Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Tuesday its crew chief assignments for the 2021 season across both their NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series programs.
Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief Adam Stevens will now lead the No. 20 Toyota team with driver Christopher Bell, while Ben Beshore returns to the Cup Series as crew chief for the No. 18 Toyota team and driver Kyle Busch in 2021. Beshore previously served as engineer for the 18 team prior to moving to JGR’s Xfinity Series as crew chief in 2019. Chris Gabehart and James Small will continue to serve as crew chief for the No. 11 and No. 19 teams respectively.
In addition, JGR announces changes to their NASCAR Xfinity Series program. Jason Ratcliff will return to the organization as crew chief for the No. 20 Toyota Supra driven by Harrison Burton, while Dave Rogers will work with newly-named JGR driver Daniel Hemric in the No. 18 Toyota Supra. Jeff Meendering will continue to serve as the crew chief with Brandon Jones, who returns behind the wheel of the No. 19 Toyota Supra.
JGR also plans to field a fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series entry in 2021, appointing Chris Gayle to lead the No. 54 Toyota Supra team which will be driven by a team of all-star caliber drivers. The 2021 driver lineup and race schedule for the No. 54 Toyota Supra will be announced at a later date.
“We go through a process at the conclusion of every season that includes evaluating each of our teams,” said Joe Gibbs, Owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “We believe our crew chief lineup for 2021 will best position each team and driver for success across both series.
“We take a lot of pride in our depth of talent across our entire organization. All of our crew chiefs are proven winners. We are also looking forward to bringing the No. 54 Toyota Supra back to the track in 2021 with an exciting team of drivers.”
The swaps are none too shocking. The writing was well on the wall as the season went on that Busch and Stevens’ relationship may be on the outs. Busch’s cars were never to his liking and it took them all race to finally get them dialed in. By time the car was finally on its way to being a contender, it was too late. That’s why you saw him finish with 14 top five results but never a legitimate race winner each week too.
The reason behind this was due to the circumstances of the pandemic. In the 32 races run during COVID, we had no practice for any of them and qualifying just for one. Without any practice or qualifying, it exposed them.
You raced what you brought and Stevens couldn’t ever get the cars to come off the truck to start the race to what Busch needed to compete. The chemistry was there for them to finally get the car going in the right direction as the race went on, but everyone else is doing the same. They could only get to the top three or four but struggled to get any further up. They started 2020 0-for-33. It was the 34th race that finally notched them a win.
With 2021 going to feature most races without practice again, they needed to make a change.
So, despite two championships and 28 wins together in Cup and 19 wins in 52 races in the Xfinity Series, the Busch-Stevens tandem is no more.
Also, look at how Team Penske made wholesale changes like this between 2019 and 2020. Two of their three cars made it to the Championship 4.
Denny Hamlin got Chris Gabehart for 2019 after going winless in 2018 and that duo has become one of the best in the NASCAR garage. They’ve won 13 times in two years together including two straight Championship 4 appearances.
Beshore, has been the crew chief for Busch seven times in the Xfinity Series and they’ve won four of those starts and had five top five’s overall. Beshore, had four wins with a rookie in Harrison Burton in 2020. He was also the crew chief for three races for Busch in the Cup Series in 2017 and Busch had a top 10 in all three races too.
This could be the fresh move that helps Busch win a third championship in seven seasons.