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Analysis: Top Candidates to Take Over the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Ride in 2025

Top candidates to replace Martin Truex Jr. what drivers are expected to drive the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing car in 2025?

Photo Credit: Jonathan McCoy, TobyChristie.com

With Martin Truex Jr. officially announcing that he will not return as the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry XSE for the 2025 NASCAR Cup Series season, that officially begs the question; who will?

There are a slew of talented drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series free agency pool this season thanks in part to Stewart-Haas Racing shuttering its NASCAR Cup Series program at season’s end, as well as emerging younger talent looking readier and readier by the day to step into the NASCAR Cup Series full-time next season.

So, who are the top driver options for Joe Gibbs Racing to choose from to fill the seat of the No. 19 Toyota next season?


Chase Briscoe: the Leading Candidate

Industry chatter suggests that Chase Briscoe, who has one career NASCAR Cup Series win and sits 17th in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings during a lame-duck season at Stewart-Haas Racing, is the leading candidate to take over the reins of the No. 19 Toyota next year.

While Briscoe’s career stats aren’t ultra-impressive, he has put up better-than-average numbers for Stewart-Haas Racing, a team which has essentially been in a slump since the 2021 season.

Prior to moving to the NASCAR Cup Series full-time in 2021, Briscoe was electric at the NASCAR Xfinity Series level as he collected 11 wins in 83 starts, and finished top-five in the championship standings in each of his two full-time campaigns.

Briscoe has also stated that while he currently has no sponsorship partners committed for the upcoming season, that he’ll more than likely will be carrying some of his current sponsorship with him to his next landing spot in 2025, including potentially Mahindra Tractors.

“Yeah, I mean there hasn’t been anything on paper signed, but I think all of them have been pretty happy with the relationship we’ve been able to build over the last couple of years,” Briscoe said in a media zoom conference this week. “All of them were definitely willing to talk to whoever and wherever I end up. There’s definitely, I know for a fact, there isn’t any commitment on paper.”

Briscoe says while he doesn’t have anything signed for 2025 sponsorship-wise, that Mahindra Tractors doesn’t want to be a part of the conversation in who lands the drvier. He says Mahindra wants Briscoe to race for whatever team wants him for his talent, not just because he has a sponsor in his back pocket.

That team very well could be Joe Gibbs Racing in 2025.


Noah Gragson

While Gragson has been linked to Richard Childress Racing in recent weeks, as people speculate about the future for the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang Dark Horse, Joe Gibbs Racing could also be a possibility for Gragson.

Gragson has had a stint in the Toyota Racing family, and his existing partnership with Bass Pro Shops could help usher in a somewhat seamless transition partner-wise for Joe Gibbs Racing with Martin Truex Jr. leaving the sport.

Gragson has impressed in 2024, which is a career-rebuilding year for him after a subpar rookie season in 2023, which ended with a suspension and being released by LEGACY MOTOR CLUB.

This season, Gragson has fired off a top-five finish, and five top-10s through the opening 16 races.


John Hunter Nemechek or Erik Jones: Is it Even Possible?

While he’s currently racing for LEGACY MOTOR CLUB this season, there have been no official announcements as to the length of Nemechek’s agreement to race for the team.

When Nemechek was named as the 2024 driver of the No. 42 LMC entry eam co-owner Jimmie Johnson stated, “He will be a solid teammate to Erik (Jones) and I can’t wait to watch them both compete for wins and championships for years to come.”

That quote would lead you to believe that Nemechek will return to the organization beyond the 2024 season, but Nemechek had a second-year option at Front Row Motorsports during his first full-time NASCAR Cup Series stint, and declined to return for the second year of that deal.

TobyChristie.com has reached out to LEGACY MOTOR CLUB for details on Nemechek’s status for the 2025 season, but have not received a response back as of this story’s publishing.

If the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing seat is offered to him, there could be a chance that Nemechek would jump ship, especially when you factor in JHN’s past results with JGR in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Nemechek won seven races on his path to a Championship 4 appearance in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year while driving the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

If Nemechek is not ultimately available, Erik Jones, the other driver at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB could prove to be a serviceable option as well.

Jones drove the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing entry, and scored a couple of wins, prior to Christopher Bell. And after landing at Petty GMS, now LEGACY MOTOR CLUB, Jones scored another win at Darlington last season.

If it comes down to it, could Jones be reuinted with his former team?


Corey Heim: Is It Heim Time?

Marietta, Georgia’s Corey Heim would be a logical candidate to take over for the retiring Truex as well. The 21-year-old full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitor has served as the reserve driver and simulator driver for both LEGACY MOTOR CLUB and 23XI Racing this year, and when Erik Jones was injured in a hard crash at Talladega Superspeedway, Heim made his first two NASCAR Cup Series starts in place of him in the No. 43 entry.

Heim finished 25th and 22nd in his two NASCAR Cup Series starts this season, which isn’t far off of Erik Jones’ 2024 average finish (20.9) in that same ride.

Many within the industry have indicated with the Next Gen car in the NASCAR Cup Series closer resembles the driving style required to succeed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series than the NASCAR Xfinity Series, which could also bode well for Heim’s Cup Series aspirations.

Heim has piled on nine wins in 53 NASCAR Truck Series starts since the 2021 season. He’s shown he is a capable talent, and he seems just about ready to jump to the Cup Series level.


What About Chandler Smith?

While Briscoe, Nemechek, and Heim seem like the logical top-three contenders for the No. 19 ride, there are some other talented drivers within the Toyota Racing pipeline that could be tapped to make the move in 2025.

Chandler Smith would be the best of the rest as he has recorded two wins this season in the No. 81 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota GR Supra in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, which brings his career total to three wins in that series.

Smith also won five races in two full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series seasons while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Smith, 21, is certainly another driver to keep an eye on when it comes to the No. 19 talks.

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