Chris Gayle to call 150th Cup event as crew chief at Bristol Dirt

In his return as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series crew chief and fresh off a championship in the Xfinity Series, Chris Gayle is set to achieve a milestone start. By participating in this weekend’s Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course, Gayle will call his 150th event as a crew chief in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina in Charlotte with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Gayle made his inaugural presence as a Cup Series crew chief at Kansas Speedway in April 2013, where he was atop the pit box of the No. 81 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry team piloted by veteran Elliott Sadler. By then, he had recently served as a senior engineer for Kyle Busch and was serving as Sadler’s full-time crew chief in the Xfinity Series. In Gayle’s first event as a Cup crew chief, Sadler, who started 24th, finished 40th after being eliminated in an early accident.

Four years later, Gayle was named a full-time Cup Series crew chief of the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry entry piloted by Erik Jones, who was set to compete in the series for the first time following a four-win season during the previous Xfinity season. Despite being suspended for two races in August due to a post-race infraction at Pocono Raceway in July, Gayle led Jones to his first Cup career pole at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, where he went on to finish a career-best second place following a late duel against Kyle Busch. Despite earning 11 top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, the duo did not make the 2017 Cup Playoffs. Nonetheless, they went on to post two top-10 results during the 10-race Playoff stretch before finishing in 19th place in the final standings. By then, Jones captured the 2017 Cup Rookie-of-the-Year title and became the first competitor to achieve a rookie title across NASCAR’s top three premier series (Truck, Xfinity and Cup divisions).

In 2018, Gayle and Jones moved back to Joe Gibbs Racing and took over the No. 20 Toyota Camry team for the upcoming Cup season. Following a consistent start to the season that was highlighted by six top-10 results during the first 16-scheduled events, Gayle and Jones earned their first career victory in the Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway in July after Jones overtook former teammate Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap to win. After notching six additional top-10 results during the following eight events, the duo qualified for the 2018 Cup Playoffs. Their title hopes, however, came to an early end following respective finishes of 40th, 11th and 30th during the Round of 16. Despite rallying to finish in the top 10 four times during the final seven events, Gayle and Jones capped off the season in 15th place in the final standings.

Remaining as Jones’ crew chief in 2019, Gayle led the No. 20 team to a strong third-place result during the 61st running of the Daytona 500. After enduring an up-and-down regular-season stretch highlighted with eight top-five results and 12 top-10 results during the first 24 regular-season events, Gayle and Jones achieved their first elusive victory of the season in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in September, where Jones held off teammate Kyle Busch to win in his 100th Cup career start and notch the second career victory for himself and Gayle. The Southern 500 victory was more than enough for the duo and the No. 20 team to clinch a Playoff spot for a second consecutive season. Following another early exit from the Playoffs after posting three consecutive results outside the top 30 during the Round of 16, Gayle and Jones went on to finish 16th in the final standings.

Gayle and Jones commenced the 2020 season on a high note by winning the Busch Clash at Daytona in February, where Jones rallied from being involved in three multi-car wrecks to nurse his damaged car to the win with drafting help from teammate Denny Hamlin. The rest of the season, however, ended up being a struggle for the duo as they recorded seven top-10 results during the regular season and failed to make the Playoffs. In addition, Gayle served a one-race suspension during the second of a Darlington Raceway doubleheader feature in May after Jones’ No. 20 Toyota had two unsecured lugnuts during the first Darlington feature. Five finishes in the top 10 during the 10-week Playoff stretch, however, were enough for Gayle and Jones to end up in 17th place in the final standings, the highest-finishing team in the standings to not make the Playoffs.

Following the 2020 season, Gayle and Jones were replaced by Adam Stevens and Christopher Bell, respectively, for the 2021 season. While Jones moved on to Richard Petty Motorsports, Gayle remained at JGR and scaled back as a full-time Xfinity Series crew chief for the team’s No. 54 Toyota Supra entry piloted by a multitude of competitors. Between 2021 and 2022, Gayle earned 17 Xfinity victories between Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Ty Gibbs and John Hunter Nemechek. He also won the 2022 Xfinity Series championship with Ty Gibbs in a season where the duo notched seven victories, including the season finale to claim the fourth Xfinity title for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Nearly a week and a half after winning the previous season’s Xfinity championship, Gayle was promoted back to the Cup Series to serve as Gibbs’ crew chief in 2023, with Gibbs retaining the No. 54 and embarking in his first full-time campaign in NASCAR’s premier series. Currently, the No. 54 JGR Toyota TRD Camry team led by Gayle is ranked in 20th place in the driver’s/owner’s standings on the strength of three consecutive ninth-place results and an average-finishing result of 16.9 through the first seven events of the 2023 Cup season. The results have placed Ty Gibbs as the leader of this year’s Cup Rookie-of-the-Year battle over Legacy Motor Club’s Noah Gragson.

Through 149 previous Cup events, Gayle has achieved two victories, two poles, 31 top-five results and 62 top-10 results while working with three different competitors.

Gayle is scheduled to call his 150th Cup Series career event as a crew chief at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course for the Food City Dirt Race on Sunday, April 9, with the main event’s coverage to occur at 7 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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