Posted by Matt Lovisa (follow on Twitter)
February 11, 2016
2016 XFINITY Series Team Preview: Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing
How does NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase and heat races sound? If you did not already hear, there are new formats for both the XFINITY Series Championship and Dash 4 Cash race day structure. Add that to the fact that three of the drivers who finished inside the top-five of the 2015 championship standings will not be running full-time in the XFINITY Series, and the 2016 season for NASCAR’s version of the minor leagues has a whole new look.
Jones provides new look for Joe Gibbs Racing
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez might just be the most formidable one-two punch of the full-time XFINITY Series drivers for the upcoming season. Suarez returns after an impressive rookie campaign and will be joined by Jones, who moves up from the Camping World Truck Series after winning the 2015 Championship.
Driver: Daniel Suarez
Crew Chief: Scott Graves
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: #19, ARRIS Toyota
Suarez won Rookie of the Year honors after a rookie campaign that featured three poles, eight top-fives and 18 top tens. Suarez showed he can run well just about anywhere by capturing top fives on short tracks, intermediate speedways and the always difficult for rookies to master, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway. Suarez looks to improve upon his fifth place finish in the standings from a year ago and JGR is giving Suarez the resources he needs by not switching a lot of the pieces around him. The biggest change in the offseason might just be switching from car #18 to #19 and for a driver only in their second year, that is a good thing.
Driver: Erik Jones
Crew Chief: Chris Gabehart
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: #20, GameStop Toyota
Jones, the 2015 Camping World Truck Series Champion, had his fair amount of success in the XFINITY Series a year ago, picking up two wins in his 23 starts. Jones also notched three poles, 13 top-fives and 17 top-tens, all impressive numbers for a driver who took to the track in all three of NASCAR’s top series. The 2016 season will be different for Jones as his sole focus will be on the XFINITY Series for the first time in his career and the first time in many years that the #20 car will be piloted by the same driver for all the races. Jones’ biggest hurdle this year may be the road courses as he did not race in a single XFINITY road course race last year but in his one race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year, he picked up the win in the Truck Series. Jones serves as Joe Gibbs Racing’s best chance to win their second drivers’ title.
Movement at Richard Childress Racing
Ty Dillon, Brandon Jones and Brendan Gaughan are the three featured drivers in the XFINITY Series for RCR this season. Dillon and Gaughan return from 2015 as Brandon Jones moves to full-time as driver of the #33 car. Brian Scott left for the Sprint Cup Series during the offseason and his #2 car will be filled for select races by Paul Menard and Austin Dillon.
Driver: Ty Dillon
Crew Chief: Nick Harrison
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: #3, Rheem Chevrolet
Ty Dillon finished third in the standings a year ago, coming 18 points shy of the title and just three points shy of finishing in second. In his second full-time season, Dillon improved his average finish to 8.7 and recorded career highs with 12 top-fives and 25 top-tens. Although he did not produce a victory like he did 2015 or a score a pole, three in 2015, Dillon was much more consistent and served as a title threat for a majority of the season. Dillon will again be behind the wheel of #3 Chevrolet but without sponsor Yuengling and instead will have a rotation of sponsors lead by Rheem. Dillon has served as RCR’s best chance to win a title in the previous two seasons and there is no reason to think that has changed heading into 2016.
Driver: Brendan Gaughan
Crew Chief: Shane Wilson
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: #62 South Point Resort Chevrolet
The 2015 season for Brendan Gaughan was a slight disappointment compared to 2014 when the team found victory lane twice. Gaughan finished ninth in the overall standings with three top-fives and 14 top-tens. This will also be Gaughan’s third year driving full-time for RCR and similar to teammate Ty Dillon, faces a season where advancing in the new Chase format will be expected. Gaughan has had success on intermediate tracks and road courses in his past few seasons but as lacked consistency, and most notably, luck in some instances. Shane Wilson as crew chief once again and the Gaughan-Wilson combination is battle tested and can find victory lane, which makes them a dangerous contender in the new Chase format.
Driver: Brandon Jones
Crew Chief: Mike Hillman, Jr.
Car, Sponsor, Manufacturer: #33, Menards Chevrolet
Brandon Jones will turn 19 just before the season kicks off and will step into his first full-time NASCAR campaign in 2016. In just five races last year, Jones impressed scoring one top-five, two-top tens and leading 16 laps. The sample size is small though. Of those five races, three were on a short track and one was on a road course. But Jones does have some experience on the intermediate tracks in the Truck series and in 17 races in 2015, scored a total of four top-fives and eight top-tens. Jones will contest for Rookie of the Year honors against Ryan Preece and Ray Black, Jr., drivers who will not have the level of equipment Jones will have at RCR. Winning the title of Rookie of the Year will be expected for Jones as will be making the Chase but anything after that will be an impressive feat for the 19 year-old.