Team Penske announced on July 15 that Austin Cindric will replace Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Ford Mustang. He will move to the NASCAR Cup Series and leave an open spot in the No. 22 Ford Mustang. However, Team Penske reportedly has no plans to find a permanent replacement in the Xfinity Series.
Jordan Bianchi of “The Athletic” provided the report during a question and answer segment with subscribers of the outlet. He first addressed concerns about Cup teams potentially shuttering their Xfinity Series teams with the introduction of the Next Gen car. Bianchi then revealed that team owner Roger Penske could use multiple drivers in the No. 22 Ford Mustang.
“Cup teams are always going to need a place to develop drivers and crew members so I don’t think you’re going to see the need for a feeder series evaporate,” Bianchi wrote. “As for the Penske Xfinity program, I asked Roger that question last week and it sounds as if the team will rotate its Cup drivers in the No. 22 car, though plans can obviously change.”
There May Not Be Enough Drivers in the Penske Stable
Penske can certainly use the Cup Series drivers in the organization to control the No. 22 Ford Mustang, but he will run into a mathematical problem. There will be three full-time drivers in the Penske stable — Joey Logano, Cindric, and Ryan Blaney — during the 2022 season, but they can only make five starts each due to the “Kyle Busch rule.”
There are 33 races in the Xfinity Series schedule, but two of the full-time Penske drivers could only take up 10 given their long career at the top level. Cindric, on the other hand, does not have to deal with the “Kyle Busch rule” that limits drivers to only five starts if they compete full time in the Cup Series and have more than three years of experience.
Cindric will be able to make more starts than his new Cup Series teammates, but he may not take on the remaining 23 races. Penske may have to find another driver to round out the group and get some time behind the wheel of the No. 22 Ford Mustang. However, the organization will not provide this information until a later date.
Penske Could Follow Joe Gibbs Racing’s Lead
If the championship-winning owner decides to use Cup Series drivers in the No. 22 Xfinity Series car, he will follow a trend set by other team owners. Joe Gibbs, in particular, uses a similar approach with one of his four Xfinity Series cars.
The No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra provides the opportunity for multiple drivers to test their skills at the various tracks on the circuit throughout the season. Some use the ride to prepare for Cup Series races while others use it to get early work before moving up to Xfinity.
For example, Kyle Busch made five starts in the No. 54 Toyota Supra during the 2021 season, winning every single time to reach 102 in his career. Once Busch capped off his Xfinity Series career at Atlanta Motor Speedway, teammate Christopher Bell made a start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and locked up a trip to Victory Lane.
Several other drivers have gotten behind the wheel of the No. 54 during the 2021 season. Martin Truex Jr. made one start (Atlanta) while Ty Dillon added another four. ARCA Menards Series points leader Ty Gibbs made seven starts and reached Victory Lane twice.