NASCAR Powerhouse Considered Throwing In the Towel After First Win

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR team owner Matt Kaulig is part of a new breed of stock car enthusiasts making their mark in racing, but he almost threw in the towel early. His team, Kaulig Racing, is one of the small racing teams among the likes of new celebrity owners Michael Jordan, Pitbull, and Floyd Mayweather. They began competing full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2016 before making their Cup debut in 2020.

After purchasing two charters from Spire Motorsports last year, they now compete full-time with two cars in 2022: one for Justin Haley and one shared between A.J. Allmendinger, Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric.

Kaulig said he never even expected to make it this far as a team owner.

“When we started the team back then with [team president] Chris Rice, I honestly don’t know that we envisioned even having more than one car in the Xfinity Series — ever,” Kaulig said in an interview. “We were just venturing into a sport that’s really hard to get into. It costs a lot of money if you’re going to run right, if you’re going to compete and want to win.

“Those were our goals and we know it would be a struggle and a really difficult thing even to get up there in the top 10, top five, and win races in the Xfinity Series. So no, would’ve never dreamt or thought that we could run on Sundays, much less compete and much less win in the Cup Series.”

Kaulig’s team caught a break with NASCAR’s introduction of new equipment

Turns out the timing for Kaulig Racing to join the NASCAR Cup Series was ideal. Their full-time entry came along with the introduction of the Gen 7 car. But that timing was a lucky coincidence.

“We ran part-time last year, we ran eight or nine races,” Matt Kaulig said. “The plan was to do that, to run eight or nine or 10 races, but the plan was to do that in 2020. But then COVID-19 hit and we weren’t able to qualify — if you remember with all that stuff, you lined up, so teams like us weren’t even allowed to try to qualify, and everything was based on points and owner points. So we weren’t even able to do it.

“It actually worked out really great for us because the Next-Gen car and that whole situation where we’re able to compete right away. And again, everything happens for a reason, I think, and so everything just worked out great for us.”

After winning his first NASCAR Cup Series race, Kaulig considered throwing in the towel

Ironically enough, Kaulig admits that entered the sport with small goals; specifically, he thought he may just throw in the towel if his team could ever secure just one NASCAR win. Kaulig Racing scored their first Xfinity Series victory with Ross Chastain in July 2019 at Daytona International Speedway; then they scored their first Cup Series victory with Allmendinger last August at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“The goal was always to get a win,” he admitted. “And I didn’t even know if we got a win if we would just stop; it was almost like, that situation!”

Now, the business comes with less pressure and more enjoyment for Kaulig, he said.

“So [we] already got the win, already got the trophy, already got the Brickyard,” Kaulig said with a smile. “It’s almost like everything else is just now building the business, building the organization to be able to compete on a weekly basis and put ourselves in a position to maybe go get trophies. We’re definitely hunting trophies in the Xfinity Series; and we’re just trying to compete with the big boys in the Cup Series.”