By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
NASCAR Xfinity Series standouts Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton will be competing for Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2022.
While Cindric was already confirmed to make the move up months ago, he’ll no longer be driving for Wood Brothers Racing. Instead, he’ll join Team Penske in their flagship No. 2 Ford Mustang with Discount Tire being a primary sponsor.
“Throughout my NASCAR career, I’ve grown a lot as a driver and an individual,” said Cindric in a press release. “There are so many individuals within the walls of Team Penske that have elevated me to a level that matches this opportunity. The support towards my development from Roger, Team Penske, and all of our partners has been the leading factor towards race wins and a championship.
“The No. 2 car is iconic to this sport and is a number that represents the foundation of this team. It is a great honor and a great responsibility to continue that role. As 2022 gets closer, I am excited to embrace that. Until then, my focus remains on winning another Xfinity Series Championship.”
Thursday morning’s announcement symbolized Penske’s 12-year relationship with Brad Keselowski will come to an end. Multiple reports indicate the 2012 Cup champion will become a driver/owner at Roush Fenway Racing.
However, neither parties have confirmed the deal being done at this time. What is indeed confirmed is Keselowski will go elsewhere next season.
Who’ll now take over what was originally Cindric’s 2022 ride? Burton is the answer, replacing Matt DiBenedetto in the No. 21 Mustang. Ford Quick Lane and Motorcraft will continue supporting WBR’s efforts once Burton comes along.
“Since I began racing quarter midgets, the hope and goal was always to become a full-time driver in the NASCAR Cup Series,” said Burton. “Now, I get to do this with one of the most storied teams in NASCAR history in the Wood Brothers and with an association with Ford Motor Company and Ford Performance.
“I don’t think I could have dreamt of a better situation to put myself in when it comes to the start of my NASCAR Cup Series career,” Burton continued. “Add to that the technical alliance with Team Penske and the knowledge I’ll gain from working with their drivers and I’m really excited for 2022 and the future. This is a great opportunity for me and I can’t thank Eddie and Len Wood enough for giving me this chance.”
Out in the cold is indeed DiBenedetto, who’ll have to find a new ride once more in the sport’s top level. The series veteran got the confirmation Wednesday and issued a statement via Facebook. With one catch, he suggested to his fans not to lash out on the Wood Brothers.
At the same time, he was vocal about the struggles but still remains hopeful he can bring home the team’s 100th Cup win.
In 57 starts with the No. 21 team, DiBenedetto has scored five top-fives and 16 top-10 finishes. He became the second driver to put the team into the playoffs last season, finishing 13th in points.
With five races left in the regular season, DiBenedetto sits 18th in points. The gap between he and 16th place Tyler Reddick is 138 points going into New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Sunday.