After finishing fifth in the 2019 ARCA Menards Series standings, Joe Graf Jr. is moving up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series. On Thursday, SS-Green Light Racing announced Graf will drive the #08 Chevrolet Camaro full-time in 2020.
“To be racing full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series is super cool,” Graf stated. “My boys at EAT SLEEP RACE are really pumped and I am looking forward to having them back on the car.”
A marketing intern and development driver at Richard Childress Racing, Graf attempted five Xfinity races for the team in 2019 in addition to his full-time ARCA schedule with Chad Bryant Racing. Running the #21 RCR car, he failed to qualify in his initial attempt at Michigan International Speedway, leading to his début taking place the following race at Iowa Speedway, where he finished nineteenth. After being collected in a late-race crash at Daytona International Speedway, he missed the Bristol Motor Speedway round before improving his best finish to fourteenth at Richmond Raceway.
In ARCA, he recorded thirteen top-ten finishes and a best run of fourth at Michigan en route to a fifth-place points finish. The previous year, he ran all but the season-opening Daytona race as he scored his first ARCA win at Berlin Speedway and finished eighth in the standings.
“I learned a lot as an intern at Richard Childress Racing last season,” Graf added. “The opportunity to work with a lot of talented people on so many levels not only from an internship perspective but as well as a driver was such an eye-opening experience. I’m grateful to continue my internship in 2020 with Richard Childress Racing and continue developing as a driver.”
With the move, Graf replaces Gray Gaulding in the #08. In his first and (to date) only full Xfinity season in 2019, Gaulding enjoyed consistency as the lone full-time driver to complete every race; he finished thirteenth in points with four top tens, including a runner-up finish at Talladega Superspeedway. Gaulding’s 2020 plans have not been revealed.
“We wanted Gray back. Unfortunately the funding wasn’t there so we couldn’t make it happen. Also unfortunate people don’t understand that and want to tear us a new one,” a team employee explained on Reddit, referring to criticism of the team for the move. “With that being said, we are extremely excited to welcome Graf to the team and look forward to 2020.