Walt Czarnecki, executive VP of Penske Corp. and vice chairman of Team Penske, provided the update on Thursday, January 13. He said in a release from Ford Performance that the team has no current plans to field an entry in the Xfinity Series during the 2022 season after Austin Cindric’s move to the Cup Series. The only factor that would lead to a change would be the addition of a sponsor.
“At this point, we don’t have any races scheduled in the Xfinity program and any decision that we make to run will be sponsor-driven,” Czarnecki explained. We’ll work with our sponsors and if there’s an appetite to do something, we’ll certainly sit down and talk with them about the number of races and the drivers that would participate.”
The update from Czarnecki is a significant change from a previous report. The Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi told subscribers during a July 22 question and answer segment that he had spoken to team owner Roger Penske about the Xfinity Series plans. At the time, the expectation was that the Cup Series drivers would rotate starts in the No. 22. Though Bianchi noted that the plans could ultimately change.
Team Penske Has 19 Years of Experience in the Xfinity Series
The lack of an Xfinity Series entry will mark the end of an era for Team Penske. The organization has 19 years of experience in the Nationwide/Xfinity Series and a considerable amount of success.
Team Penske first made a debut in the series in 1997 with Rusty Wallace. He made a one-off start at Auto Club Speedway and finished 21st overall. Team Penske didn’t make a return until 2001 when Ryan Newman made 15 starts and won at Michigan International Speedway.
From 2005 until 2021, Team Penske fielded entries in the Xfinity Series with a wide variety of drivers, with examples ranging from Kurt Busch and Jacques Villeneuve to Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney. Along with Newman’s season in 2001, the assortment of drivers combined for 463 top-10 finishes, 318 top-fives, and 81 trips to Victory Lane. Cindric and Keselowski also both won Xfinity Series championships.
Cindric nearly secured a second consecutive title in 2021. He reached the championship four and faced off with Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, and AJ Allmendinger. Cindric came within inches of the win, but Hemric edged him out as the checkered flag waved.
Team Penske Will Focus on 3 Primary Drivers
With the Xfinity Series entry heading to the shelf, the focus will shift solely to the NASCAR Cup Series. Team Penske will head to Daytona International Speedway to kick off the season with three full-time entries.
Joey Logano will return to the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang while Ryan Blaney will return to the No. 12 Ford Mustang. Cindric will be the newcomer to the group as he takes over the No. 2 Ford Mustang for the departed Brad Keselowski. This trio will head to the Daytona 500 and strive to add to the 130 Cup Series wins under Penske’s leadership.
Logano and Blaney have already secured multiple wins for the organization and achieved varying levels of success. Logano won his first race for Team Penske in 2013, his first year with the organization. He has made the trip to Victory Lane 25 times. He also won the 2018 Cup Series championship.
Blaney, for comparison, has not reached the championship four yet in his career, but he has won a race every season of his Team Penske tenure. This four-year run includes a career-high three victories in 2021.
Cindric only has seven Cup Series starts on his resume, all of which took place during the 2021 season as he prepared for his full-time move to the No. 2. His best outing was a ninth-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.