By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A long-term vision Kaulig Racing have set since opening shop seven years ago will come into fruition in 2022. No longer they’ll just be a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series organization, they’re doing the same in the Cup Series.
The announcement was made at Nashville Superspeedway Friday afternoon, confirming of running two Cup cars with charters included. Both purchased charters come from Spire Motorsports.
Justin Haley will be their full-time driver, signing a multi-year deal. AJ Allmendinger will still focus on the Xfinity Series championship, but will run a select number of Cup races.
Haley has been driving for Kaulig since 2019, scoring three wins to date. The 2019 Coke Zero 400 winner is looking forward at the opportunity of being Kaulig’s flagship driver in NASCAR’s top level.
“I’ve been so fortunate the past three years to drive for an amazing team owner like Matt Kaulig,” said Haley. “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.”
Haley isn’t a stranger to Cup competition. He’s made 17 career starts, 12 of them being from this year alone.
As for Allmendinger, he’s driven a few Cup starts for Kaulig this season and also racked up five Xfinity wins in his current tenure. He’s enamored of being a part of organization he’ll most likely end his NASCAR career with.
“Over the past three years, I have fallen in love with this team and have enjoyed every aspect of trying to help the organization 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.”
Due to purchasing two charters from Spire, the second entry must be full-time. Something the organization are aware of as Allmendinger’s races are yet to be determined along with other drivers to fill up the 36-race schedule.
Kaulig Racing’s Team President Chris Race is open to the idea of having Kaz Grala, who made this year’s Daytona 500 for them. However, sponsorships will be a major part of the puzzle that must to be solved but pleased with Grala’s performances.
While Spire Motorsports sold two charters, Corey LaJoie’s No. 7 entry will stay in tact. Co-owners Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr issued a statement about the matter:
“Earlier today, Kaulig Racing announced that it would field a full-time NASCAR Cup Series entry for Justin Haley in 2022. 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-caliber team. Matt Kaulig will bring new ownership, K 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 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.”
The two charters Spire gave up are the No. 77 (Haley’s Cup ride) which was Leavine Family Racing’s charter before selling it. The other being Trackhouse Racing’s No. 99 charter (driven by Daniel Suarez) that’s currently on lease.
Reports indicate that a spiking demand of $10 million is what charters are worth selling, but Matt Kaulig didn’t mentioned the exact numbers. What he did confirm was being pleased with the outcome, knowing this sport is about “pay to play.”
Finally, the team mentioned they’ll have at least have two Xfinity cars in 2022. They’d like to have three, but that’s yet to be determined.
Along with Haley and Allmendinger, Jeb Burton also drives in Xfinity with a win at Talladega under his belt. One thing is certain, their Xfinity program won’t go away anytime soon. They’re here for the long haul.
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