It’s a great time to be one of the newer teams in the NASCAR Cup Series.
While newer teams have historically taken time to reach victory lane in Cup Series competition, several recent newcomers to the sport have already established themselves as proven winners.
23XI Racing reached victory lane in its inaugural season when Bubba Wallace won at Talladega last fall. The team followed up on that victory when Kurt Busch took the checkers at Kansas a few weeks ago.
Trackhouse Racing also made its debut last year and has already established itself as one of the teams to beat this year. Ross Chastain scored the team’s maiden victory at COTA in March and also won at Talladega a month later.
But there is a team that is often forgotten to have won its maiden race before both of them.
Kaulig Racing has competed in the Xfinity Series since 2016, but the team ran a part-time Cup Series schedule last season.
In only their seventh start in NASCAR’s premier series, Kaulig won the inaugural Cup race last summer on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel. The team also won seven Xfinity Series races last year and was in the title hunt until the very end.
Now, the quickly-growing team looks to build upon the success of 2021. On Wednesday, Kaulig Racing hosted an open house in Welcome, N.C., to show off its new Cup Series race shop. The 35,000 square foot facility, right down the street from Richard Childress Racing, was formerly occupied by Germain Racing and ironically is located next to Kaulig’s Xfinity Series shop.
“We were fortunate enough to grab that shop about two years ago,” said team owner Matt Kaulig in an interview with Auto Racing Digest. “We knew we were going Cup racing and needed way more space if we were going to do that.
“[It’s a] state-of-the-art, gorgeous facility and I’m super excited about it. Great offices, great open space. Fans can come in and even walk around, look at the race cars and just see what’s going on.”
Already an established entrepreneur, Kaulig formed his race team in 2016. The team scored its first Xfinity Series win at Daytona in 2019 with Ross Chastain driving.
Kaulig likes what he sees from his teams in both the Xfinity and Cup Series.
“I’m going to say we’re meeting expectations,” Kaulig said. “Our expectations going into the season with the Xfinity Series were to win the championship. We want to get all three drivers into the playoffs.”
Already, that goal seems achievable. Allmendinger leads the Xfinity Series points and is locked into the playoffs from a victory at COTA. Kaulig’s other two Xfinity Series drivers, Landon Cassil and Daniel Hemric, currently are ranked 10th and 12th, respectively.
“In the Cup Series, our expectations were that we had no expectations,” Kaulig said. “We had no idea what the Next Gen car was going to be like. We had to go out to L.A. for the exhibition race [Busch Clash to get an early handle on the car].
“We had no idea what that was going to be like. We didn’t know whether we were going to be ready to go. Again, we have a new race shop. We needed way more people than we thought we would to run in the Cup Series. But we’re super happy with the performance.”
“Justin Haley’s performance has been great. He finished third a couple of weeks ago [at Darlington]. We won heat races at Bristol and the L.A. Coliseum. We’ve been running good. The team is getting used to being in the Cup Series and going somewhere every single week and just dealing with a brand-new car that nobody had any idea about and that we’re still learning about.
“But everybody else is learning right along with us so I’m super happy with what the performance has been and what we’re doing. These guys are good.”
Allmendinger’s influence has proven to be extremely beneficial on both the team as a whole as well as Kaulig’s younger drivers.
‘[A.J.’s] a great driver,” Kaulig said. “You have to have great equipment, but obviously, the driver makes a huge difference as well. I don’t want to say we had to get a veteran driver while we were developing the younger guys.
“But if you compare Justin Haley and A.J. Allmendinger, A.J. in just the last few years has really helped and worked with Justin to develop him and get him rolling.
“A.J. has been a great leader. We brought him on originally just to run a few road course races and see if we could get some trophies. It turns out he’s really great at all the tracks. He’s invigorated his career as well as our team, and he’s just been a great mentor to all of our drivers.”
Don’t be surprised if Kaliug Racing returns to victory lane in the next few weeks. With road course racing being such a strong suit, the team will have a great chance to win in both the Xfinity Series’ maiden race at Portland next Saturday as well as the Cup Series’ annual visit to Sonoma on June 12.
“We are super excited because we know that’s our thing,” Kaulig said of road course racing. “These courses are pretty technical, especially Sonoma where a guy like A.J. really has an advantage. As much simulation time as everyone puts in, you still can’t match the actual talent that he has.
“Justin Haley has also been great on road courses. He’s a great road course racer and he loves it. As an organization, we are extremely excited that we have road courses coming up.”
So what does the future hold for the team?
Kaulig stated he’d like to see his team continue to grow into a contender in the Cup Series as well as “dominate” the Xfinity Series, where he hopes his team can win the title this year.
He also is excited and proud to see other new teams like 23XI and Trackhouse reach victory lane so soon and looks forward to competing against both for years to come.
“We are the next generation of NASCAR,” Kaulig said. “It’s just exciting for the sport.”