It had been in the works for over a year, but Kaulig Racing‘s NASCAR Cup Series dreams are about to be realised. In a Friday press conference at Nashville Superspeedway, the team announced they have acquired a pair of charters that will enable them to field a two-car Cup operation in 2022. Justin Haley, one of the team’s Xfinity Series drivers, will move up to the top level in the #16 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, while team-mate A.J. Allmendinger will be in the second car on a part-time basis. Additional drivers in the other Camaro were not immediately revealed, though the charter ensures it and Haley will be locked into every race.
Founded in 2016 by Matt Kaulig, Kaulig Racing débuted in the Cup Series at the 2020 Daytona 500 with Haley, who finished sixteenth in the #16. For 2021, the team is running much of the superspeedway and road course events with Kaz Grala on the former and Allmendinger for the latter. Allmendinger, a Cup regular for much of the 2010s, scored top tens in both of his starts to date with a best run of fifth at Circuit of the Americas in May, while Grala notched a sixth at Talladega the previous month. Barring him getting a conflicting opportunity elsewhere, it is presumed that Grala will share the second car with Allmendinger in 2022.
“I’m extremely proud of how far Kaulig Racing has come in just a few short years,” Kaulig said. “We entered our first Daytona 500 in 2020 and have already made it known in just a handful of races that we are there to compete. It’s been no secret that going full-time racing in the NASCAR Cup Series was our goal at Kaulig Racing, and that is exactly what we are doing by purchasing two charters for 2022 and having Justin Haley as our first, full-time driver.”
Now in his third full Xfinity season at Kaulig, Haley has three career wins and finished third in the championship in 2020. He is currently sixth in points with nine top tens and a best run of second at Mid-Ohio, where he finished behind Allmendinger.
The 22-year-old is also running the bulk of the Cup schedule for Spire Motorsports, with whom he scored a surprise victory at Daytona in 2019. His best run in twelve starts in 2021 is twenty-fourth at the Daytona Road Course and Phoenix.
“I’ve been so fortunate the past three years to drive for an amazing team owner like Matt Kaulig,” Haley commented. “He has been a great mentor in my professional career, as well as my personal life away from racing. It’s been my dream from the start to race full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, and to do so with everyone at Kaulig Racing just feels right.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the endless support from Matt Kaulig and (team president) Chris Rice. This team has done more for me than I could ever do for them. I’m so honoured to stay in the Kaulig Racing family for years to come.”
The team also confirmed on Friday that Allmendinger has signed a multi-year extension to continue racing full-time in the Xfinity Series; he first joined the team on a limited basis in 2019. Currently in his first full Xfinity campaign, he has two wins and is second in points. The team’s other driver Jeb Burton is right behind Haley in the standings in seventh.
“Over the past three years, I have fallen in love with this team and have enjoyed every aspect of trying to help the organisation grow,” said Allmendinger. “To know that I will continue to be a part of it moving forward and that this will most-likely be the last NASCAR team I drive for, is truly special. I appreciate Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice and all the men and women at Kaulig Racing for allowing me to be a part of this team. I can’t wait to see what the future holds on both the Xfinity and Cup sides of the program and what it will look like for Kaulig Racing. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and I can’t wait for the next couple of years together.”
The two charters came from Spire Motorsports; the #77’s charter is held by Haley’s uncle and former team owner Todd Braun. The other is currently leased to Trackhouse Racing Team‘s #99, meaning that team will have to search for a new charter elsewhere. Spire also fields the chartered #7.
“Earlier today, Kaulig Racing announced that it would field a full-time NASCAR Cup Series entry for Justin Haley in 2022,” began a joint statement from Spire co-owners Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr. “Above all, we’d like to congratulate Justin and Matt Kaulig for their exciting news. Justin is one of the most talented young drivers in the sport. We’re thrilled that he has an opportunity to compete full time for a playoff-calibre team. Matt Kaulig will bring new ownership and new enthusiasm to the NASCAR Cup Series garage.
“NASCAR has created a valuable charter model and we’re grateful to the sanctioning body and all the owners who have come before us. Without team owners like the Wood Brothers, Richard Petty, Rick Hendrick, Chip Ganassi, Joe Gibbs and Barney Visser, for whom we all have the highest respect, the charter system would not be the valuable and sustainable business model it has evolved into.
“Spire Motorsports will sell two of its three charters to Kaulig Racing. We will continue to field the #7 with Corey LaJoie as a chartered entry in 2022. We remain committed to NASCAR and the Cup Series and we will continue to look for opportunities to grow and compete in the future.”
Kaulig is the second team to announce Cup plans for 2022 after Camping World Truck Series organisation GMS Racing. Both teams are Chevrolet-affiliated and have occasionally crossed paths, notably with GMS driver Zane Smith filling in for Haley at Dover in May due to COVID-19 protocols. 2022 marks a prime opportunity for aspiring Cup team owners as it will be the first year with the Next Gen car, a seventh-generation vehicle that aims to reduce costs when the transition period is complete.