2022 NASCAR Cup season features many drivers in new places
New car. New venues. New opportunities.
The 2022 Cup season offers limitless possibilities. All the offseason work will start to show with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race (6 p.m. ET on Fox) in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
This season also features many drivers — including two former Cup champions — in different rides from last year.
While it is much to expect anyone in a new Cup ride to repeat reigning champion Kyle Larson’s feat of 10 victories in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports each driver in a new ride could impact this season.
“NASCAR is always changing,” said Brad Keselowski, who is an owner/driver for RFK Racing after more than a decade with Team Penske. “Every year.
“Different rules. Different cars. Different teams. Different drivers. Different owners. Different tracks. You name it. Different is part of NASCAR. The challenge over the years is to stay on top of your game.”
Here’s a look at the full-time drivers in new places:
No. 1 — Ross Chastain
Team: Trackhouse Racing
Fast fact: Chastain has run 242 NASCAR races since 2018 (an average of 60.5 races a season). That breaks down to 113 Cup races, 86 Xfinity races and 43 Truck races during that time.
Chastain says: “I’m more fired up than ever (to win) because I want that. I will do anything to get that. I’m 29 years old, this is my focus. All my energy when I wake up is about how to make my race car go as fast as it can.”
2022 season: Chastain joins the organization after Chip Ganassi Racing was purchased by Trackhouse Racing. Chastain’s crew chief, Phil Surgen, also moved over to this team. It has been a long journey through NASCAR for Chastain, but he is focused on making the most of it. He knows he has to curtail his aggression in some cases.
No. 2 — Austin Cindric
Team: Team Penske
Fast fact: The 2020 Xfinity champion played the tuba in high school and earned all-county honors.
Cindric says: “This is probably one of the busiest offseasons I’ve had. You start with moving up to the Cup Series, changing teams, changing personnel, trying to learn all those people and then we have a change in the car. A lot of testing time, a lot of time spent in the simulator, a lot of time reviewing data and understanding things. I didn’t spend too many minutes not trying to figure out what it takes to be the best Cup Series driver, especially now with this new car.”
2022 season: Moves up to the iconic No. 2 car for car owner Roger Penske. Cindric is only the fourth racer to drive the No. 2 Cup car since 1991. Rusty Wallace drove the car from 1991-2005. Kurt Busch drove it from 2006-10. Brad Keselowski drove the car from 2011-21.
No. 6 — Brad Keselowski
Team: RFK Racing
Fast fact: Keselowski has won at least one Cup race in each of the past 11 seasons. He’s scored three or more victories in eight of those 11 seasons.
Keselowski says: “There’s a big tidal wave of change in our sport - from the Next Gen car all the way down to the owners that own the teams. It’s a big transition period for our sport. When you look at the owners who are coming into the sport, I think they bring fresh ideas, new perspectives that aren’t tied to any legacies of how things were done in the past. That can be incredibly helpful.”
2022 season: This is a big year for Keselowski, who left Team Penske to be an owner/driver at RFK Racing. The 2012 Cup champion seeks to change the organization’s culture and lead it back to the winning ways of its roots.
No. 21 — Harrison Burton
Team: Wood Brothers Racing
Fast fact: Wood Brothers Racing has 99 career Cup wins. The team’s last victory came in 2017 with Ryan Blaney at Pocono.
Burton says: “Any time I’ve raced a Cup Series driver, most of the time it has been in Xfinity … so I felt real comfortable there. … Now, it’s like this has been their series for years and I’m coming and trying to join. So there is a different dynamic. I think past years, I’ve heard, ‘Oh, you’re a rookie, you’ve got to watch out for the veterans.’ I haven’t found that to be the case. I’ve found that I was raced pretty clean, but I think Cup might be different. … I think that’s a good thing. You’ve got to kind of be forged in the fire, if you will, and try to learn the hard way, and I think that is going to happen in the Cup Series for everybody.”
2022 season: The 21-year-old Burton moves from the Toyota camp to a Ford ride with the Wood Brothers. He is part of a talented rookie class that includes Austin Cindric and Todd Gilliland.
No. 31 — Justin Haley
Team: Kaulig Racing
Fast fact: He has run 36 previous Cup races, scoring a win in the summer Daytona race in 2019, a race shortened by rain and lightning.
Haley says: “I think the Cup Series is going to be the most competitive it’s ever been. I think the step from Xfinity to Cup is going to be hard and challenging at times, but I’m looking forward to it and excited that Kaulig Racing and I can kind of go to battle together.”
2022 season: In one sense, Haley is not in a new place. He drove for Kaulig Racing the past three seasons in Xfinity, but his Cup rides were elsewhere. Haley will drive full-time in Cup for Kaulig Racing this year, while the team’s other full-time car will be run by multiple drivers.
No. 38 — Todd Gilliland
Team: Front Row Motorsports
Fast fact: Make his Cup debut after 93 races in the Camping World Truck Series. He scored wins at Martinsville (2019) and Circuit of the Americas (2021).
Gilliland says: “I couldn’t be more excited. We’ve been able to go through a couple of tests. It’s going to be a lot of fun working with a lot of new people and doing a lot longer races and seeing a lot of new things.”
2022 season: The 21-year-old Gilliland has driven for Front Row Motorsports in the Truck Series, but now moves up to Cup. He will be the teammate to reigning Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell.
No. 42 — Ty Dillon
Team: Petty GMS Motorsports
Fast fact: Dillon has made 166 Cup starts, but he ran only four Cup races last year.
Dillon says: “It was certainly tough for me (last year). My whole life, whole career, I’ve had a full season in a series I was in. … I never quit working, never quit trying to knock on each door and find another opportunity. As much as I never wanted to have to go through not having a full season, it really helped me grow and mature as a man, as a businessperson and as a driver. Just having a deeper focus and wanting to just be back in the job working and trying to get better.”
2022 season: This is Dillon’s second chance, getting back to a full-time Cup ride. While GMS Racing has had success in the Camping World Truck Series, this will be a new challenge for the organization, merging with Richard Petty Motorsports and fielding two Cup teams this year.
No. 43 — Erik Jones
Team: Petty GMS Motorsports
Fast fact: His two Cup wins have come at iconic NASCAR tracks. He won at the July 2018 race at Daytona International Speedway and won the 2019 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Jones says: “Going to the Next Gen car is huge for us, merging with GMS, a new crew chief Dave Elenz is a great hire for us, one that I was really excited about. Really pushed hard for. It was a lot of work to get Dave over there but was pretty excited when we did.”
2022 season: Dave Elenz, who won Xfinity championships with William Byron and Tyler Reddick, moves to Cup to be Jones’ crew chief. This could be a combination to keep an eye on this year.
No. 45 — Kurt Busch
Team: 23XI Racing
Fast fact: Busch seeks to win a Cup race for a fifth different organization. He’s won in Cup for what is now RFK Racing, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing.
Busch says: “I’ve been with good teams, great crew chiefs (in scoring wins in each of the last eight years). It’s a matter of just finding those puzzle pieces to piece it all together.
2022 season: The 2004 Cup champion joins Toyota and 23XI Racing to partner with Bubba Wallace. While the team will look for Busch to have success this season, his greatest contribution could be helping the organization build to be strong for years to come.