Kaulig Racing is setting their driver lineup for 2023 as it announced Wednesday (Oct. 5) that AJ Allmendinger will return to the Cup Series full time in 2023 to run the No. 16 LeafFilter Chevrolet in a multi-year agreement.
Justin Haley, the team’s full-time driver in the No. 31, will also return to his ride for 2023.
“When I first went to Kaulig Racing to compete part-time in 2019 and 2020, I remember how I felt on the weekends that I wasn’t racing and how much I missed it,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “Competing full time is a mentally tough battle at times. No matter how much work you put in as a driver, there’s a chance you will not achieve success. For a while, I think I lost that competitive drive to be the best. Kaulig Racing helped me find that again. I now feel more competitive than ever and believe there is more success to be earned as a team.”
“I first called AJ in 2019 to ask if he would run a couple Xfinity Series races for us,” Chris Rice, president of Kaulig, added. “He agreed to do five, and he was disqualified in the first two races. Although it was two, tough results, AJ saw what we were trying to build here at Kaulig Racing, and better yet, he believed in what we were building. After the success we’ve had together since then, we think the next step is for him to help us do the same with our young, Cup Series team.”
In a part-time role with Kaulig in Cup in 2022, Allmendinger has amassed one top five and five top 10s. He has four wins, 14 top fives and 25 top 10s in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as he currently sits atop the playoff standings.
“It’s hard to not think of AJ Allmendinger when you think of Kaulig Racing,” team owner Matt Kaulig said. “When we started this team in 2016, I never imagined we’d have won as many races as we have, including a Cup Series race and two regular-season championships in two years. We are all truly excited to be able to say that we were able to get AJ Allmendinger out of retirement, not once, but twice now, to compete for Kaulig Racing full time.”
Chandler Smith will replace Allmendinger in the No. 16 in the Xfinity Series, the team announced. Smith comes over from Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he’s run full time for the last two seasons.
“I’m really excited to have an opportunity like this for my rookie year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” Smith said. “Kaulig Racing has grown from a small team to a multi-series, powerhouse team in just a few short years. I’m honored to take over the No. 16 car that has had so much success these last couple of years”
Smith has taken home three wins, eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 2022. He also debuted in the Xfinity Series this season for Sam Hunt Racing, making two starts.