Kaulig Racing to surpass 200 combined NASCAR Xfinity starts at Daytona

For Kaulig Racing, Daytona International Speedway has and will always remain a special place for the team with many significant meanings. The team made its Cup and Xfinity Series debuts at Daytona, the team recorded three stage victories last season at Daytona and the team achieved its first top-10 result at Daytona. In addition, the 2.5-mile superspeedway venue in Daytona Beach, Florida, has always been a competitive place for the team in having their cars running towards the front. Above all, Daytona will always be known as the track where the team achieved its first career win and trophy in NASCAR last July. Now, at the same track where the team achieved its first of four current victories, Kaulig Racing is set to surpass a significant milestone start in their fifth season of NASCAR racing. When the team’s three-car lineup takes the green flag in this weekend’s race at Daytona under the lights, Kaulig Racing will surpass 200 starts in NASCAR.

Prior to the 2016 season, Matt Kaulig, owner of LeafFilter Gutter Protection, decided to field a single-car team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Kaulig Racing, while forming an alliance with Richard Childress Racing. In addition, Matt Kaulig hired Blake Koch as driver of the team’s No. 11 Chevrolet Camaro sponsored by LeafFilter Gutter Protection while veteran Chris Rice also joined the team to serve as general manager and crew chief. In Kaulig’s first NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway in February, Koch achieved a ninth-place result after starting ninth. He finished no higher than 12th the following six races before he finished eighth at Richmond Raceway in April. Throughout the regular season, Koch earned 15 top-15 results and was one of 12 Xfinity competitors to make the inaugural Xfinity Playoffs. After finishing 11th, 14th and 12th through the first round of the Playoffs (three races), Koch was one of eight competitors to advance to the second round. He achieved results of ninth, 14th and eighth in the second round, but he failed to advance to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway by a narrow margin. He proceeded to finish 20th in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and he capped off Kaulig Racing’s first season in NASCAR competition with five top-10 results and in a successful seventh place in the final standings.

Koch remained as driver of the No. 11 LeafFilter/Kaulig Racing Chevrolet for the 2017 Xfinity Series season. He started the season with a 15th-place result in the season opener at Daytona followed by a 40th-place result at Atlanta due to being involved in an early accident. From Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March through Richmond in April, he went on to earn five top-15 results. At Talladega Superspeedway in May, Koch earned his first career pole and the first for Kaulig Racing. He ended his race in 31st place, however, after being involved in a multi-car wreck prior to the start of the final stage. From Charlotte Motor Speedway in May through Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, Koch finished no higher than 13th before he achieved an eighth-place result the following race at Iowa Speedway. For the final seven races of the regular season, he earned six top-15 results and made his second consecutive appearance in the Xfinity Playoffs as a title contender. Throughout the regular season, he also achieved two stage wins (Daytona in July and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August). Compared to last season, however, Koch was eliminated from title contention following the first round (three races), where he finished 17th, 19th and 25th. He was able to achieve a sixth-place result in the penultimate event of the season at Phoenix in November before he finished 16th at the finale at Homestead. Overall, he concluded the season with five top-10 results and an 11th-place result in the final standings.

In 2018, following the departure of Koch, Ryan Truex, who had also departed from Hattori Racing Enterprises following the 2017 NASCAR Truck Series season, was named as a full-time driver of the No. 11 Bar Harbor/Sea Watch International/Phantom Fireworks/LeafFilter Chevrolet led by Chris Rice. Truex started the season on a high note by finishing in seventh place in the season opener at Daytona and after having a late shot in winning the race. He went on to achieve seven consecutive top-15 results through Richmond Raceway in April and was ranked in seventh place in the regular-season standings. After finishing 38th the following race at Talladega due to being involved in an early accident, Truex and the No. 11 Chevrolet team finished in the top 15 from Dover International Speedway in May through Iowa Speedway in July. At the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August, Truex recorded the first top-five result for Kaulig Racing after finishing fifth. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September, Kaulig fielded a newly formed second operation, the No. 10 Chevrolet Camaro, driven by the 2018 Daytona 500 Austin Dillon. Starting 32nd, Dillon finished eighth. Following Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September, Truex had earned three more top-15 results and he qualified for the Xfinity Playoffs based on points. During the first round (three races) of the Playoffs, however, Truex earned finishes of 11th, 16th and 10th, and was one of four competitors who was eliminated from title contention. Following the finale at Homestead, where Truex capped off the season with a 15th-place result, 11 top-10 results in total and a 12th-place result in the final standings, Kaulig Racing achieved 100 starts in NASCAR (all coming in the Xfinity Series).

For the 2019 Xfinity Series season, Kaulig Racing parted ways with Truex and brought along Winamac, Indiana’s Justin Haley as a full-time driver of the No. 11 LeafFilter Chevrolet Camaro led by veteran crew chief Nick Harrison. In addition, Kaulig fielded the No. 10 Chevrolet Camaro on a part-time basis and the ride was shared between Ross Chastain, Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler and A.J. Allmendinger. In addition, Nutrien Ag Solutions joined the team as a key partner alongside LeafFilter. During the season opener at Daytona, Haley and Chastain each won a stage before they finished 17th and 13th respectively. For the first 15 Xfinity races of the season, Haley recorded 11 top-10 results with a best finish of fifth place at Charlotte in May. In addition, Austin Dillon drove the No. 10 Chevrolet in three races while earning a best result of fourth place at Las Vegas in March. Chastain made two additional starts in the No. 10 car, earning a best result of eighth place at Chicagoland Speedway in June, and Sadler competed at Richmond, his home track, in April, where he finished 12th.

For the next scheduled race at Daytona in July, Kaulig Racing fielded three cars, with Haley in the No. 11 LeafFilter Chevrolet, Allmendinger making his first of select starts in the No. 10 Cornerstone Produce Group Chevrolet and Chastain in the team’s newly formed No. 16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet. Throughout the race, all three Kaulig cars were dominant as Chastain won the first stage while Allmendinger won the second. On the final lap, with Chastain and Haley running first and second approaching the finish line, Allmendinger made his way up to third place and all three Kaulig teammates streaked across the line to record the first NASCAR career win for the team as Chastain achieved his second series win at the World Center of Racing. The victory at Daytona came in Kaulig Racing’s 115th career race fielding race cars with a simple objective: win and deliver trophies for the team. Though Allmendinger was disqualified and stripped from his stage points and third-place result due to failing post-race technical inspection, the first- and second-place results for Chastain and Haley remained in effect.

Following the victory, however, tragedy hit the team two races later. A day after the Xfinity event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, Nick Harrison, Haley’s crew chief, died at age 37 due to suffering from multiple health issues. For the remainder of the season, new crew chiefs that included Alex Yontz, Lennie Chandler and Byron Daley filled in atop Kaulig Racing’s pit boxes and to lead its competitors on the track with Chris Rice also assisting the team’s efforts.

For the remainder of the 2019 Xfinity season, Haley recorded eight additional top-10 results as he made the Playoffs before being eliminated following the first round and concluding the season in 12th place in the final standings. Allmendinger made four additional starts with Kaulig Racing, all coming in road course events in the No. 10 Chevrolet, where he recorded the second career win for the team and his first series victory since 2013 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in October. Chastain made two additional starts in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 car towards the conclusion of the season, where he finished 10th at Kansas in October and second at Texas in November. Austin Dillon made an additional start at Indianapolis in September, where he finished 34th due to fuel pump issues. Finally, Sadler made his second start of the season along with his 855th and final NASCAR career start at Las Vegas in September, where he finished 10th.

For this season, 2020, Kaulig Racing fielded two full-time operations and one part-time operation in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Chastain was named as full-time competitor of the No. 10 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet Camaro led by crew chief Bruce Schlicker, Haley remained as a full-time competitor of the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro led by crew chief Alex Yontz and Allmendinger was named a part-time competitor of the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro sponsored by Ellsworth Advisors. In addition, Kaulig fielded the No. 16 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE driven by Haley and led by Billy Scott throughout Daytona Speedweeks in an effort of making this year’s 62nd running of the Daytona 500.

During the qualifying session on February 9 that determined the front row for the 500 and starting lineups for the Bluegreen Vacations Duel events on February 13, Haley was one of the two fastest non-chartered competitors along with veteran Brendan Gaughan to be guaranteed a starting spot for the Daytona 500 based on qualifying speed as he accomplished Matt Kaulig’s dream of competing in the Daytona 500 in the Cup Series. Starting in 33rd place in the 500, Haley rallied from being involved in a late incident to finish in 13th place.

In the Xfinity Series, Kaulig Racing started off the year 2020 on a low note as Haley was the lone Kaulig competitor to compete in the season opener at Daytona, where he finished sixth. Chastain and Allmendinger, however, had mechanical issues to their respective Chevrolet Camaros and both recorded the slowest lap times that prevented them in making the 40-car field. Chastain was able to compete at Daytona in RSS Racing’s No. 38 Chevrolet Camaro when veteran Jeff Green relinquished his seat to allow Chastain to gain early points towards his full-time slate this season. Allmendinger, however, was unable to make the field in time for the race. Despite the slow start, Haley and Chastain went on to record top-10 results in the following four series races.

Through the first seven races of the 2020 season, Haley and Chastain each achieved a total of five top-10 results. Allmendinger made his first series start at Bristol in June, where he rallied from a spin to finish 10th. At Atlanta Motor Speedway in June, with Kaulig Racing fielding three cars, Allmendinger won in the No. 16 Chevrolet after leading the final 37 laps and holding off Noah Gragson. The victory was Allmendinger’s fourth of his Xfinity Series career, first on an oval-shaped track and the third career win for Kaulig Racing. Two races later at Homestead, Allmendinger claimed the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus following a fourth-place run. The following race at Talladega, Haley received a draft from teammates Chastain and Allmendinger on the final lap to pass Jeb Burton and achieve his first Xfinity career victory in his 47th series start. To August 2020, Haley is one of 33 competitors to achieve a win across NASCAR’s three major division series as he also recorded the first win for sponsor LeafFilter. While Kaulig Racing achieved its second victory of the season and fourth overall, the team was also victorious as Chastain, who finished in second place, claimed the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus. Chastain would go on to win his second Dash 4 Cash bonus of the season at Pocono Raceway the following week after finishing second again.

Through 21 Xfinity races this season, following a Dover doubleheader, Haley has achieved a win along with six top-five results and 13 top-10 results as he is also guaranteed a spot in this year’s Xfinity Playoffs based off of his victory at Talladega. Though he has no victories recorded thus far, Chastain has achieved nine top-five results and 18 top-10 results as he is ranked in fourth place in the regular-season standings and is 388 points above the top-12 cutline to make the Playoffs. Allmendinger has made seven starts this season and has achieved one victory at Atlanta, five top-five results and seven top-10 results. He is scheduled to make two more Xfinity starts this season.

All three competitors are scheduled to compete in the upcoming Xfinity Series race at Daytona and surpass start No. 200 for a team that is in its early stages towards success in NASCAR.

Catch Kaulig Racing’s milestone start at Daytona on Friday, August 28, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.  As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases for some links and banners that are being displayed on SpeedwayMedia.com.


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