Zane Smith, Austin Hill chasing Ty Gibbs on mid-season NASCAR predictor list

by Bob Bocras
NASCAR FOX Sports writer

with the NASCAR Truck Qualifiers With this past weekend and several short seasons remaining after a couple of months, it’s time to reconsider my potential rankings.

Ty Gibbs continues to top the list with four wins in the Xfinity Series this year putting him in a total of eight in 38 starts. Joe Gibbs’ 19-year-old grandson finished 16th and 17th in two cup games as a replacement for Kurt Busch (concussion) of Team 23XI Racing.

Gibbs said he’s trying not to think about when to race in the Cup, whether it’s next year or the year after. It’s Joe Gibbs Racing’s obvious back-up plan if a deal to keep Kyle Busch isn’t struck.

“Bayesques will never win any races,” Gibbs said. “I don’t want to waste my time on these thoughts. It won’t help speed my car.”

Ty Gibbs on a Cup likely to run in 2023

Ty Gibbs on a Cup likely to run in 2023

Ty Gibbs was asked when he would transition to a full-time Trophy run.

The first regular season truck champ, Zane Smith, moved up to second on my list as his three wins this year have been impressive. He then stepped in as a replacement for Chris Bucher (COVID) at Gateway and finished 17th.

“This was just a huge opportunity,” Smith said. “Receiving this call shows they are paying attention and my stock has gone up. That’s huge for any driver. Just in one race, I feel like a better driver with what I’ve learned.”

Some Parameters: This list consists of drivers age 28 or younger who have no more than a few Cup races (so drivers like Noah Gragson, John Hunter Nemeczyk, Daniel Hemrick, and Josh Perry are not included) and do not enjoy a full-time Cup ride. It’s all personal and based primarily on talent, but the ability to get sponsorship is also taken into account, using my research and some input from a few Driver Scouts.

1. Ty Gibbs (19 years old, previous standings: 1): Everyone knows he’ll be in the Cup full-time either next year or 2024. No driver who wins eight races in the Xfinity Series doesn’t get a chance at the Cup, and Gibbs clearly has a way through his grandfather’s team. The only thing he’s lacking is NASCAR game experience, and he’ll have that later this season.

2. Zane Smith (Age: 22, previous ranking: 5th): His three truck win and the regular season championship will put the Front Row Motorsports driver among the top prospects. His 17th place finish in place of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Bucher at Gateway will likely silence any skeptics. If Brad Keselowski thinks you’re good, you’re probably good.

3. Sam Meyer (Age: 19, previous ranking: 2nd): Meyer is 8th in the Xfinity Ranking and many people would think that this rank is too high. But he didn’t have much trucking experience (he won a truck race in Bristol) and he’s learning many of these tracks for the first time. The rest of the season will prove if the JR Motorsports driver is up for grabs.

4. Austin Hill (Age: 28, previous ranking: 17): He’s won two Xfinity Awards this year while driving Richard Childress Racing, and will make his Cup debut this weekend in Michigan. People love his maturity, but he will need to move quickly to get to the cup.

5. Corey Heim (Age: 20, previous ranking: 7th): On the part-time truck schedule at Kyle Busch Motorsports, Heim has two wins and four top 5 runs in 10 starts. Assuming he works full time on trucks next year, 2023 will be pivotal for him.

6. Chandler Smith (Age: 20, previous ranking: 6th): Smith has two truck wins this year and an average finish of 9.3, a big improvement from his average finish of 16.8 a year ago at Kyle Busch Motorsports.

7. Carson Hocevar (Age: 19, previous ranking: 9th): He’s done really well in the trucks, running in qualifying this year. He has great speed in a Niece Motorsports truck, but he makes the mistakes that young drivers make and they need to win.

8. Sammy Smith (Age: 18, previous ranking: 14): Smith has two wins and six top fives in seven ARCA National Series starting this year for KBM, plus he leads the ARCA East standings with three wins in five races.

9. Sheldon Creed (Age: 24, previous ranking: 3rd): He’s been great in trucks but sitting 13th in the Xfinity standings is a huge disappointment. However, these findings could be more about RCR’s cars than his talent.

10. Taylor Gray (Age: 17, previous ranking: 15): He has three wins in seven ARCA National Series starting with David Gilliland Racing with an average finish of 4.6. It is second in the Eastern ARCA ranking. Plus, he nearly won the truck’s opening match in the IRP last weekend.

11. Nick Sanchez (Age: 21, previous ranking: NR): He has two ARCA driving wins for Max Siegel and is second in the season standings. Chevrolet ranks high in Sanchez and worked to get him in some races in the Big Machine Records Racing #48 Xfinity.

12. disaster chart (Age: 20, previous ranking: NR): Caruth leads the ARCA Series rankings led by Max Siegel by five places in the top five in 11 races. He’s not one of those young drivers who’s been racing since the age of 5 or 6, so many see him as having a solid bullish advantage.

13. Daniel Day (18 years old, previous ranking 16): Dye is third in the ARCA National Driving Series standings for GMS Racing after placing second in the Eastern standings last year.

14. Ben Rhodes (Age: 25, previous ranking: 10th): The defending truck champion has one win this year. He should have had more drive for ThorSport. How he’s doing in the last six races of the truck season could determine if anyone would like to give him a chance in another series.

15. Jesse Love (17 years old, previous ranking: 8): Love hasn’t had a great year with three of the Top 5 players in seven ARCA National Series starting at Venturini Motorsports. But his back-to-back titles at ARCA West in 2020-21 are enough to keep him on this list.

16. Luke Finhaus (18 years old, previous ranking: NR): Fenhaus leads the CARS Pro Late Model Touring standings with an average finish of 2.8 and hasn’t finished outside the top five in that Highlands Motorsports driving series. The Wisconsin-based driver shows he can do it against the Southeast’s best player.

17. Brent Crews (age: 14, previous ranking: 20): He actually won the Trans Am race, becoming the youngest winner in the series’ history. He has already signed with KHI. Crews will shine a spotlight on him wherever he goes, and many believe he could be the talent of the next generation.

18- Carson Kvapel (19 years old, previous ranking 18): He racked up four wins and won the CARS Late Model Tour last year. This year, he has two wins, and leads JR Motorsports, driving the CARS Late Model Stock Tour.

19. William Swalitch (15 years old, previous ranking: NR): This young driver from Minnesota won the CARS Late Model race at Hickory this year and many take note.

20. Hayley Degan (Age: 21, previous ranking: 11th): Deegan had a year to forget in the trucks. But she still has to take a look, based on her marketability and the fact that her 2021 truck resume showed potential.

24 others to watch: Kylie Bryson, Jake Drew, turn the dollarAnd the Christian EcksAnd the Santino FerrucciErnie Francis Jr. Gas GralaAnd the Tanner GrayAnd the Derek GriffithsAnd the Autumn RileyAnd the Brandon JonesCaden Kfabel covid friendsAnd the Derek KrauseLandin Lewis, You are MajeskiAnd the Conor MossackAnd the Thad MoffettAnd the Stephen ParsonsAnd the Parker RitzlaffLynn Riggs Isabella Robusto Kyle WeathermanConor Zelish.

Bob Pokras has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 games of the Daytona 500. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after working for ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @Popocras. Looking for more NASCAR content? Subscribe to the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

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