NASCAR: Kaulig Racing to ramp up Cup Series efforts in 2021

Known for their recent exploits on the NASCAR Xfinity Series level, Kaulig Racing will run select races at the premier Cup level in 2021.

Kaulig Racing’s efforts toward full-time status at the NASCAR Cup Series level took a big step forward on Thursday. The Xfinity Series squad announced that they will run select races on the 2021 Cup circuit, including the Daytona 500 on February 14. They will continue to compete for an Xfinity championship as well, with their season getting underway the day before.

“Kaulig Racing is always building toward the future and I believe this is the next step in that process,” said team owner, Matt Kaulig, in a statement. “We have the ultimate goal of becoming a powerhouse team in the Cup Series, and we are excited to continue our team’s growth.”

Drivers, sponsors, and other information for the Cup events will be revealed at a later date, but Kaulig’s statement indicated that “road course and superspeedway events” will be the likely destinations. The Cup Series is set to visit a record seven road courses in 2021, including Watkins Glen International in New York State.

Kaulig, the founder of gutter protection and cleaning system LeafFilter, opened his NASCAR team in 2016 with technical support from Richard Childress Racing. The team has been one of the most successful on the Xfinity level over the past two seasons, winning seven races over the past two seasons. Kaulig planned to run more Cup events last season, but was prevented from doing so by the ongoin health crisis.

“From where we started in a go-kart shop to a now championship-contending team, I have seen the growth of Kaulig Racing first-hand over the last 5 years,” said team president Chris Rice in the same statement. “It has been a privilege to be able to have Matt Kaulig’s trust in establishing ourselves as a competitive team in one of NASCAR’s top series, and I am confident we are ready to take that next step as an organization.”

Justin Haley won a team-record three events last season and was one of four drivers in contention for the series title at the finale at Phoenix, eventually coming home third. Haley is set to return for his third season in Kaulig’s No. 11 Chevrolet. The 21-year-old represented Kaulig in the team’s Cup debut at last season’s Daytona 500, finishing a respectable 13th in a car bearing No. 16. With his Xfinity win at Talladega in June, Haley became the 32nd driver in NASCAR history to win at least one race in all three of the circuit’s national touring series (Cup, Xfinity, Truck). He previously won in only his third Cup Series start at Daytona’s summer event in 2019 with low-budget Spire Motorsports by virtue of leading when inclement weather washed out the race with 30 laps to go.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see Haley take the superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega, where he earned each of his 2020 wins. Kaulig’s garage also boasts the talents of former Cup starter and road course A.J. Allmendinger, whose lone win at the premier series came at the Watkins Glen event in 2014 with JTG Daugherty’s No. 47 team. Allmendinger ran 16 races on a part-time basis for Kaulig over the past two Xfinity seasons, winning three of them, including both visits to Charlotte’s road course. He will race for Kaulig on a full-time basis in 2021 on the Xfinity level, keeping his No. 16 branding.

Also joining the group this season is Jeb Burton, who takes over the No. 10 Chevrolet from Ross Chastain. Burton, the son of 2002 Daytona 500 champion Ward, has run sporadicly at each of NASCAR’s national levels, including a single full-time season in the Cup Series in 2015. He was a part-time driver with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team over the last two Xfinity seasons, taking home three top-five postings with JR Motorsports (including a runner-up finish at Richmond in September). Chastain was promoted to a full-time Cup ride in September, taking over for Matt Kenseth in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags