter. This could open up a seat at JGR for Smith in 2026.

It’s impossible to project exactly how Smith’s career will pan out, but, it seems that sometime in the next couple of years, he will be a Cup Series driver. He’s talented enough to do so, and he brings a lot of funding with him with companies like Mobil 1 and QuickTie.

Chandler Smith should be in the NASCAR Cup Series within the next couple of years. However, the path to getting there could be more twisty than expected.

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