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Panic Mode? How Will JGR and Toyota React to Losing Sammy Smith?

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Another Silly Season surprise came across NASCAR fans’ Twitter feed on Tuesday as Sammy Smith was announced as the replacement for Josh Berry in the 8 car at JR Motorsports leaving JGR completely open in the 2024 Xfinity Series. However, there is no reason to panic if you are a Joe Gibbs Racing or even a Toyota racing fan, and the reason why is the large stable that Toyota currently has at all levels of NASCAR. Let’s take a look at why there is no need to panic if you are JGR or Toyota.

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The Cup Series Stable

Joe Gibbs Racing is pretty locked up as it is right now with a nice balance of youth and experience at the Cup Series level. Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs are both young drivers with talent that the team can build around for the foreseeable future. Denny Hamlin just signed a multi-year extension to stay at JGR along with keeping his race team, 23XI Racing, in a technical alliance with JGR.

Martin Truex Jr. was rumored to be retiring at the end of the year, but he signed an extension to stay on through 2024. Whether or not he will stay beyond 2024 remains to be seen, but, JGR is in pretty good shape as it is right now.

Moving on to Toyota as a whole, 23XI Racing is also pretty set with Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace both in the Round of 12 and the arrows projecting upward for both. Legacy Motor Club is joining the fray in 2024 with Cup Series race winner Erik Jones and Xfinity Series Championship contender John Hunter Nemechek.

Toyota is in a good spot in the Cup Series right now, and, quite frankly, it’s easy to see why someone like Sammy Smith would be looking for a way out. There is just not a lot of room for him to make it up into the Cup Series with JGR or Toyota as a whole.

JGR and Toyota’s Lower Series Talent Pool

Toyota has arguably the best driver development program in all of NASCAR at this point. They have key partner teams at all levels of motorsports from the ARCA Menards Series all the way up to the Xfinity Series. Within that are some pretty big prospects as well.

In the Craftsman Truck Series, Corey Heim is currently the series points leader driving for David Gilliland at TRICON Garage. TRICON Garage also has a couple of solid drivers in the ARCA Menards Series in William Sawalich and Jesse Love. Love is the Series points leader while Sawalich has won three races along with leading the points in the ARCA Menards Series East.

Love is 18 years old, so he is old enough to make the move up to Trucks next season, but Sawalich likely needs another year of ARCA because of his age. Toyota also has an older driver in their stable to take the reins of an Xfinity Series car in 2024 in Ryan Truex.

Truex took home his first career Xfinity Series win earlier this year, and he is definitely a candidate to take over a full-time Xfinity Series seat in 2024. Even if Toyota feels many of its prospects are too young to take that second seat, it’s not out of the question to sign someone more experienced out of Trucks like Christian Eckes.

Toyota also has plenty of other younger talent with room to grow like Toni Breidinger, Tanner Gray, Taylor Gray, and Kaz Grala. They have drivers in their stable, and losing Sammy Smith is not the end of the world.

The bottom line is that losing Sammy Smith is not an ideal situation, but it is not the end of the world. Toyota will be just fine, and so will JGR. They are in a better spot than a lot of race teams would be in this scenario.

North Carolina Moonshine and Motorsports Trail

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