Ty Gibbs, the 16-year-old grandson of NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, will make his ARCA Series debut Saturday in the Pensacola 200 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
The younger Gibbs will split driving duties of the No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers Toyota this season, competing in all of ARCA’s short track races, while 2017 ARCA Rookie of the Year Riley Herbst will wheel the car at superspeedway races.
“We’re obviously excited to get to Five Flags and get my season started,” Ty Gibbs said. “But we’re equally excited to get to all of the tracks we’re going to race at this season. They’re all different and every one of them has their own challenges. Mark (McFarland, crew chief) has told me a lot about all of them.”
McFarland has stepped back from his duties as co-owner of MDM Motorsports to focus on serving as Gibbs’ crew chief. MDM Motorsports announced at the end of last season that it was withdrawing after two years on the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series circuit and that it would scale back its NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and ARCA programs to just two cars in 2019.
“It’s a lot less stress this year than last year, for sure,” McFarland said. “I am back to having fun. I enjoy being a crew chief. Once I transitioned from driving to being a crew chief, I really came to enjoy working with these young drivers. It’s fun to see these guys figure things out in two or three races that might have taken me a couple years to learn.”
When he takes the green flag Saturday, Gibbs — who also competes in the K&N East Series for DGR-Crosley Racing (a team owned by NASCAR driver David Gilliland) — will be seeking his second win of the racing season. He won a late model race at Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Speedway on February 2, with his grandfather in attendance.
On Thursday, Joe Gibbs Racing announced a crew chief realignment for the 2019 season for four of its teams.
Chris Gabehart will take over for Mike Wheeler as Denny Hamlin‘s crew chief in the Cup Series. Wheeler and Hamlin parted ways following the season finale at Homestead. Gabehart spent the last three seasons as an Xfinity crew chief for JGR earning a total of nine wins during that time. Last year, he was the crew chief for the Xfinity No. 19 team of Brandon Jones.
Eric Phillips will also move from the Xfinity series to Cup as the car chief for Hamlin. He earned eight wins during three seasons as an Xfinity crew chief on the No. 18.
Jeff Meendering will fill the crew chief spot on the Xfinity No. 19 vacated by Gabehart and will be paired with Jones.
Meendering returns to JGR after two years with Stewart-Haas Racing and the No. 00 car.
Ben Beshore moves from his current role as engineer on Kyle Busch‘s car to fill the role of crew chief on the Xfinity No. 18. This team typically fields multiple drivers during the season.
“With such a short offseason it’s important to start work toward the 2019 season immediately and we are proud with the teams we have assembled now, both in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and in the Xfinity Series,” said owner Joe Gibbs in a press release. “With Chris Gabehart joining Adam Stevens, Chris Gayle, and Cole Pearn on the Cup side we believe we have the right leaders in place to benefit our entire organization.”
Former driver Mark McFarland will become team manager and crew chief for JGR’s K&N Pro series and ARCA car. In 31 starts in the Xfinity series, McFarland scored one top 10 at Talladega in 2006 while driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“In addition, we take a tremendous amount of pride in our accomplishments in the Xfinity Series and are excited to have Jeff Meendering and Ben Beshore join Jason Ratcliff to lead our efforts there, as well as bolster our developmental program in ARCA with the addition of Mark McFarland,” Gibbs said.