Since 2016 Kaulig racing has been strictly an Xfinity Series racing team, on Wednesday team owner Matt Kaulig announced that the team would be going full time in the Cup Series in 2022. 2022 is also the time that NASCAR will start racing with their next gen cars and is a great chance for teams to expand, move up, or start up.
On the SiriusXm Nascar radio show Kaulig said, “We’ll have 1 car. We’ll have at least 1 car let’s put it that way. So that’s definitely a done deal. We’re excited about that.” Now that we know there will be 1 car with a better chance of another part-time car than 2 full time cars. Now the conversion is, who will be at the wheel for Kaulig next season in the Cup Series?
The first and obvious driver that popped into my head is Kaz Grala. The 22 year old has run a few races for Kaulig so far this year in the Cup, most notably at Talladega where he got a top 10 finish. Grala is a talented plate racer and offers up a lot for Kaulig, most importantly a long career ahead of him, something most of his counterparts do not possess.
The second driver for me would be Justin Haley as a part time driver. Haley is an accomplished driver in the Xfinity and Truck series with 3 wins in both, but could use some polishing before a full-time ride in Cup. Haley has been improving greatly this year and last and has truly come into his own on the plate tracks and is always at the font. He could greatly benefit from a part time ride and staying full time in Xfinity to learn how the new Cup car works while still getting laps on the tracks that he needs to run.
Now that we have talked about the obvious choices let’s talk about a long shot. Kaulig has hinted they want a younger team so they can build and grow together and who better than John Hunter Nemecheck. At 23, Nemecheck has one thing neither of the 2 drivers that I think should get the seat has, a full time Cup season under their belt. Despite this run being awful there is something to be said about being out there getting laps. Nemecheck is a young driver who was failed by being in a bad ride, if he can land a semi decent Cup ride, I think he has the talent to take it deep into the playoffs with the talent he has shown this year in trucks.
With each winner comes losers and the real loser of all this is Jeb Burton. The full time Xfinity Series driver is in a weird spot where he is not good enough to go be their Cup driver but a little too good to stay as their Xfinity driver. Jeb also has father time running against him. At 28 years old time is running out for him as Kaulig, and NASCAR, get younger Jeb is starting the end of his career in the eyes if he does not get this Cup series ride. Jeb already has 1 win so far this season at a rain shortened Talladega where he proved he can hang with the best on the plate tracks. He will need to drive the best he ever has to prove he is the best driver in the Kaulig camp and save his career.
No matter who Kaulig chooses they have made one thing clear, they are showing up to compete. They will be a competitive car, especially if they keep their RCR alliance and fund the team the way they do. This is going to be an exciting addition to the NASCAR garage and could add a serious contender to the field as we move into the future of the sport.