Daniel Hemric will receive another shot at the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. On Thursday, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Hemric will drive the #18 Toyota Supra full-time in 2021, replacing Riley Herbst. It will be Hemric’s third full Xfinity campaign.
“It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for me over the last few years, but I can’t say how thankful I am for the opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing,” Hemric said. “Their reputation speaks for itself. I know they have high expectations for me, as I do as well, and I could not be more excited to chase the Xfinity Series championship with them next season.”
Although Hemric has never won a race in NASCAR, he has enjoyed consistency. In 2017 and 2018, his first two full-time Xfinity seasons with Richard Childress Racing, he reached the Championship Rounds before finishing fourth and third, respectively. His 2018 campaign saw him record twenty-three top tens, sixteen top fives, and a best finish of second on four occasions.
Hemric moved up to the Cup Series in 2019 with RCR. Although he won Rookie of the Year honours and was still contracted through 2020, a twenty-fifth-place points finish and two top tens were not enough to keep him in the ride for the following season as he was ousted in favour of Tyler Reddick. He returned to the Xfinity level for 2020 on a part-time schedule with JR Motorsports in the #8 car. In twenty-one races for JRM, he scored twelve top tens and seven top fives (best finish of second twice), but was struck by various misfortunes during the year.
With the move to JGR, he will partner with Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton and race a Toyota for the first time in his NASCAR career.
“We’re excited to have Daniel join our Xfinity Series team,” said JGR Xfinity executive vice president Steve de Souza. “He has proven the ability to run up front and we believe his experience and consistency will be a benefit to our overall program. We look forward to him competing with Brandon and Harrison for wins and contending for a championship.”
Herbst departs the JGR #18 after just one season in which he made the playoffs but was eliminated after the opening round and finished twelfth in the standings. He recorded seventeen top tens and four top fives in 2020 with a best run of second twice. The Las Vegas native had been in the JGR camp since 2017 in what is now the ARCA Menards Series, winning Rookie of the Year that season.
“To Coach and the entire Gibbs family, thank you for welcoming me with open arms to be a part of your family these last four years,” wrote Herbst in a statement. “I have made countless memories and relationship that will last me a lifetime. It has been nothing but an honor to drive for not only such a great organization, but a great family. I wish nothing but the best for the entire Joe Gibbs Racing organization over the years to come. With that being said, I’m looking forward to what the future has in store.”
Although he has not revealed his 2021 plans, it has been reported by Frontstretch that he will join Stewart-Haas Racing‘s #98 Xfinity car. The ride, recently vacated by Chase Briscoe as he moves up to Cup, will place Herbst on a team that made the Championship Round in 2020. In addition to making Herbst one of two Xfinity drivers for Ford Performance alongside newly-crowned champion Austin Cindric, the move would also ensure a second Monster Energy-sponsored member of the driver development program with Hailie Deegan already in its ranks; incidentally, Herbst and Deegan both also hail from off-road racing pedigrees.
The Hemric/Herbst news is not the only major development for JGR on Thursday. Later in the day, the team’s motocross division JGRMX, run by Gibbs’ son Coy since 2008, announced it will shut down after losing its alliance with Suzuki.