NASCAR: Harrison Burton promoted to Cup Series for 2022

Harrison Burton, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Harrison Burton, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Harrison Burton is set to move from the NASCAR Xfinity Series to the Cup Series for the 2022 season, replacing Matt DiBenedetto at Wood Brothers Racing.

Several NASCAR silly season dominoes fell on Thursday morning, as Team Penske confirmed that reigning Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric is set to replace the Roush Fenway Racing-bound Brad Keselowski behind the wheel of the #2 Ford for the 2022 Cup Series season.

Cindric, who has competed in select races for Team Penske in the Cup Series this season, was initially slated to take over behind the wheel of the #21 Ford for the Team Penske-affiliated Wood Brothers Racing as the replacement for Matt DiBenedetto.

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The plan was for the reigning Xfinity Series champion to drive the #21 Ford in 2021, but DiBenedetto’s performance late last season changed Team Penske’s mind and led them to give DiBenedetto an extra year in the car. But this confirmation came with the announcement that Cindric would replace him in 2022.

However, with Keselowski entering the 2021 season as a pending free agent and amid the news that he is slated to move to Roush Fenway Racing to become not only a driver but a team co-owner, it was always seen as an option that Cindric could move straight to Team Penske’s Cup Series operation without spending any time competing for Wood Brothers Racing.

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This option became reality on Thursday morning with Cindric was confirmed as the driver of the #2 Ford, not the #21 Ford, for next year. But unfortunately for DiBenedetto, this news did not translate to him landing a third year with Wood Brothers Racing in 2022.

Harrison Burton, who currently competes for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series, is set to replace DiBenedetto behind the wheel of the #21 Ford next year. Sponsorship will be officially announced at a later date but is set to include support from Ford Quick Lane and Motorcraft.

Here is what Burton had to say about this opportunity.

"“Since I began racing quarter midgets, the hope and goal was always to become a full-time driver in the NASCAR Cup Series. Now, I get to do this with one of the most storied teams in NASCAR history in the Wood Brothers and with an association with Ford Motor Company and Ford Performance. I don’t think I could have dreamt of a better situation to put myself in when it comes to the start of my NASCAR Cup Series career. Add to that the technical alliance with Team Penske and the knowledge I’ll gain from working with their drivers and I’m really excited for 2022 and the future. This is a great opportunity for me and I can’t thank Eddie and Len Wood enough for giving me this chance.”"

Here is what Wood Brothers Racing team president and co-owner Eddie Wood had to say.

"“As a team owner, you always want to keep an eye for the future and what’s best for your organization in hopes to set yourself up for success long-term. As things have progressed and changed over the last few months, we had the chance to look at what our options are and when we determined that Harrison would be available for our team, we wanted to jump at the opportunity to work with him. Harrison is young, but comes from a family full of successful race car drivers. The advice and support they can offer to Harrison as he makes this transition will be very important to his success. What a lot of us forget is that he is not even 21 years old yet and has only been racing in both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series for a couple of years. So when we looked at the future and finding someone to build our program around, Harrison seemed like a great option.”"

Here is what team co-owner Len Wood had to add.

"“We are quite excited to begin working with Harrison and 2022 is perfect timing. With the introduction of the new NextGen car next year, we have the ability to grow with him and build our program around what he wants. We don’t want to say it puts him on a level playing field, because there are a lot of great drivers in the Cup Series, but having a rookie come in at the same time a new car is introduced will help build us a solid foundation and hopefully get us off to a strong start.”"

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Burton, who won four races in his first full season in the Xfinity Series last year en route to an eighth place finish in the championship standings, currently sits in fifth in the standings through 18 races this season, though he has not yet won a race in 2021. He made his Cup Series debut at Talladega Superspeedway with Gaunt Brothers Racing in April and finished in 20th.