The organization made the announcement on October 5 as part of its Fan Day. Team President Chris Rice and owner Matt Kaulig met with media members and confirmed that Justin Haley will return to the No. 31 Chevrolet for the second consecutive season. They also announced that AJ Allmendinger will take over the No. 16 Chevrolet for a full-time Cup Series schedule.
“When I first went to Kaulig Racing to compete part-time in 2019 and 2020, I remember how I felt on the weekends that I wasn’t racing and how much I missed it,” Allmendinger said in a statement. “Competing full-time is a mentally tough battle at times. No matter how much work you put in as a driver, there’s a chance you will not achieve success.
“For a while, I think I lost that competitive drive to be the best. Kaulig Racing helped me find that again. I now feel more competitive than ever and believe there is more success to be earned as a team.”
Kaulig Racing Went Down Memory Lane During the Press Conference
Prior to the big announcement that Allmendinger would move full-time to the Cup Series, Rice took some time to tell a story. He detailed how they convinced Allmendinger to take on a part-time schedule way at the beginning.
Part of Rice’s story covered how Allmendinger pushed Ross Chastain to Kaulig Racing’s first-ever win. He then detailed how two disqualifications disrupted Allmendinger’s first two starts, which could have led to a split. However, Rice explained that Allmendinger stuck around because he believed in the team.
“I first called AJ in 2019 to ask if he would run a couple Xfinity Series races for us,” Rice said in a press release. “He agreed to do five, and he was disqualified in the first two races.
“Although it was two, tough results, AJ saw what we were trying to build here at Kaulig Racing, and better yet, he believed in what we were building. After the success we’ve had together since then, we think the next step is for him to help us do the same with our young, Cup Series team.”
The hard work has resulted in Allmendinger making multiple trips to Victory Lane with Kaulig Racing. He scored the organization’s first Cup Series win in 2021 and he has won 12 Xfinity Series races. He is also the two-time regular-season champion in the Xfinity Series.
Allmendinger Explained Why He Went Full-Time
Allmendinger was living the retirement life back when Rice first called him. He was working for NBC Sports, talking about reality TV with Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty, and playing golf. However, he went from a part-time schedule to full-time in the Xfinity Series.
What was the reason for this drastic change? Allmendinger provided multiple reasons. He first explained that he began to get the itch once again after making some starts. He missed the team members when he was away from the track, and he constantly texted Kaulig and Rice.
The other reason focused on Allmendinger’s well-documented love of golf. The veteran driver said that golf was “pissing me off” which changed retirement for him. Racing provided him with a different form of competition.
Now Allmendinger will return to the Cup Series, and he will have a multi-year contract with Kaulig Racing. There is no end date on this deal other than when Allmendinger makes the decision to walk away from racing once again.