Cup Series has old faces in new places

Brad Keselowski will look to get Jack Roush back to Victory Lane

Austin Cindric, pictured during qualifying for the Busch Light Clash, takes over Team Penske’s No. 2 this season and will be a front-runner for the Cup Series’ top rookie. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo)

All of the talk heading into the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has been about the Next Gen car’s arrival, so it’s been easy to overlook the drivers who have landed in new rides.

A pair of former Cup Series champions are with new teams this season, the 2020 Xfinity champ is finally getting his shot, NASCAR’s oldest team has again decided to bank on a rookie driver, and a few other outfits made decisions on their charter teams.

Brad Keselowski
6 • RFK Racing • Ford

It’s hard to believe Jack Roush hasn’t been to Victory Lane since 2017. Once one of NASCAR’s top teams, the two-car stable has fallen on hard times. That led to Roush pursuing a former Cup Series champion, offering Keselowski an ownership stake to drive the team’s flagship No. 6.

Rebranded as RFK Racing (a combination of Roush Fenway and Keselowski), the team heads into 2022 with optimism. The 38-year-old Keselowski, who replaces Ryan Newman in the No. 6, was series champion in 2012 and has won a race in 11 straight seasons, all with Team Penske, and has 35 career victories.

A win this year would get the No. 6 to the playoffs — somewhere Roush hasn’t been in a long time.

Austin Cindric
2 • Team Penske • Ford

Keselowski’s departure finally opened the door for Cindric to get a full-time Cup ride. The 2020 Xfinity Series champion, who will take over Team Penske’s famed No. 2, got a seven-race preview last season, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis road course for his best finish.

The 23-year-old won 11 races the last two years in the Xfinity Series, including five last season when he finished second in the standings and just missed repeating as champion.

Kurt Busch
45 • 23XI Racing • Toyota

The 2004 Cup Series champion will pilot the new second car in Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin’s 23XI Racing. Busch joins Bubba Wallace on a second-year team that struggled in Year 1 but still managed to get a historic win at Talladega.

Busch, 43, won a championship in 2004 and has 33 career wins — including one in each of the last eight seasons. He won the Daytona 500 in 2017.

Ross Chastain
1 • Trackhouse Racing • Chevrolet

Chastain was with Chip Ganassi Racing last season when the team was sold to Trackhouse, and he stays with the operation but moves to the No. 1 vacated by Busch.

Chastain, 29, is looking for his first Cup Series win but had his best season last year, posting three top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He will team up with Daniel Suarez, who drove the No. 99 last season for Trackhouse.

Ty Dillon
42 • Petty GMS Motorsports • Chevrolet

The grandson of Richard Childress gets a second chance at a full-time Cup ride with another team associated with a NASCAR legend. Richard Petty in the offseason sold a majority interest in his longtime team, which rebranded as Petty GMS Motorsports.

The 29-year-old Dillon, a native of Lewisville, is a veteran of 166 Cup Series races, posting two top-five finishes and six top-10s in his career. He will drive the No. 42, joining the famed No. 43 that will again be piloted by Erik Jones.

Harrison Burton
21 • Wood Brothers Racing • Ford

Speaking of old-time teams, Wood Brothers Racing picked Huntersville’s Harrison Burton to drive its iconic No. 21 in 2022. The 21-year-old won four times in the Xfinity Series in 2020 but was kept out of Victory Lane last year.

Over 68 years, the Wood Brothers have 99 wins. But the No. 21 has taken the checkered flags just once in the last 11 seasons, by Ryan Blaney in 2017. The car led just 11 laps in all of 2011, but one of them was the final one at that year’s Daytona 500 when Trevor Bayne won The Great American Race. Could lightning strike again for the Wood Brothers with a rookie?

Justin Haley
31 • Kaulig Racing • Chevrolet

Haley moves from Kaulig Racing’s Xfinity team back to the Cup Series, driving the team’s main No. 31. The 22-year-old has 36 races of experience in the Cup Series, even winning the rain-shortened summer race at Daytona in 2019, and he won four times over the past two seasons in the Xfinity Series.

The Indiana native drove in 31 Cup races last year, posting two top-10s for Spire Motorsports.

Todd Gilliland
38 • Front Row Motorsports • Ford

Gilliland makes the jump to stock cars after racing in the Camping World Truck Series the past five seasons, including a full-time ride the last three. The Sherrills Ford native has two Truck wins in his career and had his best season last year, winning once and posting 10 top-fives and 16 top-10s to finish seventh in the standings.

The son of NASCAR driver and owner David Gilliland, the 21-year-old is a third-generation driver who will join last year’s surprise Daytona 500 winner, Michael McDowell, under the Front Row banner.