Chandler Smith Returns To Toyota With JGR

Chandler Smith
Chandler Smith will return to Toyota's driver lineup next year with Joe Gibbs Racing. (Toyota Racing photo)

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Chandler Smith’s reunion with Toyota Racing was revealed Wednesday, with the Georgia native shifting to Joe Gibbs Racing for his second full season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Smith joins full-time teammate Sheldon Creed as part of a four-car JGR armada in NASCAR’s second-highest division next year. He’ll take the wheel of the No. 81 Toyota GR Supra.

From Talking Rock, Ga., Smith contested his rookie Xfinity Series season with Kaulig Racing this year, winning at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in just his 10th series start and tallying a ninth-place finish in points on the strength of eight top fives and 13 top-10 finishes. Smith also earned three pole awards in 2023.

In addition to his full Xfinity Series slate, Smith also made three NASCAR Cup Series starts while with Kaulig Racing, finishing 17th or better in all of them with a best of 11th at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in October. He also attempted the season-opening Daytona 500, but failed to qualify.

Prior to this year, Smith was one of the longest-tenured drivers in the Toyota Racing Development pipeline, racing late models and later in both the ARCA Menards Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for the Japanese auto manufacturer.

With Kyle Busch Motorsports, then Toyota’s lead Truck Series team, Smith tallied five Truck Series victories and finished a career-best third in points at the end of the 2022 season.

Before his Truck Series move, Smith raced for Toyota-backed Venturini Motorsports in ARCA, earning 10 wins and 10 poles in 35 starts over a five-year span from 2018-’22.

The 20-year-old Smith will be paired with veteran crew chief Jeff Meendering next year. Meendering remains with the No. 18 team after working with rookie-of-the-year Sammy Smith this past season.

Meendering is a veteran of more than 250 races as a crew chief in NASCAR’s top two national divisions, the Cup Series and the Xfinity Series. He’s an eight-time Xfinity Series winner as a crew chief, including six with JGR since 2019.

Meendering’s most recent Xfinity Series victory came with Sammy Smith at Arizona’s Phoenix Raceway in March. He also guided Sammy Smith to a sixth-place finish in the Xfinity Series standings.

In addition to Chandler Smith and Creed, JGR will field two cars with a rotation of drivers to complete its Xfinity Series roster next year.

Chandler Smith will begin his pursuit of the Xfinity Series championship at Daytona Int’l Speedway during the United Rentals 300 on Feb. 17. Race coverage will be on FS1, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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