Tifft to RCR and the Domino Effect
By Matteo Marcheschi
Not long ago, it was announced that Matt Tifft would be going to Richard Childress Racing in a surprising multi-year deal. Tifft will drive the #2 Chevy Camaro in the 2018 XFINITY Series campaign. The #2 car has historically been an all-star car, driven by Ben Kennedy, Paul Menard, and the Dillon brothers throughout the season. If their current setup prevails, that would leave the #3 as the team’s only all-star car.
This move leaves Tifft’s #19 Joe Gibbs Racing ride open for 2018, with multiple strong candidates. Between Christopher Bell, who has dominated in the #4 Kyle Busch Motorsports truck the last two seasons, and Ryan Preece, who had finishes of second, first, and fourth in three starts for Gibbs this season. He led laps in all three events for a total of 165 laps out in front, or over a quarter of the laps he completed. Preece has certainly performed well enough to deserve a ride, but Bell has as well.
Oddly enough, though, some rumors have the #19 being taken over by Brandon Jones in a swap with RCR. Jones, though, hasn’t exactly shown the speed of Bell or Preece. Jones is winless in two full-time seasons with RCR in the XFINITY Series. Jones’ 2016 rookie campaign was relatively successful, with 12 top-10 finishes and a 10th place points finish. None of those top-10 finishes, though, were top-5 finishes. Jones scored no DNFs, though, in 2016. This season, to put it kindly, has been a disaster. With only a few races remaining in the season, Jones has only three top-10 finishes and no top-5s. Six DNFs don’t help either, five because of wrecks. Jones has finished less than half of his races this season on the lead lap, which is an awful poor showing for a driver on a top-tier team.
It’s a tough choice between Bell and Preece, but it’s safe to say that both will have some ride next season, since JGR won’t want to let either go. As for Jones, he’ll probably end up underperforming at some big name team, be it RCR, JGR, or another team.