A significant milestone achievement is in the making for Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota Supra team piloted by multiple competitors in this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series. By participating in this weekend’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Ratcliff will call his 500th Xfinity event as a crew chief.
A native of Sumter, South Carolina, Ratcliff, who began his racing career working on mini Sprint Cars in Texas before working for the Sadler Brothers Racing Team in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1995, made his debut as a NASCAR crew chief in 2000 for Casey Atwood and the No. 27 Brewco Motorsports Chevrolet team. In his first season as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series, Ratcliff led Atwood and the No. 27 team to two poles and eight top-10 results throughout the 32-race schedule before Atwood settled in eighth place in the final standings.
During the following two Xfinity seasons, Ratcliff remained at Brewco Motorsports while being paired with rookie driver Jamie McMurray, who replaced Atwood. Together, the duo achieved a total of six top-five results and 17 top-10 results through the two seasons with a best points result of sixth place in 2002. In addition, Ratcliff achieved his first two career wins as a NASCAR crew chief in back-to-back weekends as he guided McMurray to his first two career victories in the Xfinity circuit at Atlanta Motor Speedway and at Rockingham’s North Carolina Speedway between October and November.
In 2003, Ratcliff was paired with the 1996 Xfinity champion David Green, who was driving the No. 37 Pontiac for Brewco Motorsports. After calling his 100th Xfinity event as a crew chief during the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway, Ratcliff guided Green to three victories: Nashville Superspeedway in April, New Hampshire International Speedway in July and at Kansas Speedway in October. To go along with two poles, 11 top-five results, 21 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 11.1, they settled in second place in the final standings and fell 14 points shy of the title to driver Brian Vickers and crew chief Lance McGrew from Hendrick Motorsports.
After leading Green to a seventh-place result in the final standings in 2004 despite going winless, Ratcliff joined forces with Joe Gibbs Racing to serve as a crew chief for JJ Yeley and the No. 18 Chevrolet team for the 2005 Xfinity season. Throughout the season, Ratcliff and Yeley achieved a season-best runner-up result at Memphis Motorsports Park in October along with a pole, six top-five results and 16 top-10 results throughout the 35-race schedule before Yeley finished in seventh place in the final standings. By then, Ratcliff surpassed 200 career events as an Xfinity crew chief.
Despite enduring a winless season in 2006 while guiding Yeley and the No. 18 JGR team to four poles, nine top-five results, 22 top-10 results and a fifth-place result in the final standings, Ratcliff retained his role as a crew chief for the No. 18 team in 2007. On this occasion, the No. 18 entry was piloted between Aric Almirola, Brad Coleman, Kevin Conway and Tony Stewart throughout the 35-race schedule. The team’s best result throughout the season was a runner-up performance by Coleman at Kentucky Speedway in June coupled with two poles, five top-five results and eight top-10 results throughout the 35-race schedule.
Ratcliff remained at JGR and as crew chief for the team’s No. 18 entry for the 2008 season that competed on a part-time basis and was shared between Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart in the early stages of the season. By then, the organization swapped manufacturers from Chevrolet to Toyota. After leading Busch and the No. 18 team to a runner-up result at Daytona in February and a 31st-place result at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, Ratcliff and Busch achieved their first victory of the season and with JGR when Busch claimed a dominant win at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Ratcliff went on to achieve three additional victories with Busch and another with Hamlin during the next nine events that the No. 18 entry competed in the Xfinity circuit. In August, however, Ratcliff was among a number of JGR employees, including crew chief Dave Rogers, who were suspended from NASCAR indefinitely after NASCAR penalized JGR’s Nos. 18 and 20 Xfinity Series teams due to rule violations discovered by NASCAR inspectors prior to post-race testing on the chassis dynamometer at Michigan. Despite the hefty points penalties and suspensions, JGR’s No. 18 Toyota team went on to win five more events for the remainder of the season as Wally Brown, Doug Hewitt and Joel Weidman were atop the pit box of JGR’s Xfinity Series operations.
Following his indefinite suspension, Ratcliff returned as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series for JGR’s No. 18 Toyota Camry team piloted by Kyle Busch, who elected to run a full Xfinity schedule along with a full Cup Series schedule in 2009. Despite being absent for the season-opening event at Daytona, Ratcliff earned a one-way trip to Victory Lane in his return atop the pit box at Auto Club Speedway in February when Busch won after leading all but seven of the 150-scheduled laps. The 2009 season proved to be a memorable one for the South Carolina native, who led Busch to eight additional victories, three poles, 24 top-five results and 29 top-10 results throughout the season. When the final checkered flag flew at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, Busch, who fended off title rival Carl Edwards to win the finale, claimed his first Xfinity Series championship by 210 points over Edwards. The 2009 Xfinity title was also a first for Joe Gibbs Racing, a first for Toyota in the series and for Ratcliff, who surpassed 300 career events as an Xfinity crew chief and recorded nine victories, three poles, 24 top-five results and 29 top-10 results with the No. 18 team.
In 2010, Ratcliff remained as a crew chief for JGR’s No. 18 Toyota team while Kyle Busch, who decided to not defend his series title, participated in 29 of the 35-race schedule. Brad Coleman drove the No. 18 car in the remaining six vacant events. Despite not being in contention for the drivers’ championship, JGR’s No. 18 entry achieved the 2010 Xfinity owners’ championship on the strength of 13 victories, all achieved by Busch, as Busch established an all-time record of most victories produced by a driver in an Xfinity season. The No. 18 team also achieved a total of three poles, 22 top-five results and 28 top-10 results throughout the 35-race schedule.
Ratcliff remained as a crew chief for JGR’s No. 18 Toyota Camry team for a seventh consecutive season in 2011 that was piloted between Kelly Bires, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Logano, Michael McDowell and Ryan Truex. Throughout the season, Ratcliff achieved eight victories, all with Busch. In addition, the No. 18 entry achieved three poles, 21 top-five results, 27 top-10 results and a runner-up result in the final Xfinity owners’ standings behind Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 Ford Mustang team.
Following 12 seasons in the Xfinity circuit, Ratcliff graduated to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2012, where he assumed the role of crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota Camry team. From 2012 through 2017, he notched 15 victories in NASCAR’s premier series while working with Logano and Matt Kenseth. Then in 2018, Ratcliff returned to the Xfinity Series to serve as a crew chief for JGR’s No. 20 Toyota Camry piloted by Christopher Bell, who was coming off a Camping World Truck Series championship with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Eight races into the new season, Ratcliff and Bell achieved their first victory of the season at Richmond in April. The duo went on to achieve three consecutive victories in July at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Iowa before entering the 2018 Xfinity Playoffs as a title favorite. After collecting victories at Richmond and Dover between September and Dover to transfer from the Playoff’s Round of 12 to 8, Ratcliff and Bell rallied from sustaining back-to-back DNFs at Kansas and Texas during the Round of 8 to win for the seventh time of the season at Phoenix in November and clinch a Championship 4 spot at Homestead. During the finale, however, Bell cut a tire in the closing stages and finished 11th on the track while also settling in fourth place in the final drivers’ standings. Despite falling short of winning his second championship, Ratcliff, who surpassed 400 Xfinity events as a crew chief, achieved great success in his return to the series as he led Bell and the No. 20 to seven victories, five poles, 18 top-five results, 20 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 10.3.
Remaining as Bell’s crew chief for the 2019 Xfinity Series season, Ratcliff achieved another successful season that started with a victory during the second event of the season at Atlanta. The duo went on to achieve seven additional victories, qualify for the Xfinity Playoffs and transfer all the way to the Championship 4 finale at Homestead with another opportunity to contend for the drivers’ championship. The duo, however, settled in fifth place during the finale and in third place in the final standings in a season where they recorded an additional victory, pole and top-10 result along with two additional top-five results and a higher average-finishing result (9.1) in comparison to 2018.
Following two strong consecutive seasons in the Xfinity circuit highlighted with 15 victories and two championship finale appearances, Ratcliff and Bell moved up to the NASCAR Cup Series and joined forces with Leavine Family Racing for the 2020 season. Once Leavine Family Racing ceased operations at the conclusion of the 2020 season and Bell re-joined Joe Gibbs Racing to pilot the No. 20 Toyota in the Cup Series, Ratcliff returned to the Xfinity Series for the 2021 season as a crew chief for the No. 20 Toyota Supra team piloted by Harrison Burton, the reigning Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year who won four races during his rookie campaign. Despite being absent at Darlington Raceway in September due to COVID-19 protocols and enduring a winless season, the new duo achieved a consistent season highlighted with nine top-five results, 21 top-10 results and a spot in the Xfinity Playoffs before finishing in eighth place in the final standings.
For this season, Ratcliff was assigned to lead JGR’s No. 18 Toyota Supra entry that has been piloted by Trevor Bayne, Drew Dollar, Connor Mosack, John Hunter Nemechek, Sammy Smith, Ryan Truex and Bubba Wallace. Through the first 16 events of 2022, Ratcliff has led the No. 18 team to a pole, four top-five results and seven top-10 results as they are situated in 10th place in the Xfinity owners’ standings. The No. 18 entry, which is coming off a 24th-place run at Road America with newcomer Sammy Smith, is set to be piloted by Ryan Truex for this upcoming weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Through 499 previous appearances, Ratcliff has achieved one championship, 55 victories, 33 poles, 167 top-five results and 266 top-10 results while working with 22 different competitors.
Ratcliff is scheduled to call his 200th Xfinity Series event as a crew chief at Atlanta on Saturday, July 9, with the event’s coverage to occur at 5 p.m. ET on USA Network.