2022 NASCAR Cup Series Preview Part 1by Jack Gaffney February 11, 2022 1 comment
With the Clash now in the books, all eyes are on Daytona Speedweeeks, and the upcoming Daytona 500. This of course is a huge year for NASCAR with the implementation of the Generation 7 car, which was delayed by a year due to COVID. Additionally, this year features several big moves, both driver and team-related. Without any further delay, here is the opening half of this season’s Cup lineup. Featuring Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske, and 23XI Racing.
No. 2 Austin Cindric (Rookie)
2021 Stats (Xfinity Series): 5 Wins, 26 Top 10s, 22 Top 5s, 1150 Laps Led, Average Finish of 8.2 (2nd in Points)
Brad Keselowski out, Cindric in for the No. 2 car. The former Xfinity Champion made a small handful of Cup starts a year ago, so he is not a stranger to the series. A healthy expectation in Cindric’s first full season should be a playoff birth and some top 10 results. His father Tim Cindric may have gotten his foot in the door, but the kid can hang. As for sponsorship, Discount Tire will be on the No. 2 car for the bulk of the season, with Keystone Light hopping on for the All-Star Race.
No. 12 Ryan Blaney
2021 Stats: 3 Wins, 20 Top 10s, 11 Top 5s, 423 Laps Led, Average Finish of 11.9 (7th in Points)
Last year was a Cup career-best for Blaney. Picking up career highs in wins, top 10s, and average finish. However, his potential championship hopes were dashed when he was taken out late in the Kansas Playoff race. Thus he never made it to the Championship Four. There is a possibility Blaney is in the final year of his current deal, but even if that is so, no reason to believe he doesn’t factor into Team Penske’s long-term plan. Advance Auto Parts, Discount Tires, and Wruth are all on the car for a few races each, with Menards likely getting the bulk of the season.
No. 22 Joey Logano
2021 Stats: 1 Win, 19 Top 10s, 10 Top 5s, 453 Laps Led, Average Finish of 12.6 (8th in Points)
Despite not looking bad on the surface, it was a down year across the board for the 2018 Champion last year. Oddly enough, if not for an engine failure at Texas, Logano could have reasonably been in the Championship Four despite the stat line. The good news is he is entering Speedweeks with some momentum, outlasting Kyle Busch for a win at the Clash. Logano isn’t the Championship favorite per se, but he’s certainly a year in year out contender. Shell-Pennzoil will be on the 22 car as always, with some appearances from AAA, Verizon, and Autotrader via the team website.
Wood Brothers Racing
No. 21 Harrison Burton (Rookie)
2021 Stats (Xfinity Series): 0 Wins, 22 Top 10s, 10 Top 5s, 184 Laps Led, Average Finish of 12.7 (8th in Points)
After just two full-time seasons in Xfinity, the son of Jeff Burton has made the jump to the Cup ranks. After a solid 2020 campaign with four wins, Burton slightly regressed everywhere else and didn’t make a Victory Lane appearance. His first-year projection in Cup is hard to gauge. If Burton could end up being a consistent top 15 driver in year one, that would be good all things considered. As always, Motorcraft and Quick Lane will sponsor most of the season. However, the famed paint scheme has been a team staple for decades has been heavily altered with the new number placement. Menards will also be on the 21 for some races.
Richard Childress Racing
No. 3 Austin Dillon
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 8 Top 10s, 1 Top 5, 27 Laps Led, Average Finish of 14.4 (17th in Points)
Dillon last year missed the playoffs for the second time in three years. In addition to missing the double-digit top 10 finish plateau for the seventh time in his eight years as a full-time cup driver. On the other hand, 2021 featured a career-best-average finish for Dillon as well. With all of that said, his best shot at a postseason berth is likely a win. If that does happen, look for it to come in the first half of the season. Dillon has never won a race from race 19 onwards in his career. On the No. 3 car, this year will be Bass Pro Shops, along with new sponsor True Velocity. Guaranteed Rate, which sponsored Dillon last year, will now be with his running mate.
No. 8 Tyler Reddick
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 16 Top 10s, 3 Top 5s, 43 Laps Led, Average Finish of 14 (13th in Points)
Reddick nearly doubled his top 10 total from his rookie year and ended up making the postseason as well in year two. While a win still eludes the 26-year-old, that shouldn’t be the case for much longer hopefully. He had a pair of runner-up runs in 2021, at Homestead-Miami and the Roval. Reddick’s time will come, just a matter of when. As for his sponsors, 3CHI will be on the car the most, with Guaranteed Rate set for several races as well.
JTG Daugherty Racing
No. 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 2 Top 10s, 1 Top 5, 35 Laps Led, Average Finish of 19.7 (22th in Points)
Outside of winning the pole for the 2020 Daytona 500, there hasn’t been much to talk about with Stenhouse since leaving Roush. He’s in danger of reaching a full five-year winless drought this season as well. His last win was at the 2017 Coke Zero 400 for reference. Getting back to the postseason would be a nice change of pace, but outside of that, wouldn’t expect Stenhouse to dramatically improve from last year when it’s all said and done. On the No. 47 will be Kroger along with their affiliated brands, along with NOS Energy as well.
No. 23 Bubba Wallace
2021 Stats: 1 Win, 3 Top 10s, 3 Top 5s, 62 Laps Led, Average Finish of 19.7 (21st in Points)
Wallace had a career-best year across the board in 2021, save for his five top 5s in 2020. Running what is in essence a Joe Gibbs car for the second year in a row, hard to believe he won’t make another jump in 2022. Especially considering Kurt Busch has entered the 23XI fold. Say what you want about his rain-shortened win a year ago at Talledega, he made some monster moves to get the lead before the race ended. Wallace can drive, and now with a former champion as his teammate, he should be a playoff contender if everything goes right this year. On the No. 23 car, this year will be Doordash and McDonalds once again. In addition to Wheaties, Money Lion, and Leidos.
No. 45 Kurt Busch
2021 Stats: 1 Win, 14 Top 10s, 6 Top 5s, 208 Laps Led, Average Finish of 15.5 (11th in Points)
Busch is set for his 22nd full-time season in Cup, doing so with his fourth car manufacturer in Toyota. The 2004 champion has averaged just over a win a year dating back to 2008. However, has not won three or more races in a season since 2005. Despite that, the 43-year-old is still competitive and should be competing for race wins in 2022. Along with a deep playoff run as well hopefully. Monster Energy will of course be on the No. 45 the most, but Busch will have more than a few other sponsors for the first time in a while. These include McDonald’s, SiriusXM, and the Jordan Brand. Yes, that Jordan Brand.
No. 5 Kyle Larson
2021 Stats: 10 Wins, 20 Top 10s, 26 Top 5s, 2581 Laps Led, Average Finish of 9.1 (Defending Cup Series Champion)
Coming off one of the greatest NASCAR seasons in the modern era, Larson looks for the elusive successful title defense. Dating back to 1980, the only drivers to do so are Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt (3x), Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson (five straight). That is as about an elite group of drivers you can find, but Larson would fit right in if he could do so. With a new generation car, hard to imagine Larson will match his 2020 pace, but he deservingly should enter this season as the Championship favorite. The iconic Hendrickcars scheme will be on the No. 5 car for close to the entire season. With Valvoline hoping on for three races.
No. 9 Chase Elliott
2021 Stats: 2 Wins, 21 Top 10s, 15 Top 5s, 952 Laps Led, Average Finish of 11.4 (4th in Points)
Save for three fewer wins, and a fourth-place finish in the points, it was another par for the course year for Elliott. A brutal final stint at Pheonix cost him a chance at back-to-back titles, but it was still a successful year. Elliott has also had multiple wins every year dating back to 2018, so no reason to believe that won’t be the case in 2022 either. Expect a multi-year extension for Elliott at some point this year as well. His current deal ends this year, and it’s hard to envision not being a Hendrick lifer at this point. NAPA will be the main sponsor for the No. 9 as usual. Along with Hooters, Llumar, Kelly Blue Book, and UniFirst.
No. 24 William Byron
2021 Stats: 1 Win, 20 Top 10s, 12 Top 5s, 425 Laps Led, Average Finish of 13.6 (10th in Points)
Byron is also expected to also be in a contract year in 2022, but should also realistically stay at Hendrick. It helps that he just had easily his best year in Cup in 2021 in every major statistic. Despite seemingly getting rushed up to Cup too quickly, Byron has finally seemed to find his footing. Building on a good 2021 should go a long way for his development and in contract negotiations. Axalta and Liberty will make up the primary sponsorship for 27 races this year, with the rest TBD at the moment.
No. 48 Alex Bowman
2021 Stats: 4 Wins, 16 Top 10s, 8 Top 5s, 161 Laps Led, Average Finish of 15.1 (14th in Points)
Despite tripling his career win output in one season’s worth of races, Bowman faced a swift postseason exit a season ago. This after almost making the 2020 Championship four. You’d have to think Bowman is a favorable bounce-back candidate in 2022. He can clearly win races, just going to be a matter of consistently finishing good and staying out of trouble. Ally will be his primary sponsor for the entire 2022 campaign as well
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