The silly season for the 2022 NASCAR season is in full swing: Roger Penske reacts to the departure of Brad Keselowski to probable Roush-Fenway Racing and promotes Austin Cindric directly into the #2 car – There is bad news for Matt DiBenedetto
NASCAR Cup Series (by André Wiegold)
Brad Keselowski will turn his back on Roger Penske, likely joining Roush-Fenway Racing as a driver in the #16 car and team part-owner in 2022. NASCAR Xfinity champion Austin Cindric, who was originally set to join Wood Brothers, will take over the #2 car from Keselowski and move directly to the main Penske team.
Fans of Matt DiBenedetto had certainly hoped that the likeable race driver from California would thus continue to compete for the Wood Brothers, but that is not the case: Harrison Burton will move up from the NASCAR Xfinity Series and take over the #21 car in the Next Gen era. The 20-year-old is the son of ex-NASCAR driver Jeff Burton and has four Xfinity wins under his belt. Where DiBenedetto will be headed has not yet been determined.
In addition, last Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the last race to be run on the 24-year-old asphalt of the 1.5-mile oval. Drivers have consistently opposed resurfacing, but the track’s surface has aged so badly that the track organizers must now respond. Not only new asphalt is coming, but also an increase in banking from 24 to 28 degrees and a reduction in lane width.
The last race on the old track was won by Kurt Busch, who secured his first win of the season. He defeated his younger brother Kyle Busch, who was not as fast as the Ganassi driver in the final laps. With 25 laps to go, Kurt Busch got help from teammate Ross Chastain, who blocked when he was lapped by Kyle Busch. The latter heavily criticized Chastain for it, while Kurt Busch appreciated the help.
Another piece of the puzzle for the 2022 season is Kyle Larson. The new Hendrick winning guard has extended his one-year contract with Rick Hendrick’s top team, so he will be in the #5 car until at least 2023. Hendrick’s company will sponsor a majority of the California’s races. Meanwhile, Larson’s teammate Chase Elliott won the Cup debut at Road America. The Dawsonville native will also compete in the SRX finale in Nashville, where he will race against his father Bill.
NASCAR Xfinity Series (by André Wiegold)
The Kyle Busch era has come to an end: The Gibbs driver contested the final Xfinity races of his career at Elkhart Lake and Atlanta and won both. This brings the Las Vegas driver’s total of victories in NASCAR’s lower house to 102. In the NASCAR Cup Series, of course, Busch will continue to compete for the title for Joe Gibbs.
Christopher Bell will collect important practice miles in the Xfinity Series next weekend in New Hampshire. The current Gibbs driver will start in the #54, the car in which Busch competed in his last championship race at Atlanta. Spencer Boyd has been signed by Means Motorsports for New Hampshire.
There will also be a debutant in the Xfinity grid on the one-mile oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Dawson Cram. The 19-year-old Californian will compete for Mike Harmon Racing and build on his 26 Truck races over the past four years. His father Kevin Cram was crew chief for Steve Park, Ted Christopher, Stacy Compton, Jason Leffler and Casey Atwood, among others.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (by Simon Mones).
While NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series drivers headed to Atlanta for the second time this year, the Camping World Truck Series made its debut at Knoxville Raceway. In a wild final with four overtimes, Austin Hill prevailed over Chandler Smith in the end.
“If you had told me I would win a dirt race this year, I would have told you, you were lying. This is awesome,” said the Hattori Racing Enterprises pilot after the race, delighted with his first win of the season. But it wasn’t only in the final phase that the dirt oval was a hive of activity. There were a total of 14 cautions, which meant that 80 of the 179 laps were completed under yellow.
Deegan completes SRX guest start
For Hailie Deegan, who finished the race in 21st place, the race in Knoxville was not the only event last weekend. On Saturday, the 19-year-old completed a guest start in the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) at Slinger Speedway.
The oval near Milwaukee is just 0.25 miles long and has a banking of 33 degrees. In the main race, Deegan impressed with a strong fourth-place finish, but also caused an upset near the end when she spun former IndyCar driver Paul Tracy. That caused a multi-car collision and the race went into overtime.
“She dumped me. People complain that I’m rough. I’m getting spun out every flip week. It’s ridiculous. I had a great car. Ran through the field. Two laps to go, we get turned, for no reason,” Tracey fretted in a post-race interview with Brad Daugherty.
Accordingly, Tracey confronted the 19-year-old truck driver after the race. “I know. I understand. I’ve watched the video of it, and I was at your door coming off the corner. I was there on the straightaway,” the NASCAR Truck Series driver told him. “I didn’t want to dump you, but I just held my line on the bottom. I didn’t try to take you out.” But all the appeasement didn’t help and Tracey eventually pulled away.
Deegan will make another guest start in SRX next weekend in the season finale at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. The 19-year-old will be joined on the grid by Chase Elliott.