First Cup victory ‘legitimizes us as a successful race team’ – Matt Kaulig

The goal for Kaulig Racing was to become familiar with the NASCAR Cup Series, its garage, and its competitors. In doing so, introduce themselves and show what they are about to those they will be racing with full-time beginning next season.

Sunday, the organization turned one of its limited starts into a big win on the Indianapolis road course with AJ Allmendinger, who prevailed in a chaotic second overtime attempt when the seas parted in front of him first when Chase Briscoe spun leader Denny Hamlin. Then, almost instantly, Briscoe was penalized for having cut the course earlier the same lap.

“We knew putting AJ in the car every week at these road courses would actually give us a chance to run really well, and so it’s not an announcement to the sport or to other teams that we’re here,” Kaulig said after his organization’s first Cup win. “We’ve been here — we feel like we’ve been here and growing towards winning this championship in the Xfinity Series and then being able to compete in the Cup Series.

“But what it does allow us to do is it more legitimizes us as a successful race team. It’s better for your employees, it’s better for your drivers, it’s better for your crew chiefs and engineers. It allows you to get more and better people. It allows sponsors to trust that you’re going to show up and be great.

“So, for me, it shows that more than anything, and that’s what I’m really happy about. All the success that we’re having on the track, I get happy for all of our teammates, but it’s growing our business as Kaulig Racing. So that’s really exciting.”

Indianapolis was Kaulig Racing’s sixth Cup start this season and seventh in the series. They are entering races on the road courses and superspeedways. For Allmendinger, he is now a two-time winner at NASCAR’s top level.

“I didn’t know Matt. I didn’t know Chris (Rice). When they called me at the beginning of 2019 and said, ‘Hey, will you run some races for us?’ I said, ‘Sure,’” Allmendinger said. “Now, I had watched the program for three years. They were a single-car team, and I liked that because I thought, okay, they’re at least building it the right way because you can start trying to just add cars to it and make it better, and that becomes worse.

“In 2019, we ran one full-time car, as a part two cars, and obviously at Daytona, it was three cars when Ross [Chastain] won, and then the next year it was kind of starting to add more and then this year the right people in place, and you have the right resources to run three full-time Xfinity cars, and then you start the Cup program. So I’ve always thought the way Matt and Chris go about it are the right ways because you’re not trying to get too big too early because that can really kill a program, and that’s part of the attraction to the team as well.”

Rice didn’t know Allmendinger when he first joined the team but knew he liked Allmendinger’s fire and that he’d be the right guy to help grow the program. Rice also credits Allmendinger for how much he’s helped the company grow on road courses.

Kaulig Racing acquired two charters from Spire Motorsports to go full-time Cup Series racing next season. Justin Haley will drive one of the team’s cars, and the driver lineup for the second is still being finalized. Although in June, during the announcement, it was said Allmendinger would again compete in select races.

“To win a Cup race and to sit in an amazing venue like this and think about it, I don’t even know what to say,” Rice said. “I told somebody down there just a minute ago, they said, ‘Just soak it all in,’ and I said, ‘I can’t; I don’t even know what to do. I still have cold chills.’

“I love these guys. AJ knows how much I love him. He was at my house the other day. To win a race here, I still want to cry, but I can’t. Everybody at Kaulig Racing, my wife that’s here and put up with me when we didn’t even have nothing. When Matt Kaulig said, ‘Hey, you want to start a race team?’ I’m like, ‘You’re crazy; it’s October 31st.’ He said, ‘No, let’s do it.’ To win it at Indy five and a half years later, I love it.”