Chandler Smith to attempt Cup Series debut with Kaulig in Daytona 500


Chandler Smith on the grid at Phoenix Raceway for the 2022 season finale
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

Kaulig Racing announced Wednesday that Chandler Smith will attempt to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in next month’s Daytona 500.

Smith is set to drive the No. 13 Chevrolet for the Matt Kaulig-owned team in a bid to qualify for the “Great American Race” on Feb. 19 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM). Smith indicated that the “Great American Race” is part of a five-race deal for Smith, who will carry sponsorship from Quick Tie Products in his efforts.

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Smith was announced last October as part of Kaulig Racing’s full-time driver lineup for the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2023. The 20-year-old Georgia native will drive the No. 16 Chevy as a replacement for AJ Allmendinger, who returns to the Cup Series full-time this season as a teammate to Justin Haley.

If Smith makes the 40-car starting lineup for the 500 through pole qualifying (Feb. 15) or the Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races (Feb. 16), he would give Kaulig Racing a three-car effort in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The field of “open” cars without charters and guaranteed Daytona 500 starting spots is growing, with seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson, Travis Pastrana, Austin Hill and Truck Series champ Zane Smith among those competing for four starting berths.

Smith made three Xfinity Series starts for Sam Hunt Racing last season ahead of his rookie Xfinity campaign. He’ll team up with returning drivers Daniel Hemric and part-timer Landon Cassill in Kaulig’s Xfinity lineup for 2023.

Smith scored five victories in the Craftsman Truck Series during the last two seasons, reaching the Championship 4 round of the playoffs in 2022. He wound up third in the overall standings last year, finishing behind series champ and race winner Zane Smith and runner-up Ben Rhodes.