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Driver Changes That Will Impact NASCAR Betting in 2022

| December 20, 2021 9:34 am PDT

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season will see a few drivers with different rides. Last season, Kyle Larson stepped into a new ride and put together a historic season. I’m not saying that’ll happen in 2022, but it shows how big an impact a driver change can have.

Let’s talk about a few driver changes for 2022 and see which ones will make the biggest impact.

Brad Keselowski to Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing

Brad Keselowski spent the first 12 seasons of his Cup Series career with Team Penske. During his time, Keselowski won the 2012 championship and finished top five in the standings five times. He also won 35 races in that span.

Keselowski has been a consistent championship contender.

Since the inception of the 16-driver playoff format in 2014, Keselowski has made it to the Round of 8 seven times. Now, he is on to a new challenge with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.

One of the biggest reasons Keselowski made the move is so he could have an ownership stake in the team. Before the move, it was Roush Fenway Racing. Now, they added his name to the title.

From a performance standpoint, it’s likely going to be a downgrade.

Team Penske is consistently a championship contender, while his new team hasn’t had much success.

Let’s compare Team Penske’s worst championship finish to Roush Fenway’s best since 2015.

Team Penske Roush Fenway Racing
2015 Brad Keselowski – 7th Greg Biffle – 20th
2016 Brad Keselowski – 12th Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 21st
2017 Joey Logano – 17th Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 13th
2018 Ryan Blaney – 10th Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 18th
2019 Brad Keselowski – 8th Ryan Newman – 15th
2020 Ryan Blaney – 9th Chris Buescher – 21st
2021 Joey Logano – 8th Chris Buescher – 19th

Is it a fair comparison? No, because Team Penske has better drivers than Roush Fenway Racing. However, a driver is only as good as his car. If the car doesn’t have top 10 speed, it will be tough for Keselowski to compete for wins.

Roush Fenway Racing hasn’t won on a non-superspeedway since 2013.

Chris Buescher nearly made the playoffs last season, and Keselowski is a better driver. I expect Keselowski to make the playoffs, but I can’t imagine him making a championship run. I should note that Buescher is a sleeper for the Daytona 500.

Feel free to fade Keselowski for the 2022 season.

Kurt Busch to 23XI Racing

The other past champion on the move this offseason is Kurt Busch. Following three seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing, Busch will join Bubba Wallace at 23XI Racing.

Now Busch is no stranger to switching teams. Check out his teams during his Cup Series career.

  • Roush Fenway Racing (2000-2005)
  • Team Penske (2005-2011)
  • Phoenix Racing (2012)
  • Furniture Row Racing (2012-2013)
  • Stewart-Haas Racing (2014-2018)
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (2019-2021)

A few of those moves came from off-track issues, but Busch has put that all behind him.

Busch is 43 years old, but he remains a top 10 driver in the sport.

His arrival at 23XI Racing should provide a big boost for the second-year team. Wallace didn’t have much success last season, but he did pick up his first win of the season at Talladega.

Throughout his career, Busch has a track record of making teams better. When he joined Furniture Row at the end of the 2012 season, they had never finished better than 24th in the standings.

In 2013, Busch recorded 11 top-five finishes, 16 top 10 finishes and gave them their first playoff appearance. They became one of the top teams, winning the championship in 2017.

Aside from Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi didn’t win a race from 2008-2018. Busch joined the team and won three races in three seasons. Now, Busch has the opportunity to do that with 23XI Racing.

Honestly, I don’t think we’ll see much of a change in his performance. He has finished between 10th-13th in the standings his last three seasons.

He should make the playoffs and contend for wins now and then. I don’t know if he’ll win a race, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

Hopefully, he can elevate the team to playoff contenders.

Austin Cindric to Team Penske

Austin Cindric will jump from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series for his first full-time season.

The original plan was for Cindric to drive for the Wood Brothers Racing, Team Penske’s satellite team. Those plans changed when Brad Keselowski exited the team. That opened the door for Cindric to fill that ride.

Cindric has been one of the best drivers in the Xfinity Series in the last three seasons. He won the 2020 championship and barely lost the 2021 championship.

This won’t be Cindric’s first time in the Cup Series. Last season, he ran select races, scoring a career-best ninth-place finish at the Indianapolis Road Course.

It will be interesting to see how he performs because rookies typically struggle in the Cup Series. At the same time, we haven’t seen many cases of a rookie stepping into an elite ride.

Since NASCAR implemented the playoffs in 2004, only three rookies have qualified. Cole Custer in 2020 is the most recent, but it was because of a victory that was more of a fluke than anything. The other two are Denny Hamlin in 2006 and Chase Elliott in 2016.

Cindric might be able to point his way into the playoffs, but a win will guarantee his spot.

What’s good for Cindric is there are six road courses on the Cup Series schedule. Check out his numbers on road courses in the Xfinity Series.

  • 19 starts
  • 5 wins
  • 13 top-five finishes
  • 15 top 10 finishes
  • 317 laps led
  • 6.5 average finish

Obviously, it’s a different series, but road courses aren’t as big a transition as intermediate tracks.

I’m predicting a 15th-20th place points finish for Cindric. He’ll be a contender on road courses, but it’ll be tough sledding on intermediate tracks.

Ross Chastain to Trackhouse Racing Team

When Chip Ganassi Racing announced they were selling their team to Trackhouse Racing Team, everyone knew either Ross Chastain or Kurt Busch would join the team. Well, we already talked about Kurt Busch, so that only leaves one option.

Chastain will join Trackhouse Racing Team and become teammates with Daniel Suarez. Like 23XI Racing, the team will enter its second season of operation.

Last season was the first time Chastain fielded a competitive car in the Cup Series. He wasn’t great, as he finished 20th in the standings. However, we saw flashes of his potential.

He scored a pair of top-three finishes at Nashville and Darlington. He also had a lot of success on the road courses. Check out his finishes.

  • Daytona Road Course: 39th
  • COTA: 4th
  • Sonoma: 7th
  • Road America: 7th
  • Watkins Glen:12th
  • Indianapolis Road Course: 29th
  • Charlotte Roval: 23rd

We don’t think of Chastain as a road course specialist, but the numbers don’t lie.

From a driver standpoint, I expect improvement from Chastain. However, I’m not 100 percent confident in Trackhouse Racing Team.

Suarez led 58 laps and finished fourth at the Bristol Dirt race, but that was the highlight of his season. The team made strides, scoring five top 15 finishes in his last ten races. I’m not sure if it’ll be enough to push Chastain into the playoffs.

I think we’ll see a similar performance to last season. Chastain could sneak into the playoffs, but it’d be surprising to see him make a deep run.

Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if he won a race. He came close a few times last season and could break through in 2022.

In my mind, he is a sleeper to make the playoffs.

Harrison Burton to Wood Brothers Racing

Perhaps the most surprising driver change came when Harrison Burton joined Wood Brothers Racing. Burton has spent the last two seasons in the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Burton won four races in 2020 but failed to win a race last season. That’s why it was a little surprising Wood Brothers Racing decided to take a chance on him.

As I mentioned before, Austin Cindric was going to take this ride until a spot at Team Penske became available. Wood Brothers Racing still felt it was time to replace Matt DiBenedetto.

Wood Brothers Racing has a technical alliance with Team Penske. However, they aren’t as strong as the team.

If you take out Ryan Blaney’s 2017 season, here are their numbers since 2015.

  • 180 races
  • 0 wins
  • 10 top-five finishes
  • 40 top 10 finishes
  • 195 laps led
  • 17.2 average finish

DiBenedetto made the playoffs in 2020, but overall, this isn’t a top 15 team.

Last season, they took a step back, with DiBenedetto finishing 18th in the standings. Honestly, I think they’ll take an even bigger step back with a rookie driver.

We’ve seen many rookies come into NASCAR with better teams and have worse performances.

Just last season, Chase Briscoe came into the series after winning nine races in the Xfinity Series. He failed to score a top-five finish and finished 23rd in the standings.

William Byron joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2018, and finished outside the top 20 in the standings.

There is a big learning curve in the Cup Series. Burton will learn that as he goes to a team that isn’t among the best in the sport. That’s why you won’t see any rookies among young drivers that can with the title.

I don’t expect much from him. A top 20 points finish would be an accomplishment in my mind.

Betting on the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022

The 2022 season will mark the first season with the next-gen car. There’s a chance we see some unlikely results, but overall, I think the usual contenders will rise to the top.

I’m not big on any of the drivers changing teams this offseason. Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch should make the playoffs, but it’d be a stretch for the other three drivers.

I didn’t mention Justin Haley, Todd Gilliland, and Ty Dillon joining a new team. That’s because they all joined smaller teams that might not finish top 25 in the standings.

Make sure you check out the top NASCAR betting sites as they push out the 2022 odds.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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