NASCAR: Why a seemingly disastrous driver change could pay off

Ty Dillon replacing A.J. Allmendinger seems like a disaster waiting to happen for Kaulig Racing's NASCAR Cup Series team. But it might be the right move.
A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR
A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

For any other team, bringing back a driver who, in his first full season with an organization, won a NASCAR Cup Series race would be a no-brainer. But not for Kaulig Racing.

A.J. Allmendinger, who delivered Matt Kaulig's team their first ever Cup Series win as a part-time driver in 2021 and then won a race during his first full season since 2018 this past year, is officially set to move back to the Xfinity Series in 2024, with Ty Dillon rumored to be his replacement behind the wheel of the No. 16 Chevrolet.

On paper, it's a silly change to even consider.Dillon has been with four different teams within the last four years, and he has lost his ride the last two seasons after being drastically outperformed by his teammates at teams which weren't that strong to begin with.

Considering the fact that Daniel Hemric, who has one win in 283 career NASCAR starts, has already been called up from Kaulig Racing's Xfinity Series team to replace the Rick Ware Racing-bound Justin Haley, Dillon landing Allmendinger's ride would quite frankly make this team's 2024 lineup the weakest in the garage from top to bottom.

It's hard to find anybody who would disagree with that. Dillon was statistically the worst driver on the grid in 2023, so pairing him with a driver who was also quite handily beaten by a relatively average teammate during his lone Cup Series season back in 2019 is probably going to spell a rough season for Kaulig Racing.

But for the organization as a whole, the move could win them a NASCAR championship

By no means are Kaulig Racing a top-tier Cup Series team. In fact, they probably regressed a little bit in 2023 from where they were in year number one in 2022, which isn't much of a surprise considering the fact that the teams were a lot more "even" in 2022 amid the launch of the Next Gen car. And even in 2022, they were a mid-pack team at best.

But the belief seems to be that Allmendinger's talents are best utilized in the Xfinity Series, where Kaulig Racing are, in fact, most definitely a top-tier contender.

Perhaps Kaulig's desire to "trophy hunt" is best fulfilled by dropping their best driver one level lower, where he proved in 2021 and 2022 that he can be a contender for wins at pretty much any track.

Talent in the Xfinity Series was not just a want for Kaulig Racing this offseason; it was a dire need. With Hemric moving up to replace Haley and Chandler Smith out, likely to make a move to Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing had multiple seats open in the Xfinity Series, where they continue to operate as a top-tier team.

Their only confirmed driver for 2024 had been former DGM Racing driver Josh Williams, who is arguably best known for parking his car on the frontstretch at Atlanta Motor Speedway, waving to -- and firing up -- the crowd, and exiting the race.

But Allmendinger is capable of taking Kaulig Racing's Xfinity Series team, and thus the organization as a whole, to an entirely new level. In the Cup Series, on the other hand, his upside is quite a bit more limited, especially at this stage of his career.

And let's face it; as below average as Hemric and Dillon are on paper, they are two veteran drivers who have plenty of experience to push the Cup team forward in what figures to be a rebuilding year, even if they are lucky to come away with any top 10 finishes. That could be exactly what Kaulig Racing need.

So even the head-scratching move itself carries its benefits. Having said that, we could definitely still debate about whether or not there is somebody other than Dillon who should get the chance to be that guy.

NASCAR team brings back old driver, changes car number. dark. Next. NASCAR team brings back old driver, changes car number

Dillon joining Kaulig Racing hasn't yet been confirmed, but it has long been viewed as a foregone conclusion. While it looks silly on the surface, it's a move that could pay off.