2019 will mark several exciting changes for LFR as the team transitions to a new manufacturing partnership with Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) and Toyota Racing Development (TRD), as well as the addition of driver Matt DiBenedetto behind the wheel of the No. 95 machine.
Wheeler just finished his third season as a crew chief in the series and has notched a career total of five wins, 37 top-5 finishes, and 61 top-10 finishes with Denny Hamlin. Wheeler made a splash in the sport when he earned a Daytona 500 victory in his first points race of his crew chief career in the series. That rookie season in 2016 saw “Wheels” and his team earn two more wins, 12 top-5’s, and 22 top-10 finishes and they went on to finish sixth in the point standings.
“We’re thrilled to have Mike (Wheeler) joining our organization because he’s had a successful career so far in the crew chief role,” said LFR General Manager Jeremy Lange. “With our transition over to Toyota this coming season, Mike brings with him a wealth of knowledge in regard to how to build competitive Toyota Camrys, and we’re looking forward to his leadership within LFR.”
Wheeler is a native of Southold, New York and a graduate of Kettering (Mich.) University where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He began his racing career as a crew chief in the northeast NASCAR Modified Tour before he joined Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) as an engineer in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for the organization. Wheeler was then promoted to an engineering position in the Cup series when JGR formed the No. 11 team in 2005. In 2014, Wheeler served as the interim crew chief of the No. 11 MENCS entry for six races before being promoted to crew chief on the No. 20 XFINITY Series entry in 2015.
Wheeler will look to lead the team through a season filled with a new driver and new cars for the organization, but as his record shows, he’s found success in every chapter so far. Wheeler and DiBenedetto will make their debut together in the first points race of the 2019 season for the Daytona 500 on February 17, 2019 at historic Daytona International Speedway.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!