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Joe Gibbs Racing or Kaulig? Weighing Chandler Smith’s Options for 2024

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Joshua Lipowski

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Chandler Smith has been lightly thrown around in Silly Season rumors so far, but Matt Weaver dropped a bomb that may have vaulted Smith into the Silly Season spotlight. Weaver says that Smith is interested in joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2024, but, he would need to get a buyout of his contract with Kaulig Racing, which is a three-year deal. Which place would be the right place for Smith, Joe Gibbs Racing, or Kaulig Racing?

Kaulig Racing

Kaulig Racing offers Chandler Smith true potential to move up to the NASCAR Cup Series full-time as soon as next year. Given the uncertainty surrounding A.J. Allmendinger’s future, it would seem logical to move Smith up to the Cup Series next year given his solid performance in the Xfinity Series this year including his first career series win.

Smith also brings good funding along with him in Quick Tie Products. It seems like a perfect match for Kaulig, but, it seems that things are not working out quite that way.

Given that Smith is potentially looking for a buy-out of his contract, maybe the move up to Cup is not quite as clear-cut as we may think. It’s also worth noting that Kaulig is not the best Cup Series program as of right now. In their second season running full-time in the series, they have yet to get a driver into the Playoffs. Yes, they got two wins with A.J. Allmendinger on road courses, but, they have not found consistent speed or performance.

It’s understandable why Smith may have some pause about whether or not Kaulig is the best race team for him in the Cup Series. Therefore, if a seat at Joe Gibbs Racing opens up, Smith may look at what they have to offer.

Joe Gibbs Racing

Chandler Smith has some experience with Toyota as he drove for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series for two seasons. He also spent some time before that in ARCA driving for Toyota. However, when 2022 came around, it was Ty Gibbs who jumped Truck and Smith to drive for JGR.

It’s understandable that Smith may have been miffed at being passed over for that seat, and, when 2023 rolled around, he signed with Kaulig. Now, times have changed, and there are two open seats on Gibbs’ Xfinity Series team. Smith has proven he can win races, and he has funding.

He may not have the immediate ability to jump up to the Cup Series, but, the drivers ahead of him at JGR may have some questions about their future. How long does Denny Hamlin drive for the team before he moves on to potentially being a team owner? More likely, how much longer does Martin Truex Jr. race in the series?

This could give Smith a ride in top-level equipment, something that Kaulig simply does not have. Kaulig is not bad by any means, but they are no JGR. The biggest drawback is getting out of the Kaulig contract.

Kaulig Racing will do whatever they can to either keep Smith or to get what they want out of Smith leaving his contract early. That will be tough for Smith to go through, and it may not work out in his favor. However, the rewards could be high.

Overall, Chandler Smith may go somewhere we did not expect him to go to in 2024. It all comes down to how the contracts work out.

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