NASCAR team announces late driver change for playoffs

Daniel Hemric, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Daniel Hemric, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Kaulig Racing have their eyes on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, prompting a driver change ahead of the postseason.

Now in his second NASCAR Xfinity Series season with Kaulig Racing after winning the 2021 championship for Joe Gibbs Racing, Daniel Hemric is on the verge of a third consecutive and fifth career playoff appearance in his fifth season as a full-time Xfinity Series driver.

All he needs to do in this Saturday afternoon’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway is start the race, and the driver who finds himself sitting in eighth place in the point standings with five top five finishes will have secured another playoff spot.

However, the only way for Hemric’s No. 11 team to secure a spot in the owner standings is to win the regular season finale at the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Kansas City, Kansas oval. Given the fact that Hemric has just one win in 178 career starts, it is more likely than not that he won’t be able to do so.

Keep in mind, owner points are tied to the car, not the team, and there are multiple cars not driven by full-time drivers that have locked up spots in the owner playoffs. This is why Hemric himself is in the driver playoffs but his No. 11 Chevrolet probably won’t be in the owner playoffs.

As a result, Kaulig Racing have made the decision to move Daniel Hemric to the No. 10 Chevrolet for not only the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season finale but for the entire postseason.

Derek Kraus is set to drive the No. 11 Chevrolet in the regular season finale at Kansas, but the plans for the car throughout the three-round, seven-race playoffs remain unconfirmed.

The No. 10 team is locked into the owner playoffs. While A.J. Allmendinger drove the No. 10 Chevrolet to wins Circuit of the Americas and Nashville Superspeedway and Kyle Larson drove it to a win Darlington Raceway, these wins don’t count toward the team’s playoff eligibility, since Allmendinger and Larson are full-time Cup Series drivers.

However, the No. 10 team is locked in on points. So Matt Kaulig’s team feel that it is in their best interest to move a full-time driver, one who is in the playoffs himself, to that No. 10 entry to give it the best chance of winning the owner championship.

Given Hemric’s experience of deep playoff runs, which includes three Championship 4 appearances in four seasons even without any victories along the way, the move makes sense.

While you could argue — and statistics do show — that the No. 10 team has had more success with its other non-full-time drivers throughout the year, all three wins have been produced by full-time Cup Series drivers, drivers who are not allowed to compete in Xfinity Series playoff races.

As a result, moving Hemric to the No. 10 Chevrolet provides the team with the best upside in terms of their potential to win the owner championship, and with the No. 11 team likely out anyway, it’s a very low risk move.

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Kaulig Racing’s other full-time driver, Chandler Smith, is also locked into the playoffs, as is his No. 16 team. He won the race at Richmond Raceway back in April.