With the 2018 NASCAR XFINITY Series right around the corner, several changes in the driver roster have been made, many of which bring the promise of success for several drivers. The season promises to be one for the series regulars as the talent that these five drivers bring will be sure to bring much-needed change to the division.
Christopher Bell – Joe Gibbs Racing
One year after scoring the 2017 Camping World Truck Series title for Kyle Busch Motorsports as well as his first XFINITY Series win at Kansas, the 23-year-old Oklahoman is shaping up to be the next big thing in the XFINITY Series. Bell has got the world on a string; backing from Toyota Racing Development and Joe Gibbs Racing, the best equipment in his hands, and all the talent afforded to young racers.
He’s garnered a lot of success over his young racing career, scoring trophies on dirt and asphalt, and he will earn more wins in ’18. His path mirrors that of his predecessor, 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year Erik Jones, so it’s a safe bet that like his predecessor, Bell is only getting started.
Elliott Sadler – JR Motorsports
To put it out there, Sadler is angry. He is sick and tired of being a bridesmaid. After rejoining the XFINITY ranks in 2011, he’s achieved a great deal of success, but he’s managed to lose the championship in more ways than Dale Sr. lost the Daytona 500.
His incident with Ryan Preece at Homestead could mark a change in the veteran; one that’s more determined and aggressive than ever before. It’s no question Sadler can take his JRM Chevy to the front. But can he keep it there long enough to finally seal the deal and score his first-ever NASCAR championship? It’ll be fun to watch.
Jeremy Clements – Jeremy Clements Racing
Winning at Road America in 2017 was the shot in the arm this program needed. Sure, they were among the first eliminated in the Playoffs, but they scored a career-best 12th-place in the points, which isn’t bad for any stretch for an underdog owner/driver combination.
Considering that JCR is still among the underfunded teams in the garage, Clements can’t afford to be as aggressive as other drivers. He didn’t match his average finish from 2016 (20th to 2017’s 22.1) or his 2016 top-10 total (three to 2017’s two), but look for this program to continue its growth on the track and put itself in position for a banner season.
John Hunter Nemechek – Chip Ganassi Racing
Finally. That’s what the rest of the NASCAR garage was thinking when CGR announced that they had signed Nemechek to a partial schedule in the flagship No. 42 Chevrolet. Considering his performance in his father’s truck since 2013, it’s a wonder why he wasn’t signed sooner. Nemechek put the NEMCO truck into Victory Lane five times, finishing a career-high eighth in points in 2016 and 2017.
Nemechek isn’t a particularly aggressive driver and manages to take care of his equipment better than most, which has led to his quiet consistency on track. Considering that NEMCO isn’t the cream of the crop in terms of equipment, the fact that Nemechek won and was a contender on a regular basis should bode well for his time with CGR.
Tyler Reddick – JR Motorsports
Reddick will be taking over the No. 9, piloted to the 2017 series championship by William Byron, who will be a Cup Series rookie in 2018. Reddick’s first venture into the XFINITY Series did prove fruitful in 2017, where he scored two poles, six top-10s, four top-fives, and a win at Kentucky.
Reddick is strong and has won on various disciplines of tracks such as superspeedways, one-mile speedways, and mile-and-a-half tracks. He’s also fared well on road courses and short tracks, having finished sixth at Mosport in 2016 and scoring multiple top-fives and top-10s on short tracks in his truck and XFINITY career.
Several other storylines will develop as the season progresses toward Homestead-Miami, with many surprises and busts bound to happen. But with all that aside, these are the five drivers to watch in the 2018 NASCAR XFINITY Series.