2022 NASCAR Cup season features many drivers in new places

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New car. New venues. New opportunities. 

The 2022 Cup season offers limitless possibilities. All the offseason work will start to show with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race (6 p.m. ET on Fox) in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

This season also features many drivers — including two former Cup champions — in different rides from last year. 

More: 2022 Cup schedule, ticket and TV info

While it is much to expect anyone in a new Cup ride to repeat reigning champion Kyle Larson’s feat of 10 victories in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports each driver in a new ride could impact this season.

“NASCAR is always changing,” said Brad Keselowski, who is an owner/driver for RFK Racing after more than a decade with Team Penske. “Every year.

“Different rules. Different cars. Different teams. Different drivers. Different owners. Different tracks. You name it. Different is part of NASCAR. The challenge over the years is to stay on top of your game.”

Here’s a look at the full-time drivers in new places:

No. 1 — Ross Chastain

NASCAR Production Days
Ross Chastain’s best Cup finish is his runner-up result last year at Nashville. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: Trackhouse Racing

Fast fact: Chastain has run 242 NASCAR races since 2018 (an average of 60.5 races a season). That breaks down to 113 Cup races, 86 Xfinity races and 43 Truck races during that time. 

Chastain says: “I’m more fired up than ever (to win) because I want that. I will do anything to get that. I’m 29 years old, this is my focus. All my energy when I wake up is about how to make my race car go as fast as it can.”

2022 season: Chastain joins the organization after Chip Ganassi Racing was purchased by Trackhouse Racing. Chastain’s crew chief, Phil Surgen, also moved over to this team. It has been a long journey through NASCAR for Chastain, but he is focused on making the most of it. He knows he has to curtail his aggression in some cases.

No. 2 — Austin Cindric

NASCAR Production Days
Austin Cindric won 11 races and one title in the Xfinity Series the past two seasons. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: Team Penske

Fast fact: The 2020 Xfinity champion played the tuba in high school and earned all-county honors. 

Cindric says: “This is probably one of the busiest offseasons I’ve had. You start with moving up to the Cup Series, changing teams, changing personnel, trying to learn all those people and then we have a change in the car. A lot of testing time, a lot of time spent in the simulator, a lot of time reviewing data and understanding things. I didn’t spend too many minutes not trying to figure out what it takes to be the best Cup Series driver, especially now with this new car.” 

2022 season: Moves up to the iconic No. 2 car for car owner Roger Penske. Cindric is only the fourth racer to drive the No. 2 Cup car since 1991. Rusty Wallace drove the car from 1991-2005. Kurt Busch drove it from 2006-10. Brad Keselowski drove the car from 2011-21.

No. 6 — Brad Keselowski 

NASCAR Production Days
Brad Keselowski seeks to become the first driver to win the Daytona 500 in his first start with a new team since Michael Waltrip did it in 2001. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: RFK Racing

Fast fact: Keselowski has won at least one Cup race in each of the past 11 seasons. He’s scored three or more victories in eight of those 11 seasons.

Keselowski says: “There’s a big tidal wave of change in our sport – from the Next Gen car all the way down to the owners that own the teams. It’s a big transition period for our sport. When you look at the owners who are coming into the sport, I think they bring fresh ideas, new perspectives that aren’t tied to any legacies of how things were done in the past. That can be incredibly helpful.”

2022 season: This is a big year for Keselowski, who left Team Penske to be an owner/driver at RFK Racing. The 2012 Cup champion seeks to change the organization’s culture and lead it back to the winning ways of its roots.

No. 21 — Harrison Burton

NASCAR Production Days
Cup rookie Harrison Burton looks to give Wood Brothers Racing its 100th career series win. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: Wood Brothers Racing

Fast fact: Wood Brothers Racing has 99 career Cup wins. The team’s last victory came in 2017 with Ryan Blaney at Pocono. 

Burton says: “Any time I’ve raced a Cup Series driver, most of the time it has been in Xfinity … so I felt real comfortable there. … Now, it’s like this has been their series for years and I’m coming and trying to join. So there is a different dynamic. I think past years, I’ve heard, ‘Oh, you’re a rookie, you’ve got to watch out for the veterans.’ I haven’t found that to be the case. I’ve found that I was raced pretty clean, but I think Cup might be different. … I think that’s a good thing. You’ve got to kind of be forged in the fire, if you will, and try to learn the hard way, and I think that is going to happen in the Cup Series for everybody.”

2022 season: The 21-year-old Burton moves from the Toyota camp to a Ford ride with the Wood Brothers. He is part of a talented rookie class that includes Austin Cindric and Todd Gilliland. 

No. 31 — Justin Haley

NASCAR Production Days
Justin Haley will help lead Kaulig Racing’s efforts in its first full season in Cup. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: Kaulig Racing

Fast fact: He has run 36 previous Cup races, scoring a win in the summer Daytona race in 2019, a race shortened by rain and lightning. 

Haley says: “I think the Cup Series is going to be the most competitive it’s ever been. I think the step from Xfinity to Cup is going to be hard and challenging at times, but I’m looking forward to it and excited that Kaulig Racing and I can kind of go to battle together.”

2022 season: In one sense, Haley is not in a new place. He drove for Kaulig Racing the past three seasons in Xfinity, but his Cup rides were elsewhere. Haley will drive full-time in Cup for Kaulig Racing this year, while the team’s other full-time car will be run by multiple drivers.

No. 38 — Todd Gilliland 

NASCAR Production Days
Todd Gilliland is in a rookie class that includes Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: Front Row Motorsports

Fast fact: Make his Cup debut after 93 races in the Camping World Truck Series. He scored wins at Martinsville (2019) and Circuit of the Americas (2021).

Gilliland says: “I couldn’t be more excited. We’ve been able to go through a couple of tests. It’s going to be a lot of fun working with a lot of new people and doing a lot longer races and seeing a lot of new things.”

2022 season: The 21-year-old Gilliland has driven for Front Row Motorsports in the Truck Series, but now moves up to Cup. He will be the teammate to reigning Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell.

No. 42 — Ty Dillon 

NASCAR Production Days
Ty Dillon ran only 16 NASCAR races last season across Cup (four races), Xfinity (11) and Trucks (one). (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: Petty GMS Motorsports

Fast fact: Dillon has made 166 Cup starts, but he ran only four Cup races last year. 

Dillon says: “It was certainly tough for me (last year). My whole life, whole career, I’ve had a full season in a series I was in. … I never quit working, never quit trying to knock on each door and find another opportunity. As much as I never wanted to have to go through not having a full season, it really helped me grow and mature as a man, as a businessperson and as a driver. Just having a deeper focus and wanting to just be back in the job working and trying to get better.”

2022 season: This is Dillon’s second chance, getting back to a full-time Cup ride. While GMS Racing has had success in the Camping World Truck Series, this will be a new challenge for the organization, merging with Richard Petty Motorsports and fielding two Cup teams this year.

No. 43 — Erik Jones

NASCAR Production Days
Erik Jones will have a teammate in Ty Dillon with Richard Petty Motorsports merging with GMS Racing. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: Petty GMS Motorsports

Fast fact: His two Cup wins have come at iconic NASCAR tracks. He won at the July 2018 race at Daytona International Speedway and won the 2019 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Jones says: “Going to the Next Gen car is huge for us, merging with GMS, a new crew chief Dave Elenz is a great hire for us, one that I was really excited about. Really pushed hard for. It was a lot of work to get Dave over there but was pretty excited when we did.”

2022 season: Dave Elenz, who won Xfinity championships with William Byron and Tyler Reddick, moves to Cup to be Jones’ crew chief. This could be a combination to keep an eye on this year. 

No. 45 — Kurt Busch 

NASCAR Production Days
Kurt Busch has scored at least one victory in each of the past eight Cup seasons. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Team: 23XI Racing

Fast fact: Busch seeks to win a Cup race for a fifth different organization. He’s won in Cup for what is now RFK Racing, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Busch says: “I’ve been with good teams, great crew chiefs (in scoring wins in each of the last eight years). It’s a matter of just finding those puzzle pieces to piece it all together. 

2022 season: The 2004 Cup champion joins Toyota and 23XI Racing to partner with Bubba Wallace. While the team will look for Busch to have success this season, his greatest contribution could be helping the organization build to be strong for years to come. 

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway


The NASCAR Cup Series’ first short track points race of the season is scheduled Sunday at Richmond Raceway, a presence on the NASCAR schedule since 1953.

Tyler Reddick is coming off his first win of the season last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. He gave Toyota its first victory of the year.

MORE: William Byron is No. 1 in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

The Richmond race is the first of three consecutive events on short tracks. The series will race on the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway April 9 and the Martinsville Speedway half-mile April 16.

A look at drivers to watch Sunday at Richmond:


Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 10th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: No finish better than 11th in five career starts

Reddick showed the promise of what could be a strong season by dominating Sunday’s race at COTA. His victory boosted him five spots in points to 10th. Richmond, a track where he has never led a lap, will be a test.

William Byron

  • Points position: 22nd
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas 1, Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Led 122 laps in April race last year

Byron had a top car in this race last season but was passed by Denny Hamlin for the win with five laps remaining. Byron finished third, his career-best run at Richmond.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Auto Club, Atlanta 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Four consecutive top-four runs, including a win

Hamlin can be counted on to challenge for the win every time the tour rolls into Richmond. He has won there in 2009, ’10, ’16 and ’22.


Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 14th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Auto Club)
  • Past at Richmond: Best career finish is 7th

After opening the season with top-10 runs at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas, Saurez has plummeted into the 20s in three consecutive races. Richmond will present another big challenge. Suarez has five consecutive finishes of 16th or worse there.

Ryan Preece

  • Points position: 29th
  • Best seasonal finish: 12th (Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Top finish of 20th in five career starts

Preece’s first full-time season in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 has started poorly. He has been sidelined by accidents in three races and was more upset than most after being parked by a multi-car crash Sunday at COTA.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 16th
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas 1, COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: Three top 10s, including a win, in past five races

Bowman seems poised to score his first victory of the season. He has been among the tour’s most consistent drivers to date, with five top-10 finishes in six races.




What takes place in a NASCAR appeal hearing? Here’s a look


Hendrick Motorsports is scheduled to have its appeal hearing at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.

So what will happen in the appeal hearing? Here is a look at the process, based on the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.

NASCAR penalized Hendrick Motorsports for modifications to hood louvers. Those penalties were:

  • Docked Alex BowmanKyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each.
  • Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each and fined each $100,000.
  • Penalized each of the four Hendrick teams 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

Before the appeal hearing starts, both sides — in this case, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR — must file a written summary presenting their case before the hearing.

The summary must not be longer than two single-spaced pages. Any attachments or appendices either side intends to present during the hearing must be included. Such attachments or appendices may include, but are not limited to, video, written statements, diagrams, photographs and charts.

The summary is to be filed by 5 p.m. ET two days before the beginning of the hearing. The summary shall be confidential and not released to the public. The Cup Rule Book says that releasing the summary to the public “may result in a penalty.”

The appeal will be heard by three members. They will come from a pool of panelists. The Cup Rule Book lists 19 panelists. That group includes former drivers Mike Skinner, Lake Speed, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson and Lyn St. James, along with others in various roles in motorsports.

The Cup Rule Book states that “in seating an Appeals Panel, the Administrator shall take into consideration the panelists’ availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.”

The Cup Rule Book states “the burden rests on NASCAR to show that it is more likely than not that a violation … has occurred, and that the Penalty Notice issued is within the guidelines of the NASCAR Rules.”

Both parties are allowed in the hearing room while each side presents evidence. NASCAR goes first.

After both sides finish, there is a break before an optional rebuttal period. NASCAR has the chance to go first, followed by those appealing.

Once that is complete, NASCAR is permitted one last opportunity to “argue, explain, or present rebuttal on the facts and violation” to the appeal panel since NASCAR carries the burden of proof.

The appeal panelists may ask questions to either group or any witnesses at any time during the hearing.

Decisions by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel do not need to be unanimous.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel can affirm the penalty or adjust it. The panel can rescind some or all of the penalties or increase any or all penalties.

When NASCAR penalized William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Hamlin during a caution in last year’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports appealed. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 25-point penalty but increased his fine to $100,000. NASCAR amended its rule book after the panel’s decision.

NASCAR does not have the option to appeal the panel’s decision. Those who filed the appeal can further appeal the panel’s decision to the Final Appeal Officer. That decision can’t be appealed.

Kaulig Racing and Denny Hamlin each will go through this process when their appeals are heard. Kaulig Racing’s appeal is April 5 for modifications to a hood louver. Hamlin’s appeal is April 6 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron returns to No. 1


After last Sunday’s crashfest at Circuit of the Americas, the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings experienced another jumble, and William Byron returns to the top spot.

Byron took fifth place in the chaos of the triple-overtime finish. He and winner Tyler Reddick were the top dogs in the Cup Series’ first road race of the year, Byron leading 28 laps and Reddick 41. No one else led more than two laps.

MORE: COTA finish — Entertaining and messy

Christopher Bell, last week’s No. 1, fell to fifth place after a 31st-place finish at COTA.

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. William Byron (second last week) — Byron, the season’s only multiple winner with two, finished fifth Sunday, marking his career first top five on a road course. He won the pole and the first stage.

2. Kyle Busch (third last week) — Busch continues to make his new partnership at Richard Childress Racing look good. His second-place run Sunday is his fourth top-10 finish in the season’s first six races.

3. Ross Chastain (sixth last week) — Despite being pushed around in the late going Sunday, Chastain persisted, re-emerging at the front to challenge the leaders and finish fourth. He has finished in the top four in all three COTA races and leads the points standings.

4. Alex Bowman (fifth last week) — Bowman continued his seasonal consistency, finishing third at COTA. He has finished in the top 10 in five of six races.

5. Christopher Bell (first last week) — Bell falls from the top spot in the rankings after being booted from Sunday’s race in a late-race accident. He dropped three spots in the Cup points standings to fifth.

6. Joey Logano (fourth last week) — Logano was mostly absent from Sunday’s front-of-the-pack jousting. He limped home in 28th and drops two spots in the rankings.

7. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick bursts into the rankings in a big way, easily outclassing the rest of the field on the way to victory at COTA. Challenged repeatedly by cautions that extended the race into three overtimes, he refused to give up the shot at his first win of the year.

8. Denny Hamlin (seventh last week) — Winless this year, Hamlin nevertheless keeps popping up around the front. Sunday’s late-race mess dropped him to 16th at the checkered flag.

9. Kyle Larson (eighth last week) — Larson seemed to be the race’s pingpong ball Sunday as he was bounced around during some of the tightest racing. He rallied to reach 14th.

10. Kevin Harvick (ninth last week) — Harvick’s final season has been a mix of the good and the bad, with two top-five runs, challenges for wins and a 33rd-place finish at Atlanta. He was 13th Sunday.

Dropped out: Brad Keselowski (10th last week).


Ross Chastain after COTA race: ‘Are you not entertained?’


One driver evoked the movie “Gladiator” after Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas. Another could be penalized for his actions after the checkered flag. Others expressed dismay at what the end of the event became.

A race that had been a thrilling duel devolved into a demolition derby over the final laps, leaving feelings as bruised as some of the cars.

While Tyler Reddick celebrated his first win of the season, other drivers stewed at what the racing became. Three overtimes were needed to finish the event due to incidents in the Turn 1 hairpin. Then again, it should not have been surprising, coming a week after Kyle Busch said: “We have completely lost any sense of respect in the garage between the drivers”.

“Are you not entertained?” Ross Chastain exclaimed, evoking Russell Crowe’s famous movie line. “This is what we love. I don’t love doing it, but … as a sport we’re not boring.”

Chastain is correct, the sport is not boring. But it’s fair to ask if the sport has crossed a line. Is it OK for races to end this way? If not, how to change it is a more difficult notion.

The action has been getting more aggressive this season. It was evident in the Clash at the Coliseum when drivers charged into the corners and slammed into the back of cars as a way to slow down to make the tight turns.

Sunday marked the third time in the last four road course races that the event went to overtime. In the previous 28 road course races — dating back to 2012 — only three went to overtime.

It makes one wonder what could happen this weekend when the Cup series races at Richmond Raceway, beginning a three-week stretch at short tracks that includes the Bristol dirt race and Martinsville.

“These cars are so tough,” Chastain said. “We can run into each other. There are just lines of cars all pushing each other (on the restarts) on the brakes. Nobody is going in there saying, ‘I’m going to hit somebody,’ but it’s just the leader has to check up and it just magnifies itself.”

Chastain’s teammate, Daniel Suarez, was not happy after the race. He ran into the back of Chastain’s car, knocking him out of the way as they entered pit road and then hit the back of Bowman’s car on pit road.

Section 4.4.B of the Cup Rule Book states that drivers can be penalized for “Intentionally damaging another vehicle on pit road.” Such a penalty could result in the loss of 25-50 driver and/or team owner points and/or $50,000-$100,000 fine. Violations may also result in a suspension.

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.

Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.

“The problem is if you don’t peek out and bomb the guy in front of you, the guy behind you does it to you,” Bowman said. “So what do you do there? It’s not right. The way we race is embarrassing, and if 12-year-olds were doing it, we’d be yelling at them, but here we are saying it’s the best thing in the world on TV.”

Chris Buescher simply called Sunday’s race “our first bumper car race of the year.”

Austin Dillon said: “The end of the race became a typical NASCAR road course race. It was just a mess. We drove up into the hill on a restart and everyone just pile drove into each other.”

Jordan Taylor, making his first Cup start as he filled in for an injured Chase Elliott, was struck by what the restarts were like.

“Every restart, you just get smashed in the front, rear, side,” he said. “So yeah, it was pretty much just survival.”


Sunday’s race was scheduled to go 68 laps but was extended to 75 laps by the late cautions.

Here is a look at the drivers who gained the most and lost the most positions from where they were running on Lap 68 to where they were running on Lap 75:

Most positions gained

18 – Kyle Larson (finished 14th)

17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (finished 7th)

16 – Kevin Harvick (finished 13th)

12 – Todd Gilliland (finished 10th)

9 – Ryan Blaney (finished 21st)

8 – Noah Gragson (finished 20th)

7 – Austin Cindric (finished 6th)

6 – Corey LaJoie (finished 11th)

Most positions lost

23 – Daniel Suarez (finished 27th)

20 – Joey Logano (finished 28th)

15 – Kimi Raikkonen (finished 29th)

12 – Christopher Bell (finished 31st)

12 – Martin Truex Jr. (finished 17th)

10 – Aric Almirola (finished 30th)

9 – Jordan Taylor (finished 24th)

6 – Michael McDowell (finished 12th)


Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch, who switched rides before this season, have both won in the first six races.

This marks the third year in a row that two drivers with new Cup rides have won so early in the year.

Last year, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain each won in the first six races of the year. Cindric had driven a few Cup races previously for Team Penske but last year was his first year in the No. 2 car. Chastain did have the same crew chief and other crew members at Trackhouse Racing after it purchased Chip Ganassi Racing.

In 2021, Kyle Larson, in his first season at Hendrick Motorsports, and Christopher Bell, in his rookie Cup season with Joe Gibbs Racing, each won within the first four races of that year.