NASCAR: Surprise driver linked to second Kaulig seat

A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Ty Dillon is expected to find himself in a new ride for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season as A.J. Allmendinger’s replacement at Kaulig Racing.

Kaulig Racing’s role in this year’s NASCAR Cup Series silly season has been somewhat underrated, and it all started in July when Justin Haley made the surprising announcement that he would be joining Rick Ware Racing instead of returning for another year with Matt Kaulig’s team in 2024.

Daniel Hemric, a former Cup Series driver who has spent the last two seasons competing for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series, was confirmed as his replacement behind the wheel of the No. 31 Chevrolet.

Many had assumed that he would be paired with A.J. Allmendinger, who is in his first full season behind the wheel of the No. 16 Chevrolet after driving it in select races in the 2021 and 2022 seasons — and winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course during the former.

Allmendinger has had a stronger season than Haley in 2023, but he has long said that he is willing to go back to the Xfinity Series if that is where Kaulig feels his talents can be best utilized.

While the assumption has been that he will retain his seat, it doesn’t look like that will happen for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.

According to Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass, Ty Dillon is the favorite to drive the No. 16 Chevrolet in 2024.

It is somewhat of a surprising development. Dillon has lost his Cup Series ride after each of the last four seasons, so Kaulig Racing would be his fifth team since 2020.

And with all due respect to Dillon, it would be surprising if he competes for the team for more than a year.

Driving for Spire Motorsports, Dillon has been statistically the worst driver in the series in 2023, and the same could be said a year ago when he was with Legacy Motor Club.

Prior to 2022, he had never had a full-time teammate in the Cup Series, having competed for Germain Racing from 2017 to 2020 and part-time for Gaunt Brothers Racing in 2021. Teammate Erik Jones statistically dominated Dillon in 2022, and the same has been true this year for teammate Corey LaJoie.

As for Allmendinger, he literally just won at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, so sending him back down to the Xfinity Series doesn’t seem like the best way to utilize his talent, especially not with a driver of Dillon’s caliber replacing him.

Having said that, there is one way to justify Allmendinger being replaced, and it’s certainly not performance related. With Hemric having been promoted and Chandler Smith having confirmed that he won’t be back with Kaulig Racing’s Xfinity Series team next year, putting Allmendinger back in a series where he would undoubtedly be one of the title favorites does make some sense.

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Still, a Cup lineup featuring Hemric and Dillon doesn’t exactly seem like the smart play for a team looking to become a regular contender.