The new NASCAR Cup Series season brings a number of drivers looking for success after a change of organizations.
The 2012 Cup Series champion has a new home and one with his name now on the door. The freshly re-branded Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing team will find the former Team Penske pilot behind the wheel on the famed No. 6 Ford in the role of owner/driver. Keselowski pairs up with holdover Chris Buescher in the two-car effort and is hoping to change the fortunes of the once-dominant team that has underperformed in recent seasons.
“I challenged the team to expand into areas that are outside of their comfort zone,” he said. “I prefaced it by saying that I’m way outside my comfort zone. … I left a team that had won or been playoff eligible for the last 10 years for one that hasn’t won a race in three or four years.
“I’m outside my comfort zone. I left Roger Penske, who’s got this golden legacy, to come here. I left that comfort zone because I believe what we can do here. I still believe it. I’m more confident than ever that we can do it.”
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The veteran driver moved from the now-defunct Chip Ganassi racing stable to 23XI Racing as a teammate to Bubba Wallace. The organization decided to expand into a two-car operation and brought in Busch as a seasoned presence they hope can pay immediate dividends both on and off the track.
“There’s young engineers and young crew members that are eager to learn, and all the knowledge that I have in certain areas, I’d love to kind of transfer it off to certain guys,” said Busch. “Then, with Bubba, we want him to jump into the program with a mindset to win and to be there at another level next year.”
Chip Ganassi Racing was bought by Trackhouse Racing and Chastain remains an asset now paired up with Daniel Suarez. Chastain and Kurt Busch were teammates with the former CGR operation, where both drivers were relatively competitive a year ago. Chastain is hoping to carry over that performance to 2022 as he pilots the team’s No. 1 Chevrolet for owner Justin Marks.
“I’ve been now, crazy enough, in this sport for 10 years and didn’t know what I was getting into 10 years ago,” Chastain said. “I’ve been in it a lot now. I’ve been fired and I’ve left teams and I’ve done a lot of things and I could do a lot of things better, but to bring it full circle with somebody I’ve known my entire time in this sport, and do it with this group, and I mean this when I say it truly feels like it’s more than just another team.”
The 2020 Xfinity Series champion steps up to the Cup Series this season and will slide into the Team Penske No. 2 Ford vacated by Keselowski. While Cindric made a handful of Cup Series starts the last season, he knows the challenge that lies ahead in his first full campaign at NASCAR’s top level and the of driving such an iconic entry.
“Driving the 2 car for Team Penske certainly comes with a great responsibility and obviously great heritage,” Cindric said. “I’m excited to tackle it head-on.”
Another Cup Series freshman driver will drive one of the sport’s most recognizable entries when Harrison Burton takes over the Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford. Burton also graduates from the Xfinity Series where he spent the last two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing. He feels he’s ready for the next step in his career with the Woods.
“Since I began racing quarter midgets, the hope and goal was always to become a full-time driver in the NASCAR Cup Series,” said Burton. “Now, I get to do this with one of the most storied teams in NASCAR history in the Wood Brothers and with an association with Ford Motor Company and Ford Performance. I don’t think I could have dreamt of a better situation to put myself in when it comes to the start of my NASCAR Cup Series career. Add to that the technical alliance with Team Penske and the knowledge I’ll gain from working with their drivers and I’m really excited for 2022 and the future. This is a great opportunity for me and I can’t thank Eddie and Len Wood enough for giving me this chance.”