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Kaulig Racing adds Gragson, Hemric to Allmendinger for No. 16 Cup ride in 2022

Kaulig Racing will go NASCAR Cup Series racing with three-quarters of the most recent Xfinity Series Championship 4, announcing Tuesday that first-time champion Daniel Hemric will split time with AJ Allmendinger and Noah Gragson in the No. 16 Chevrolet next season.

The Matt Kaulig-owned organization rounded out its 2022 driver lineup as it prepares to jump to Cup Series competition with two full-time teams next year. Justin Haley will drive the full season in one entry, while Hemric and Allmendinger — full-time drivers for Kaulig in Xfinity — will split time with JR Motorsports’ Gragson in the No. 16.

Kaulig Racing had announced June 18 that it had secured two Cup Series charters, tapping Haley for one full-time ride and adding Allmendinger to the part-time mix in the other. On Tuesday, Kaulig officials indicated that Gragson would drive in 14 Cup Series races next year, with Allmendinger and Hemric dividing up the No. 16 team’s remaining 22 events in an unspecified split.

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“We think our roster for the 2022 season features some great drivers,” team president Chris Rice said in a Kaulig release. “Having three out of the four Xfinity Series championship contenders helping to build our new Cup Series program is truly a tremendous opportunity for this Kaulig Racing team. While these guys have been fierce competitors for the last few years, having them bring that same tenacity as teammates will be extremely fun to watch and a great way for this team to grow in its first full season in the Cup Series.”

Tuesday’s announcement confirms that all of last season’s Championship 4 in the Xfinity Series will race at the Cup Series level next year. Austin Cindric, the circuit’s other title contender from November’s season finale, will move up as the full-time driver of Team Penske’s No. 2 Ford in 2022.

Each driver for Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevy next has some degree of Cup Series experience. Allmendinger has the most — 376 starts — and that tenure includes a breakthrough victory for Kaulig’s Cup effort last season on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

Hemric — who made 38 Cup starts for Richard Childress Racing in 2018-19 — was announced Sept. 25 for a full Xfinity Series ride in Kaulig’s No. 11 Chevrolet. Those duties will now include a partial Cup Series schedule. He enters the Kaulig fold fresh from his first Xfinity victory and the championship coronation that came with it.

“I have had the chance to race against some great drivers in the sport over the past few years,” Hemric said in a team release. “AJ Allmendinger is a great competitor, especially when it comes to road courses, and Noah is a threat no matter what style of race track we go to. I had the opportunity to be teammates with him when I raced for JRM in 2020 for a partial season and was able to see different parts of what makes him a strong racer.

“We are each so different but seeing how intense both AJ and Noah are as professionals and at driving race cars makes me really excited for this upcoming season. Now we have the opportunity to be able to lean on each other and try to build a program here at Kaulig Racing at the highest level of our sport. I’m very fortunate to be a part of this.”

Gragson’s stint in the Cup Series has been the briefest, with only a Daytona 500 qualifying race on his resume from last year’s attempt with Beard Motorsports. He has five Xfinity Series victories in his three years with JRM, including a dramatic win at Martinsville Speedway in the next-to-last race of the year that vaulted him into the 2021 championship field.

“This is a really unique opportunity I have with Kaulig Racing and to be able to share the No. 16 with two of my biggest competitors in the Xfinity Series,” Gragson said. “I’ve had the chance to work with Daniel before, but it will be a new experience working with AJ. We’ve raced against each other for a few years now, and I think working as teammates will only help us get better as drivers.”

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Kaulig representatives indicated that more details about its Cup Series effort — including individual event duties, sponsors, and a car number for Haley’s entry — would be shared at a later date.

Kaulig Racing is set to field three full-time Xfinity Series entries for the second consecutive season in 2022. Landon Cassill joins the organization in the No. 10 Chevrolet as teammates to Hemric (No. 11) and Allmendinger (No. 16).