NASCAR Xfinity Series set to thrill again in 2024

Cole Custer leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series field into Turn 1 at sunset at Phoenix Raceway.
Alejandro Alvarez

The NASCAR Xfinity Series has dazzled in recent years with exceptional racing, compelling personalities and budding rivalries.

The intrigue is set to ratchet up with a fascinating lineup of drivers ahead in 2024.

Cole Custer is back in the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to defend his title after winning the 2023 championship alongside teammate Riley Herbst. But some of the fresh names he’ll be racing against will still be familiar to NASCAR fans.

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Set to make the biggest splash is three-time V-8 Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen, who joins Kaulig Racing in the No. 97 Chevrolet to make his first full foray into NASCAR this year after two NASCAR Cup Series races and one appearance in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2023. In case you missed it, van Gisbergen won his NASCAR debut on the streets of Chicago in July, becoming the first driver in 60 years to accomplish the remarkable feat.

Hailie Deegan, already a veteran of the Truck Series with three full seasons in her rearview mirror, leaps to Xfinity in 2024 to drive the No. 15 Ford for AM Racing. The three-time most popular driver of the Truck Series made her Xfinity debut in 2022 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and charged to a 13th-place finish in her inaugural start.

The most familiar face to return to the series in 2024 will be AJ Allmendinger, a 17-time winner in the Xfinity Series who chased a title in both 2021 and 2022, winning the regular-season championship in both seasons. After returning to the Cup Series full-time in 2023 and winning at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, Allmendinger is back in the hunt for the Xfinity Series championship, piloting the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. A majority of Allmendinger’s wins have come in the past five years, scoring multiple victories per year each season since 2020. He also has two wins to his name during the 2013 season in his two starts at Road America and Mid-Ohio.

In all, six of last year’s 12 playoff teams will have new faces behind the wheel in 2024. While Allmendinger slots into the Kaulig No. 16 car, he’ll have another new teammate, with Josh Williams piloting the team’s No. 11 car.

Chandler Smith, who drove to Victory Lane in the No. 16 Chevy last year, moves over to Joe Gibbs Racing to man the wheel of the No. 81 Toyota for 2024. Joining him in the No. 18 Toyota will be Sheldon Creed, whose split from the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing team was perhaps less than amicable.

Sammy Smith was the pilot of that No. 18 Toyota last year, but he moves over to JR Motorsports and the No. 8 Chevrolet this season replacing the departing Josh Berry. Jesse Love, the 2023 ARCA Menards Series Champion, replaces Creed at RCR alongside his new teammate and defending Regular Season Champion Austin Hill.

At the risk of hyperbole, the depth of this Xfinity Series field is perhaps the strongest it’s ever seen. In addition to the nine of 12 playoff drivers who return in 2024, there are a slew of other competitors who seem poised to make their own postseason stand.

Allmendinger’s history on road courses speaks for itself. SVG may be a newcomer to American stock car racing — and surely, expectations should not be set too high on ovals — but a full Xfinity season without a road-course victory for van Gisbergen might be more surprising than if he wins a couple.

Riley Herbst barely missed the postseason after a string of bad summer luck but ended the year in style, claiming his first career win at Las Vegas in the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Five-time series winner Brandon Jones went winless in his first year driving the No. 9 JR Motorsports but has proven plenty capable of wheeling his way to Victory Lane.

Jordan Anderson Racing teammates Jeb Burton and Parker Retzlaff showed plenty of speed on superspeedways, with Burton scoring the win at Talladega Superspeedway to qualify for the playoffs. Retzlaff also dazzled in qualifying with five top-five time-trial efforts and eight top-10 starts. Big Machine Racing’s Parker Kligerman drove the team’s No. 48 Chevrolet into the playoffs in his first full season since 2013 and came incredibly close to winning a season ago.

Let’s also not brush past the returning dominators of last season. Hill, Justin Allgaier and Sam Mayer each stormed to four wins a season ago, tied for second behind John Hunter Nemechek (who will drive part-time for JGR in 2024 while running a full-time Cup schedule).

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With 13 full seasons behind him, the 37-year-old Allgaier stands as the series’ elder statesman (though Allmendinger makes a fair fight for that title at age 42). The Illinois native has won 23 races — 13 in the past five seasons alone — with four Championship 4 appearances in that time. He’s fallen runner-up twice in that title hunt, heartbreakingly close multiple times, but certainly just as competitive now as ever.

Mayer rose to prominence in 2023, netting his first four career victories over the final 14 races of the season and launching himself to the Championship 4. Confidence was plentiful through the No. 1 JRM team as the 20-year-old found his footing, which could lead to even more success in the new year.

Hill’s 9.0 average finish was the best of all series regulars in 2023. Hill barely missed the Championship 4 after late contact with then-teammate Creed in the year’s penultimate race at Martinsville Speedway but still ended the year tied for a series-high 24 top 10s to go along with 16 top-five finishes.

The exuberant personalities of the series combined with fierce racing and new faces in new places means plenty of excitement is on the menu for 2024.