'Names are made here' is a tag line used by the Xfinity Series, and some new faces will make 2021 a special year
The NASCAR Xfinity Series is entering its 40th season, and like some other sports, it’s a type of feeder system, or in baseball terms, the minor leagues. That is not to insinuate that it is somewhat inferior to its big brother, as even Cup Series drivers regularly compete in it, although restricted in the number of times they can do it. And they are not permitted in certain events like theXfinity Series ‘Dash 4 Cash.’
Some would suggest that having Cup regulars in the Xfinity Series keeps other young drivers from getting seat time. It is not a valid argument these days because some events come up short on cars entered. However, many Xfinity Series drivers will tell you that racing against the best in the world is an experience they can take up to Cup if they make it there.
This year, some new faces will join the Xfinity Series ranks and get the chance to compete against Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and yes, even Dale Earnhardt Jr., who does a one-off every year. Five drivers are eligible for Rookie of the Year honors, but only two have full-time rides. The other three will split time with others, although that could change depending on several factors. At this point, it appears to be a two-driver contest between Ryan Vargas and Jordan Anderson.
Here is a look at the Xfinity Series Rookie Class for 2021.
Ryan Vargas – No. 6 JD Motorsports with Gary Keller Chevrolet
Vargas got a taste of the Xfinity Series with a dozen starts over the last two seasons, recording a career-best eighth last year. He will be one of the most inexperienced drivers, leaping from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he made his debut at the age of 17, directly to NASCAR’s second tier. According to JD Motorsports, Vargas stands out and connects with his fan base on a new level via social media. In 2020, Ryan and JDM shocked the racing world, where it was announced that TikTok, the fastest growing social media platform of the decade, had partnered with the young driver.
Jordan Anderson – No. 31 Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet
For the most part, Jordan Anderson has been a regular in the Camping World Truck Series, venturing into the Xfinity Series only 13 times between 2015-17. This year he will compete full time as an owner/driver and have Bommarito Automotive Group on board as his primary sponsor.
The soon to be 30-year old (Apr. 15) has 125 Truck starts under his belt with a pair of top-five and five top-ten finishes. In the Camping World Truck Series 2021 season opener at Daytona International Speedway, he was runner-up to race winner Ben Rhodes.
Sam Mayer – No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet
At 17, Sam Mayer will run a limited schedule for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Xfinity Series, splitting time with Josh Berry, Miguel Paludo, and Earnhardt. Despite having just nine Camping, World Truck Series starts under his belt, he had a stunning victory at Bristol Motor Speedway last September, besting Brett Moffitt. He also added a fourth-place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and did that in just six races. He will take over the No. 8 on the back half of the 2021 season.
Josh Berry – No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Josh Berry is returning to the Xfinity Series and, his next start will be his first since Oct. 21, 2017, at Kansas Speedway. That was the last time he raced in any of the three NASCAR national series’. Now 30-years old, Berry has been competing in the JR Motorsports late models program. He found out he would be in the No. 8 for a dozen races during a live SiriusXM call when Earnhardt called in to let him know.
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Ty Gibbs – No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
If you haven’t heard much about 18-year old Ty Gibbs, you’re not alone because he competed in the ARCA Menards Series the last two years. This hotshoe put up some stunning stats in 2020 with six victories, a dozen top 5s, and 23 top 50s to go along with seven poles in just 16 starts. Many believe he is destined for bigger and better things as he matures, but early indications show his talent could get him to the top very soon.
Gibbs is the grandson of JGR owner Joe Gibbs and will jump from ARCA to the Xfinity Series in a limited role. The No. 54 will have Cup regulars Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin getting seat time, so how many starts he will get has not been determined.