The official status of Team Penske’s NASCAR Xfinity Series program for next season has yet to be determined, a team representative tells TobyChristie.com, following Thursday’s announcement that Brian Wilson – the program’s crew chief — would be moving to the NASCAR Cup Series with Wood Brothers Racing in 2022, to work with Harrison Burton.
The organization has been active in the second-tier series since its program was revamped in 2005, amassing an incredible 81 wins, 318 top-fives, 463 top-10s, and two driver’s championships with Brad Keselowski (2010) and Austin Cindric (2020). As a whole, the organization has been able to collect the NASCAR Xfinity Series Owner’s Championship a total of seven times, including six of the last nine seasons.
Austin Cindric has been behind the wheel of the No. 22 Ford Mustang full-time since 2019, in which time he was able to accumulate an impressive 13 wins, 55 top-fives, and 76 top-10s as the team’s primary driver. In 2019 and 2020, Team Penske elected to field a part-time entry for the team’s NASCAR Cup Series drivers but chose to sacrifice the second entry to focus on Cindric in 2021.
Prior to Cindric’s full-time debut for Team Penske in 2019, the organization usually found success in fielding the entry for Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, and Paul Menard, along with some series regulars to fill the gaps. Of course, this came before NASCAR implemented limitations on drivers with full-time Cup rides participating in the series.
So… What Options Does Team Penske Have for 2022?
Close the NASCAR Xfinity Series Program
The organization could elect to shut down their NASCAR Xfinity Series program ahead of 2022 and sell their cars, equipment, and owner points to another organization within the Ford Performance network. Stewart-Haas Racing and RSS Racing are the only other teams confirmed to be within this network for next season, but rumors of another team joining Ford in the Xfinity Series next year have picked up in recent weeks.
RSS Racing has announced intentions of running the second entry in the series next season, and would likely need additional inventory, as well as owner points to ensure that the car makes the field next season. Stewart-Haas Racing on the other hand seems content to field one full-time entry in the series, as they’ve done for the last couple of years.
Find Another Full-Time Driver for Next Season
If Team Penske is wanting to keep their Xfinity Series program open for another season, they could attempt to find a full-time driver to pilot the No. 22 Ford Mustang in 2022. As of now, Hailie Deegan is the only driver within the Ford Performance pipeline that can run full-time in the Xfinity Series, but the 20-year-old is expected to return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with David Gilliland Racing next season, per a team representative.
Cup Driver Rotissiere
With Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton both officially announced to be running in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022 – within the Team Penske network — it isn’t out of the question that the organization continues to field the No. 22 Ford Mustang to allow both of their rookie drivers to gain additional on-track time, despite the seemingly limited payoff with the new car.
Both Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney are limited to running five races in the Xfinity Series next season, as both have more than three full seasons of experience in Cup. Burton and Cindric on the other hand, are only barred from competing in the final eight events of the season, and the Dash4Cash events.
At that point, Team Penske would be faced with an option of filling the remaining 12 events or not. Hailie Deegan made it known that she wanted to make her Xfinity Series debut next season, making No. 22 a potentially perfect location. However, there is no guarantee that the team would run the car full-time.