Joe Graf Jr. will compete in his first full-time Xfinity Series season this year with SS Greenlight Racing, the team announced Thursday.
Graf, 21, will drive the team’s No. 08 Chevrolet, which Gray Gaulding raced in 2019.
Patrick Donahue will serve as Graf’s crew chief. He will be sponsored by the EAT SLEEP RACE clothing line.
A native of Mahwah, New Jersey, Graf competed part-time for Richard Childress Racing last year, making three starts and failed to qualify for two others. His best finish was 14th in the fall race at Richmond. Graf raced full-time in the ARCA Menards Racing Series the last two years. He earned one win, seven top fives and 21 top 10s.
“To be racing full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series is super cool,” Graf said in a press release. “My boys at EAT SLEEP RACE are really pumped and I am looking forward to having them back on the car.
“Bobby (Dotter, team owner) and Patrick prepare solid cars. To have the chance to get into a competitive race car for a full season is exactly what I need to continue developing at this level.
“My goal is to learn as much as possible, contend for strong finishes and maybe even earn a berth into the Xfinity Series playoffs. I know I have a lot to learn, but I’m eager for the challenge and am ready to get to Daytona and getting the season underway.”
As an owner, Dotter has 220 Xfinity Series starts since 1995 and 305 in the Truck Series since 2004. Gaulding earned Dotter’s best Xfinity result last year when he placed second at Talladega.
“I’ve been watching Joe for a little while now, especially when he ran a few NASCAR Xfinity Series races last season and I’ve seen he’s eager to learn and perform,” Dotter said in a press release. “This is a big step for him, but he is determined to put the effort in and have a good rookie season.
“With Patrick’s leadership and the strength that our team has shown in recent seasons, there’s no reason that we can’t go out there and do the same with Joe in 2020. I’m looking forward to getting the year started.”
During his 2019 season at RCR, Graf served as a marketing and communications intern through New York University, where he attends school. He will continue in that role this year.
Here’s a breakdown of each rookie class member (in alphabetical order):
Christopher Bell 2020 team: Leavine Family Racing 2019 team: Joe Gibbs Racing (Xfinity Series) Number of Cup starts to date: 0 Career Xfinity/Trucks wins: 16/7 What’s ahead: Bell makes the long-anticipated move to the Cup Series in 2020. Because his former Xfinity Series team, Joe Gibbs Racing, had a full driver roster in the Cup Series, Bell has been farmed out to Leavine Family Racing in a partnership/technical alliance with JGR, similar to when JGR placed Erik Jones with Furniture Row Racing in 2017 (which was also the year Bell won the Truck Series championship). Bell will be sponsored by Rheem and Procore and his crew chief from the Xfinity Series, Jason Ratcliff, follows him as his Cup crew chief. Bell replaces Matt DiBenedetto, who has moved on to take the place of Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing, who has stepped away from Cup racing
Cole Custer 2020 team: Stewart-Haas Racing 2019 team: Stewart-Haas Racing (Xfinity Series) Number of Cup starts to date: 3 (all in 2018; best finish was 25th at Las Vegas) Career Xfinity/Trucks wins: 9/2 What’s ahead: Like Bell and Reddick, it’s time for Custer to make the big jump from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series. Custer will drive the No. 41 Ford, replacing Daniel Suarez, whose racing plans for 2020 are still unclear. Custer had a breakthrough season in the Xfinity Series in 2019, earning a career-best seven wins, 17 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes. He also finished second in the Xfinity Series for the second straight season. He’ll bring his Xfinity crew chief Mike Shiplett to the same role in Cup. … Is the son of SHR general manager Joe Custer.
Quin Houff 2020 team: StarCom Racing 2019 team: Split Cup season between 13 starts for Spire Motorsports and four starts for Premium Motorsports) Number of Cup starts to date: 17, all in 2019 (best finish 28th in Coca-Cola 600) Career Xfinity/Trucks wins: 0 What’s ahead: The 22-year-old Houff replaces Landon Cassill in the No. 00 Chevrolet. Houff’s contract covers both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. … Houff competed in 17 Cup races last season but remains eligible for Rookie of the Year honors in 2020. … No crew chief has been named for the team yet; Joe Williams was crew chief for Cassill last season but was released from the team after the season-ending race at Miami. … Houff’s racing resume includes not only his 17 Cup starts last year, but also 10 career Xfinity starts, one ARCA Menards West start, five ARCA Menards Series starts and 19 CARS Super Late Model Tour starts.
John Hunter Nemechek 2020 team: Front Row Motorsports 2019 team: GMS Racing (Xfinity Series) Number of Cup starts to date: 3 (all in 2019, best finish 21st in fall Texas race) Career Xfinity/Trucks wins: 1/6 What’s ahead: The son of veteran NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek moves to Front Row Motorsports to drive the No. 38 Ford Mustang in 2020 after 1 ½ seasons of racing in the Xfinity Series. He earned one career Xfinity win (2018 at Kansas), but reached victory lane six times while driving a Truck (2013-2019). … Barely missed making the Xfinity Championship 4 round at Miami; finished seventh in the season standings. … Takes over the No. 38 from David Ragan, who has retired from active full-time racing in the Cup Series. Ragan’s former crew chief, Seth Barbour, remains in that role with Nemechek
Brennan Poole 2020 team: Premium Motorsports 2019 team: On Point Motorsports (Truck Series) Number of Cup starts to date: 0 Career Xfinity/Trucks wins: 0/0 What’s ahead: Poole is slated to compete in his first full season since the 2017 Xfinity campaign. He was supposed to run a full slate in 2019 in the Truck Series, but On Point Motorsports was forced to scale back plans due to sponsorship issues. Still, he managed to score one top-five and four top-10 finishes in 13 starts for the underfunded team. … Poole has never driven in a Cup race before, but he has 83 starts in the Xfinity Series, including eight top five and 36 top-10 finishes. … Crew chief is NASCAR veteran Pat Tryson.
Tyler Reddick 2020 team: Richard Childress Racing 2019 team: Richard Childress Racing (Xfinity Series) Number of Cup starts to date: 2 (both in 2019, best finish of ninth at Kansas 1) Career Xfinity/Trucks wins: 9/3 What’s ahead: After winning consecutive Xfinity Series championships, Reddick moves up to the Cup Series in the No. 8 Chevrolet, replacing Daniel Hemric. It’s notable that Reddick won the 2018 Xfinity championship with JR Motorsports, and then won the 2019 title with RCR. … Caterpillar will once again sponsor the car. … Randall Burnett will be Reddick’s crew chief.
The seven-time champion will have one last go at earning a record eighth title before retiring from full-time Cup racing. He’ll also try to end a 95-race losing streak that dates to June 2017. A win by Johnson would give him 84 and move him into a tie with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth all-time.
The defending Cup champion is within milestones in all three of NASCAR’s national series. He’s four Cup wins away from 60, four Xfinity Series wins from 100 and four Truck Series wins away from 60. Busch has said once he reaches 100 Xfinity Series wins he’d stop competing in the series unless car owner Joe Gibbs needed him to fill in.
With 56 career victories, Busch is seventh on the all-time wins list. Dale Earnhardt is sixth with 76 victories.
A win by Busch this year would give him wins in 16 straight seasons. That would match Jimmie Johnson’s streak from 2002-17. Richard Petty had 18 straight seasons with a win (1960-77) and David Pearson had 17 straight seasons with a win (1964-80).
The 2014 Cup champion needs one win to reach 50 for his career. He’s currently tied for 11th on the all-time wins list with his team owner, Tony Stewart. Harvick has 1,151 starts across NASCAR’s three nationals series. Thirty four starts this year will match him with Richard Petty for second all-time. Joe Nemechek has the most all-time with 1,188.
After earning six wins in 2019, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver needs three more to reach 40 Cup wins. He’s currently tied with Hall of Hamer Bobby Isaac. Should Hamlin win the Daytona 500, he’d be the first driver to win the race in back-to-back seasons since Sterling Marlin (1994-95).
The 2017 Cup champion could reach 30 career wins this season. He has 26. Of note, every eligible retired driver who has 30 or more Cup wins is a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Five active drivers have 30 or more wins: Brad Keselowski (30 wins), Kurt Busch (31), Hamlin (37), Harvick (49) and Kyle Buch (56).
In his second season with Roush Fenway Racing, Newman is within two victories of 20 career wins. He’s been stuck there since 2017 when he won the spring race at Phoenix Raceway. A win would give Newman a victory with all four organizations he’s competed for in Cup (Team Penske, Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing are the others). Roush is winless in the last 91 races.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver should reach 700 Cup Series starts this season. He’s 16 starts away from the mark and is scheduled to reach it June 14 at Sonoma Raceway. Among active full-time Cup drivers, Busch’s 684 starts are the most.
The Team Penske drivers should both reach 400 career starts this season. Logano will reach the mark in the Daytona 500, while Keselowski needs 23 starts. He’s scheduled to make start No. 400 on Aug. 9 at his home track of Michigan International Speedway (Keselowski has yet to win there).
McDowell and Almirola are each set to reach 350 Cup Series starts this season. McDowell is scheduled to reach that mark Sept. 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Almirola would reach it Oct. 25 at Texas Motor Speedway. With 321 starts, McDowell trails Landon Cassill (324 starts) for most starts among active full-time drivers without a win. StarCom Racing has not announced its plans for Cassill in 2020.
The veteran driver is set to compete full-time for Rick Ware Racing this season. It would be his first full-time Cup season since 2007 when he drove for Joe Gibbs Racing. Yeley is nine starts away from his 300th Cup start. He is scheduled to reach the mark April 19 at Richmond Raceway.
WINS: Six, career best (Talladega, Charlotte I, MIchigan, Bristol II, Las Vegas II, Miami)
LAPS LED: 568, career best
TOP 5s: 24, career best
TOP 10s: 27, career best
POLES: Five, career best
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Almost everything. On his way to a second consecutive Xfinity Series championship, Reddick had three DNFs for wrecks. As a result, he only finished outside the top 10 six times all year. He didn’t have the most wins, but he was as consistent as you can get, at one point finishing in the top five in 10-straight races and then putting together an eight-race streak later in the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG: His three DNFs, that’s about it.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2020: Reddick moves up to the Cup Series as a two-time defending Xfinity Series champion. He’ll be part of the very deep rookie class as he competes against fellow Xfinity drivers Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek.