2022 NASCAR Cup Series Preview Part 2

2022 NASCAR Cup Series Preview Part 2

by February 12, 2022 0 comments

Moving onto the back half of the NASCAR Cup Series drivers list is where a number of notable team moves happened. Brad Keselowski left Penske after a decade to become a driver-part owner over at now Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. Richard Petty Motorsports has now merged with GMS. In doing so is now a two-car Cup operation as well. In addition to Xfinity Series fan-favorite team, Kaulig Racing now being in Cup with two cars. Then of course you have the blue bloods in Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas as well.

Be sure to keep up with all of our NASCAR and NASCAR DFS coverage.

Part 1 of our NASCAR Cup Series Preview.

Stewart-Haas Racing

No. 4 Kevin Harvick

2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 24 Top 10s, 10 Top 5s, 217 Laps Led, Average Finish of 10.9 (5th in Points)

Despite going winless and leading 1314 fewer laps than a year ago, Harvick still managed another deep playoff run in 2021. With time clearly running out on the 46-year-olds career, this could be one of his last chances for another championship. Based on the dramatic drop-off from 2019, Harvick may be the best bounceback in the entire series. Another winless season could be the death knell for his career. On the No. 4 car, you can expect to see Busch, Mobile 1, Gearwrench, and Rheem.

No. 10 Aric Almirola

2021 Stats: 1 Win, 5 Top 10s, 1 Top 5, 51 Laps Led, Average Finish of 19.9 (15th in Points)

The Stewart-Haas driver who is for sure done after this season is Almirola. The news that the decade-plus veteran would be hanging up the helmet came just over a month ago. Despite an underwhelming year, he picked up the only win the team had all year at New Hampshire. Almirola will also have a new crew chief for his swan song, that being Drew Blickensderfer. What isn’t new is Smithfield on the side of the No. 10, which will be the case for over 20 races this year.

No. 14 Chase Briscoe

2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 3 Top 10s, 0 Top 5s, 18 Laps Led, Average Finish of 19.6 (23rd in Points)

It was not the rookie year Briscoe was expecting coming out of Xfinity last year. The numbers were unimpressive, although he had a real shot to win on the Indianapolis Road Course. Look for Briscoe to improve in year two. His final year in Xfinity was impressive as it gets, so hopefully, he can end up in the middle of his last two years. On the famed No. 14 will be Mahindra Ag for the bulk of the year, with other sponsors TBD.

No. 41 Cole Custer

2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 2 Top 10s, 0 Top 5s, 9 Laps Led, Average Finish of 21.3 (26th in Points)

It was a year of regression across the board for Custer last season. Most dramatically he went from finishing 16th to 26th in points. Have to imagine that was neither what he or the SHR brass wanted to see in year two. Getting that average finish under the 20s would be a good start though. Haas Tooling will spend the most time on the No. 41 car, with other sponsors TBD at the moment.

Front Row Motorsports

No. 34 Michael McDowell

2021 Stats: 1 Win, 5 Top 10s, 2 Top 5s, 26 Laps Led, Average Finish of 20.5 (16th in Points)

The reigning Daytona 500 Champion vaulted into the postseason with his upset win to start 2021. Sadly, an early wreck at the Southern 500 ended any chance that McDowell had to advance. As always, look for him to be a player at the four plate races, on top of the six road courses as well. 18 races for McDowell will be sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops. The other half meanwhile will be split up between Horizon Hobby, FR8 Auctions, and Stage Front.

No. 38 Todd Gilliland (Rookie)

2021 Stats (Trucks Series): 1 Win, 16 Top 10s, 10 Top 5s, 359 Laps Led, Average Finish of 9.5 (7th in Points)

The son of David Gilliland is going straight from the Trucks Series to Cup. An extremely rare move, but not the first time this has happened. Funny enough, he is driving for the team/number combo that his father ran for the bulk of the 2010s. The younger Gilliland’s projection is hard to guess, but he was an above-average driver in the Trucks series. Black’s Tire & Auto, along with First Phase are his confirmed sponsors as of this moment.

Petty-GMS Motorsports

No. 42 Ty Dillon

2021 Stats (Xfinity Series Part-Time): 0 Wins, 3 Top 10s, 2 Top 5s, 25 Laps Led, Average Finish of 18.4

The younger Dillon brother is back full-time in the Cup Series for the first time since 2020. Doing so with the merged Petty-Gallagher operation. He was actually set to run with the standalone GMS team before the merger and would have been in the No. 94 car. His career in Cup doesn’t wow you, but this is a solid move for both team and driver. Dillion should probably have a career year, but probably not a playoff birth. Serving as his main primary sponsor will be Black Rifle Coffee.

No. 43 Erik Jones

2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 6 Top 10s, 0 Top 5s, 9 Laps Led, Average Finish of 19.7 (24th in Points)

The former Southern 500 winner enters year two driving the famed No, 43, and hopes for better results. Last year was in fact the worst statistical year of Jones’ career so far. That can mainly be attributed to his departure from Joe Gibbs racing, however. Talent level isn’t a concern here, but hopefully, the equipment is better for 2022 to give Jones a shot at the postseason. FocusFactor will sponsor all but 10 races for the No. 43, with STP and the U.S. Air Force as his other two.

Kaulig Racing

No. 16 (“All-Star Car”) A.J. Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric, and Noah Gragson

Kaulig is doing something rather intriguing with one of their Cup teams, having a rotating cast of drivers for the full tilt. Allmendinger will run the most races of this group, 16. Of those will be the six road course races, as well as the All-Star Race, and Bristol Night race. Running 8 races is the reigning Xfinity Series Champion Hemric. His dates include all four plate races and the Southern 500 as his big entries. Then there is Gragson, who gets 14 Cup dates, which is 1.5-mile track heavy but does include the Bristol Dirt race. ChevyLiners.com, Hyperice, and CURE Token are the expected three sponsors.

No. 31 Justin Haley

2021 Stats (Xfinity Series): 1 Win, 24 Top 10s, 9 Top 5s, 59 Laps Led, Average Finish of 10.7 (6th in Points)

Haley gets the full-time call up to Cup, after three years with Kaulig in Xfinity. All around, Haley was a good pickup mainly because he could fall into the ‘homegrown’ category for the team. Yes, he does have a Cup win, but Spire Motorsports didn’t have the capacity to show off his talents on a race-to-race basis. With a major upgrade in equipment, expect Haley to be a sleeper playoff contender. LeafFilter will follow him from Xfinity to sponsor him in Cup as well.

Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing

No. 6 Brad Keselowski

2021 Stats: 1 Win, 17 Top 10s, 10 Top 5s, 331 Laps Led, Average Finish of 13 (6th in Points)

Keselowski’s move from Penske to becoming a driver/owner with Jack Roush was prehaps the biggest move of the offseason. This comes just a decade after Tony Stewart made the jump from Gibbs to start up a team with Gene Haas. Only in this case, Keselowski has bought into an already existing team. With how Roush has been recently, Keselowski may be in for a regression this season. However, years two, three, and four are where your probably going to see better results not just for Keselowski, but Roush as a whole. What he will bring to this team from a behind-the-scenes standpoint will be massive. Koehler, Violet Defense, Fastenal, and Castrol are the main sponsors Keselowski will carry as well.

No. 17 Chris Buescher

2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 8 Top 10s, 1 Top 5, 93 Laps Led, Average Finish of 17.3 (19th in Points)

Buescher should also benefit from the arrival of Keselowski as well. He hasn’t won since the fog shortened Pocono race in 2016, but 2021 was his best overall year to this point. He more than doubled his laps-led output for his entire career just last season alone, which feels worth noting. Hard to say if a return to the postseason is in the works, but Buescher should be more than fine for the RFK team. For his sponsors, he has Castrol, Fastenal, Fifth Third Bank, and Violet Defense.

Joe Gibbs Racing

No. 11 Denny Hamlin

2021 Stats: 2 Wins, 25 Top 10s, 19 Top 5s, 1502 Laps Led, Average Finish of 8.4 (3rd in Points)

Another year, another missed opportunity at a championship for Hamlin. Three years in a row now has he made the Championship Four and finished fourth or third of that group. Regardless, Hamlin should still be considered a contender as he has been for the last decade. Hamlin’s contract, along with sponsor FedEx, are now good through 2023.

No. 18 Kyle Busch

2021 Stats: 2 Wins, 22 Top 10s, 14 Top 5s, 334 Laps Led, Average Finish of 12.8 (9th in Points)

Feels very odd to say, but Rowdy Busch is in the worst two-year stretch of his career, taking point finishes out of the question. Just three wins, and back-to-back seasons of under 1000 laps led, which has only happened one other time in his Gibbs run. Would be hard to believe that this stretch lasts a third year.

Now here is where things get interesting. Busch’s contract with Joe Gibbs racing potentially expires at the end of this season. More importantly, Mars, the parent company of M&M’s, Skittles, etc, is leaving NASCAR at the end of the year. Monumental news, especially with Lowes, Home Depot, Target, and the National Guard all leaving in the last decade as well. With that said, Busch has said he would like to stay with Gibbs moving forward.

No. 19 Martin Truex Jr

2021 Stats: 4 Wins, 20 Top 10s, 13 Top 5s, 865 Laps Led, Average Finish of 12 (2nd in Points)

If not for a late caution at Phoenix, Truex almost certainly would have won his second title last year. Even then he gave Kyle Larson a run for his money down the stretch that day. Truex also has made the Championship Four in five of the last seven seasons as well. That percentage bodes well for him making that six of the last eight. Sponsor wise nothing much changes for Truex. Bass Pro Shops and Auto-Owners Insurance appear to be on board for the entire season

No. 20 Christopher Bell

2021 Stats: 1 Win, 16 Top 10s, 7 Top 5s, 100 Laps Led, Average Finish of 15.8 (12th in Points)

The three-time Chili Bowl National winner ended up getting his first career cup win on the Daytona Road Course. Bell also made the postseason in just his second year in Cup, a good sign for his growth. His current deal expires at the end of 2022, but hard to believe Gibbs would move on this soon. Far too much talent for that to be the case. For Bell, his sponsor lineup will be Stanley/Dewalt, Rheem, and SportsClips.

Preseason Cup Series Picks

Rookie of the Year: Austin Cindric

Biggest Suprise: Justin Haley

Biggest Disappointment: New Track Surface at Atlanta

Cup Series Champion: Kyle Larson


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