Building around AJ Allmendinger has put Kaulig Racing on the path to a fast start in the NASCAR Cup Series

Does winning at one level translate to succeeding at the next? Individually and as a team, the Kaulig Racing crew have racked up big credentials in the NASCAR Xfinity Series after starting from scratch in 2016. Now the organization is fielding two full-time cars in the Cup Series, where it will be anything but the beginning- until 23XI Racing was a year ago.

Don’t be surprised if owner Matt Kaulig celebrates at Victory Lane at least once in 2022. AJ Allmendinger has already given Kaulig a taste of victory at the highest level, and the team is ready for more.

Kaulig Racing has built its foundations in the Xfinity Series

Kaulig Racing driver AJ Allmendinger poses for a photo during NASCAR Production Days at Clutch Studios on January 18, 2022 in Concord, North Carolina. | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

When the NASCAR Cup Series opens with the Daytona 500, all the former Xfinity Series champions since 2009 will be there. If Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer hadn’t retired earlier than expected, the footage would be from 2004. The moral of the story is that winning at the Xfinity level is a valid indication that a driver is likely to stay at most high level of NASCAR.

One of those drivers will be Daniel Hemric, the defending Xfinity champion who drives a partial Cup Series schedule for the team after switching from Joe Gibbs Racing to Kauling Racing during the offseason. Hemric shares the No. 16 Chevy with AJ Allmendinger and Noah Gragson, both of whom also competed in Xfinity Championship 4 last November.

Meanwhile, Justin Haley will be driving the #31 Chevy throughout the season. Haley is an interesting story on his own, having won races at truck, Xfinity and Cup Series levels since 2018. He made three Cup Series appearances for Spire Motorsports in 2019 and won the Daytona summer race at the course road… which brings us back to Allmendinger.

Matt Kaulig hired AJ Allmendinger with one goal in mind

AJ Allmendinger competed in 371 NASCAR Cup Series races from 2006 to 2018, but was unemployed when Matt Kaulig offered him five starts as a road course ringer in the 2019 Xfinity Series. Allmendinger responded by winning on the Charlotte roval. It has earned him 11 races in the 2020 season, and ‘Dinger’ has won once each on ovals and road courses.

At that point, Kaulig knew he had to sign Allmendinger for full-time service in 2021.

“AJ has been extremely great for us,” Kaulig told Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports. “As you know, not only does he win trophies for us, but he is a very good mentor for our young drivers and he teaches them a lot. He has been great for us. … We have all benefited from AJ’s knowledge and seasoned leadership.

The 2021 season has been wonderful for the driver and the team. Allmendinger won five Xfinity races and the regular season points championship before settling for fourth in the final standings. But what made Allmendinger and the Kaulig Racing team stand out was the Cup Series race at Indianapolis.

Kaulig has already made the decision to expand full-time in the Cup Series in 2022, but he entered Allmendinger in five races to test the waters. Running strong late in the race on the Indy road course, Allmendinger took advantage of Chase Briscoe knocking out Denny Hamlin in overtime to claim the first of what Kaulig hopes will be the team’s many Cup Series victories.

Signing AJ Allmendinger showed why the team can compete in 2022

The phrase “trophy hunt” appears several times on the Kaulig Racing website, and the owner had victory in mind when he signed AJ Allmendinger. That move went to plan, as Allmendinger won nine of the organization’s 15 race wins.

It was all so obvious to Matt Kaulig. After all, there were 40 drivers capable of winning races, but maybe five of them had what it took to win on any road course. So why take a 39 to 1 bet when you could opt for short odds?

“Not always, but the team with the better players usually wins,” Kaulig told Bob Pockrass. “So if you can get the best players, you have a much better chance of winning. …Hey, if you can get a great road racer, you have a much better chance of winning than us.

Winning on the roads is something Allmendinger has done five times before. All he has to do is win once in 2022, and Kaulig Racing’s inaugural Cup Series season qualifies as the 23XI’s first season success.

Don’t bet against it.

All statistics courtesy of Race reference.

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