Kaulig Racing set for full-time Cup in 2022; Justin Haley to drive

Kaulig Racing will race full time in the NASCAR Cup Series season in 2022, the team announced Friday at Nashville Superspeedway.

The current Xfinity Series organization has secured a pair of Cup Series charters and will field a full-time ride for Justin Haley, while veteran AJ Allmendinger will pilot select Cup races in a second car. Allmendinger also will compete full time for an Xfinity championship in 2022. The two deals are part of multi-year agreements with both drivers.

“(Owner) Matt Kaulig is continuously showing how much he has invested in NASCAR and what he’s going to do,” Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice told NASCAR.com. “We’ve been working hard over the last three years on trying to secure a charter and how we went about it and it’s been so much fun it gives me cold chills but also it’s been a lot of work, a lot of endless nights. … Going Cup racing means a lot. Bringing somebody like AJ back to help us understand a little bit more about Cup racing helps, because he’s done it.”

Haley, who has served as Kaulig’s longest-running full-time driver in the Xfinity Series, will continue his commitment as the team’s first-ever full-time Cup driver. The 22-year-old Haley is a past premier series winner in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway and has driven the team’s flagship No. 11 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series since 2019, earning three wins, 15 top fives and 50 top-10 finishes. He also claimed the team’s first-ever Cup start in the 2020 Daytona 500.

“It’s just really cool for me, right? I’ve been within their Xfinity program, and building that up to a championship-level organization has been so cool, so to kind of flood that over and get the Cup opportunity with Kaulig Racing, it just feels like the right fit,” said Haley, currently sixth in Xfinity Series points. “It feels like a family atmosphere and it feels like I’m still part of the family, so to go Cup racing my first full-time season, to go to the Daytona 500 with the Matt Kaulig racing machine is pretty cool.”

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The team revealed in Friday’s press conference that the two charters were purchased from Spire Motorsports, which currently fields the No. 7 Chevrolet driven by Corey LaJoie. Spire sent out a statement confirming the deal and some of its plans for 2022.

“Spire Motorsports will sell two of its three charters to Kaulig Racing,” the statement read. “We will continue to field the No. 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.”

Matt Kaulig’s foray into NASCAR began in 2014 when he put his company, LeafFilter Gutter Protection, on a Cup car as the primary partner. Instantly hooked, Kaulig formed his own team in 2016 and began full-time competition in the Xfinity Series.

Haley and Allmendinger each joined the team in 2019. A longtime road-course ringer, Allmendinger has shown to be a well-rounded driver, earning five wins, 16 top fives and 19 top-10 finishes since his first start with the team in ’19. The most recent win came at Kaulig’s home track of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course earlier this month.

“I feel like I’m a small part of it, but I love seeing where this team is going; what Kaulig Racing as a whole in NASCAR is trying to develop into,” Allmendinger said. “It’s to the degree where I told Chris Rice, ‘I’m all-in whatever you want me to do,’ whether that’s full-time in Cup or part of the Xfinity program full-time again and running Cup races, I’m here to help this team in whatever capacity I can help them with.”

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In only two Cup starts this season, Allmendinger has earned the team’s best-ever Cup finish — a top five at Circuit of The Americas — as well as a top-10 finish at the Daytona Road Course earlier this year.

Kaulig’s entry to the Cup Series in ’22 will also line up with the debut of the NASCAR Next Gen car, one of many factors that made the chance to make the move to Cup full time too good to pass up for the team’s owner.

“We’re super excited to get a fresh start with the Next Gen car,” Kaulig said. “We’ve almost been using a saying on our race tram for us is where it’s a Next Generation car, Next Generation owner and Next Generation team. So, we’ve done a great job of trying to be really relevant in the Xfinity Series and now that we’ve got the opportunity to go Cup racing, we’re super excited about ’22 and what’s on the horizon.”

The team plans to make its full-time debut in February at Daytona.