Crew chief Jason Ratcliff will oversee Christopher Bell’s run for rookie of the year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next season.
Crew chief Jason Ratcliff will oversee Christopher Bell’s run for rookie of the year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next season sources told Motorsport.com.
An official announcement of the move is expected this week.
Ratcliff, who led Matt Kenseth to his 39th-career win on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, started his career as a crew chief in 2000 in what was then the Busch Series with Casey Atwood at Brewco Motorsports. He won two races there with Jamie McMurray before joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005.
The 49-year-old Sumter, S.C., native enjoyed his greatest success on that tour with Kyle Busch. Together, the pair won 40 percent of their starts in 2008. They won the title the following year after posting eight wins, 23 top fives and 28 top 10s in 33 starts. In 2010, Busch and Ratcliff broke Sam Ard’s record for single-season wins in the series with 13 in 29 starts.
In their final season together, they collected eight of their total of 33 victories together before JGR promoted Ratcliff to the Cup series to work with Joey Logano in 2012. When Kenseth replaced Logano in 2013, the No. 20 team stayed intact. Under Ratcliff’s leadership, Kenseth won a career-high seven races that year and finished second to Jimmie Johnson in the Cup standings.
Over the last five years, Kenseth has won 14 races, 12 poles and qualified for the Playoffs each season.
JGR announced in July that it was replacing Kenseth, 45, in favor of 21-year-old Erik Jones. However, Jones, who spent his rookie season with Furniture Row Racing, is bringing his crew chief Chris Gayle back to JGR.
Ratcliff will have the responsibility of guiding one of the most talented rookies to come up through the NASCAR ranks with Bell. The 22-year-old Norman, Okla., native has returned to the Championship 4 in the Camping World Truck Series for the second in as many years.
The former USAC Midget champion, who won the Chili Bowl in January, scored his first of seven truck wins in just his third start. In a limited seven-race run in Xfinity this season, Bell earned the pole at Iowa Speedway in his second start and won at Kansas Speedway three races later. He’s completed every lap raced and posted an average finish of eighth.