AJ Allmendinger moves to fulltime Cup with Kaulig in 2023, Chandler Smith to Xfinity

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 06: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #16 Action Industries Chevrolet, walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series New Holland 250 at Michigan International Speedway on August 06, 2022 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Kaulig Racing announced Wednesday they will put their once part-time Xfinity star in a second fulltime Cup entry next season.

AJ Allmendinger will make the move back to fulltime Cup series racing in 2023 his first fulltime season since 2018.

“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. “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.”

Allmendinger made his Cup series debut in 2007 moving to a fulltime ride with Petty Motorsports in 2009 after part time stints with former Red Bull Racing. He moved to Team Penske in 2012 replacing Kurt Busch but was released from the team prior to the end of the season after failing a drug test.

After his release he spent time in the Cup series with Phoenix Racing in 2013 but was also tapped by Penske to return for two road course races in the NASCAR Xfinity series winning both with the team as well as six IndyCar races for Penske.  He then moved to JTG-Daugherty Racing where he scored his first Cup win in 2014. He announced his retirement from fulltime racing at the end of the 2018 season.

Kaulig Racing lured him back in 2019 and he ran five Xfinity races with the team earning the team its second-ever win at the inaugural Charlotte ROVAL race. He returned to Kaulig Racing in 2020 for another limited Xfinity schedule, winning two races out of 11 starts, before deciding to compete full time in the Xfinity series for the 2021 season where he won the regular series title and finished 4th in the final standings.

This season Allmendinger has won 4 Xfinity races, won his second consecutive regular season title with the team and is currently among the favorites to win this year’s NASCAR Xfinity title to be decided at Phoenix in November. In addition, he’s made 13 starts in the 2022 Cup series in Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Camaro, and has one runner-up finish, five top-10 finishes and has led five laps.

Allmendinger’s move to the Cup series fulltime gave the team an open seat in the Xfinity series and the team said they had signed driver 20-year-old Chandler Smith. In his two seasons in NASCAR’s Truck Series, Smith has five wins, along with 22 top five and 32 top-10 finishes and has led 746 laps. He currently sits second in the Truck Series playoff standings.

“Chandler Smith is a kid who we see a ton of potential in at Kaulig Racing,” said Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing. “We take pride in giving kids like Chandler an opportunity to compete for wins and be a steppingstone in their career. It’s been exciting to see what Chandler has done in the truck series over two seasons, and we think competing for Kaulig Racing is the perfect next step for both Chandler and our team.”

Allmendinger race alongside join Justin Haley who joined the team near the end of the 2021 season for their Cup series effort.

“I’ve always told Matt and Chris over these last four years, and especially the last couple of years of doing this full time in Xfinity that I would always do what’s best for the company,” Allmendinger told NASCAR.com last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, where he brought home his fourth Xfinity Series win of the season. “Something I found out when I thought I was retiring or semi-retiring when I was doing the TV side of things for NBC, I really enjoyed that side of it and needed a break from racing, at least full time.

“But as I started running a few races with Kaulig Racing the first year, and then especially in 2020, having some success, like the weekends I wasn’t there, I kind of really started to miss it. And that’s what led to doing the Xfinity side of it full time. And out of all of it, I’ve just really have enjoyed the team, the atmosphere at the racetrack, the atmosphere away from the racetrack, and I thoroughly just enjoy everybody and appreciate and love the hard work, the support and the confidence that they give me. And so yeah, I wanted to be fully open to whatever they wanted to do.”

With Allmendinger’s return, the team will now have a two car Cup series presence.

“It’s hard to not think of AJ Allmendinger when you think of Kaulig Racing,” said Matt Kaulig, Kaulig Racing team owner. “When we started this team in 2016, I never imagined we’d have won as many races as we have, including a Cup Series race and two regular-season championships in two years. We are all truly excited to be able to say that we were able to get AJ Allmendinger out of retirement, not once, but twice now, to compete for Kaulig Racing full-time.”