Kaulig Racing revealed on Tuesday, December 14, that Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, and AJ Allmendinger will combine to run a full Cup Series schedule in the No. 16 Chevrolet. The 2022 season will mark Gragson’s debut in NASCAR’s top series, and he has set his expectations accordingly.
The Las Vegas native appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on December 14 to discuss his significant schedule change and his move to join forces with two other championship four drivers. He then explained that his initial goal isn’t to lock up wins in the Cup Series; he has his focus on something else entirely.
“The first goal that would come to mind is complete all the laps,” Gragson told Larry McReynolds and Alan Cavanna on December 14. “The old saying is, ‘you have to first finish to be able to finish first.’ You want to win races, but the Cup Series is no easy feat. It’s going to be a big challenge.”
Gragson added that the Cup Series features the best drivers in all of stock car racing. In order to go against them and contend, he will have to learn all that he can while establishing a solid base and becoming the best driver that he can be. Gragson also expressed hope that going against the Cup Series drivers will benefit him in the Xfinity Series.
The No. 16 Reached Victory Lane in 2021
Gragson does not have the immediate goal of winning a race in the Cup Series, but he will have control of equipment capable of reaching Victory Lane. After all, Allmendinger took the No. 16 to Victory Lane during one of his five Cup Series starts in 2021.
The Dinger suited up for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race on August 15 and qualified eighth overall. He hung near the front of the pack during the race while Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin dominated the number of laps led. However, he jumped to the front after a surprising turn of events.
Chase Briscoe and Hamlin battled for the lead during the final run to the checkered flag. It appeared that one of the two drivers would take the win, but Briscoe received a penalty after he went through the grass on Turn 1. He returned to the track after the detour and made contact with the rear of Hamlin’s No. 11, sending it spinning through the grass.
With Hamlin off the track and Briscoe pulling to a stop to serve a penalty, Allmendinger had the opportunity to take the lead. He jumped to the front of the pack and held on for the remainder of the race while Ryan Blaney, Larson, and Elliott tried to chase him down.
Gragson Will Have Veteran Teammates to Guide Him
While the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro has no experience in the NASCAR Cup Series, he will join forces with three men who have all made starts. They will be able to provide a considerable amount of feedback as he continues to gain experience.
Justin Haley, the new full-time driver of the first Kaulig Racing Cup Series car, has made 36 total starts at the top level, primarily with Spire Motorsports. He has posted a combined three top-10 finishes and one top-five during his three years in the Cup Series. He also won a rain-shortened race at Daytona International Speedway in July 2019.
Hemric has a similar level of experience in the NASCAR Cup Series. He has made 38 starts, including a full-time run in 2019 with Richard Childress Racing. Hemric won the pole for a Kansas Speedway race and ended the season with two top-10 finishes and one top-five. This performance locked up Rookie of the Year honors, but RCR replaced Hemric with two-time Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick for the 2020 season.
Allmendinger has the most experience in the group. He has made 376 starts in the Cup Series during his career, and he has run eight full-time seasons split between Richard Petty Motorsports (2009-2011) and JTG Daugherty Racing (2014-2018). Allmendinger has experienced the joys of winning, as well as several crushing defeats. He has also competed in a wide variety of equipment, so he will have the ability to provide considerable knowledge and guidance to his teammates.
The Dinger actually started providing guidance to a different driver after the 2021 championship race came to an end. He told Austin Cindric, who will move to the Cup Series in 2022, that he will begin drinking heavily after several seasons competing at the top level.
“About 10 more years in Cup, you’ll start drinking heavy,” Allmendinger told Cindric after the championship race on November 6. “I promise you. Don’t you worry. 10 years. you’ll starting drinking heavy from Cup. I promise you. I don’t care how it’s going, you’ll drink heavily from that.”