NASCAR team facing considerable lineup downgrade?

A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR Cup Series - Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR Cup Series - Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Kaulig Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series lineup for 2024 will have an entirely different look, but it doesn’t appear to be an upgrade from 2023.

Last season, A.J. Allmendinger drove the No. 16 Chevrolet and Justin Haley drove the No. 31 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series team. However, the organization has undergone radical offseason changes, and their 2024 will see two new faces.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Daniel Hemric will drive the No. 31 Chevrolet, replacing the Rick Ware Racing-bound Haley. Hemric, the 2021 Xfinity Series champion, spent the last two seasons with Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series.

Additionally, the team have long been rumored to sign former Spire Motorsports driver Ty Dillon to replace Allmendinger, who is likely to return to Kaulig Racing’s Xfinity Series team. Allmendinger drove full-time for the team in the Xfinity Series in 2021 and 2022.

While it remains to be seen how the new-look lineup for Kaulig Racing performs on track, the overhaul looks to be a downgrade for the team on paper.

Allmendinger is the only driver who has won Cup Series races for the team, including this year’s playoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. His rumored replacement, however, only has two top five finishes and seven top 10 finishes in his 238 career Cup Series starts. Both top five finishes and five of those top 10 finishes came in superspeedway races.

Dillon has only recorded one top 10 finish in his two most recent seasons, and his most recent win in any of NASCAR’s top three series came all the way back in the 2014 Xfinity Series season.

Dillon’s 2023 campaign was a miserable one, as he finished a dismal 32nd place in points, last place among all full-time drivers by almost 100 points. Although Spire Motorsports were far from a top team in the series, the results were still disappointing for the veteran driver running his sixth full season, with teammate Corey LaJoie performing at a much higher level.

From an equipment standpoint, Kaulig Racing will likely mark an upgrade over Spire Motorsports. Can that propel Dillon to be more competitive in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season?

Throughout his six full seasons in the Cup Series, Dillon has rarely been behind the wheel of a competitive car. From 2017 to 2020, he competed for Germain Racing, where his best finishes in the standings were 24th place efforts in 2017 and 2019.

While his results were far from impressive, they were right on par with Germain Racing’s previous Cup Series results, with those two 24th place finishes being among the team’s best.

Dillon made a full-time return to the Cup Series in 2022, following a year in which he competed part-time. He competed for Petty GMS Motorsports, but despite the team offering him the best equipment he had had to date, he had a disappointing year, only scoring one top 10 finish en route to a 29th place finish in the standings.

On the flip side, teammate Erik Jones had a very impressive showing in 2022, finishing in 18th place in the standings and winning the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Dillon was replaced by Noah Gragson and made the move to Spire Motorsports for 2023. After the 2023 season, he was replaced by rookie Carson Hocevar, and whether or not he is truly worthy of another opportunity has been called into question.

But as questionable as it would be if and when Kaulig Racing do confirm Dillon as a part of their 2024 lineup, this addition would not be their only questionable move this offseason. Adding Hemric as Haley’s replacement also comes with many question marks.

While Haley was never a weekly contender, he did put together several impressive runs during his two full seasons with the team. His best finish in the standings was only 22nd place, but he proved that he could compete at a wide variety of tracks.

On the flip side, Hemric has only run one full season in the Cup Series, with that coming all the way back in 2019 with Richard Childress Racing. That one-year stint was a disappointing one, as he finished in 25th place in the standings with just one top five finish and one other top 10 result.

However, he was able to make a name for himself upon his return to the Xfinity Series, which started off with an impressive part-time campaign with JR Motorsports in 2020. In his 21 starts with the team, he recorded seven top five finishes and 12 top 10 finishes. He finished in 17th place in the standings, despite not running a full schedule.

But the best was yet to come for Hemric, who joined Joe Gibbs Racing on a full-time basis for the 2021 season. While he failed to capture a victory in his first 32 starts of the season, his consistency allowed to him to reach the Championship 4.

He was able to capitalize, winning both his first Xfinity Series race and title following an amazing last-lap battle with then-reigning champion Austin Cindric. Despite the success he found throughout 2021, he ultimately made the move to Kaulig Racing for 2022.

Although Hemric was solid in his two seasons with Kaulig Racing, he failed to capture a victory and finished in ninth and eighth place in the standings, respectively.

With Joe Gibbs Racing widely regarded as the top team in Xfinity Series, a dip in Hemric’s results was to be expected. But he rarely contended for wins, and after leading 663 laps during the 2021 season, he only led a combined 123 laps in 2022 and 2023.

Now Hemric will be up against much tougher competition in the Cup Series, and following back-to-back Xfinity Series seasons that left a lot to be desired, it begs the question as to whether or not he will be competitive. He hasn’t raced full-time in the Cup Series since 2019, had a forgettable rookie year, and has only made a handful of starts in the Gen 7 car.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Kaulig Racing have cars that are competitive enough for to contend for wins, but their new-look lineup does not look like one that will do so.