The 2019 Xfinity Series season saw 24 of the 33 races won by either Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe or Austin Cindric.
Custer, Reddick and Bell each moved up to the Cup ranks a year later. Briscoe and Cindric picked up their slack. They won 15 of the 33 races all by themselves. Justin Haley and Noah Gragson picked up where Briscoe and Cindric did from 2019 in reaching victory lane 5 times between the duo.
Like the year prior, Briscoe moved up. Cindric remained last year and between he, Haley and Gragson, they won 9 times. Harrison Burton won 4 times.
2021 saw Cindric and Haley move up full-time in the Cup Series. 2022 allowed Gragson to shine. It also promoted Ty Gibbs in the process. Gragson and Gibbs have combined to have won 11 of the 26 races this year. Next year, both are likely set to graduate up to the Cup Series too. We know Gragson will with Petty GMS Racing. Gibbs is more than likely to replace Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota with Joe Gibbs Racing.
So who’s next?
Custer, Reddick, Bell, Briscoe, Cindric, Haley, Gragson, Burton and now Gibbs will all be Cup Series drivers in 2023.
Who’s the next one to step up?
The thing is, as the youth movement has grown so heavily in Cup, there’s not a lot of places to eventually move up into.
Team Penske has all 3 of their drivers locked up for the long run. They have Burton stashed away at the Wood Brothers. Hendrick Motorsports has 3 of their 4 cars locked down until at least 2026 with Alex Bowman set for a contract extension next season.
Does Stewart-Haas Racing or JGR have room?
We know Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are entering contract years in 2023. Aric Almirola now has a few years left. SHR also has Ryan Preece sitting there but with Chase Briscoe and Custer, I don’t see more than 1 more seat left for them. JGR has Bell and Gibbs set with 2 more spots to groom.
Which is why I wonder if more veterans shine in 2023 in NASCAR’s version of AAA.
AJ Allmendinger has won 8 times over the past 2 Xfinity Series seasons and will be 41 this December. He doesn’t sound like he necessarily wants to be a full-time Cup driver anymore.
Justin Allgaier turned 36 this past June. He’s a 19-time Xfinity Series winner.
What about Josh Berry who will be 32 in a month and is back for a 2nd full time season in 2023. He’s won 4 races in the past 2 seasons.
Brandon Jones moves over to JRM next year in the 9 seat and will turn 26 near next year’s Speedweeks. 2023 will be his 8th season already in the series.
I can see Austin Hill back for a 2nd year with RCR. He’s 28 and will be 29 next April. Does Daniel Hemric return? Unless he gets a full-time Kaulig Cup seat, I can see him back in the 11. He’ll be 32 in January.
The tide may have turned in the series to more veterans.
Granted, you still have Sam Mayer (19 years old), Sheldon Creed (24 years old) and Riley Herbst (23 years old) who can contend but none of these 3 have ever won an Xfinity Series race before.
What about Sammy Smith? He just turned 18. Does Toyota move him up in to an Xfinity Series seat since they’re losing KBM? That could also open a door for Chandler Smith (no relation). He’s only 20. Corey Heim is also 20 and could factor into this. John Hunter Nemechek is 25 and is a part of Toyota’s future too.
That’s why I can see next year being heavily dominated by veterans in this series where it hasn’t recently been so.