Kaulig Racing announced Friday that Daniel Hemric is set to return to the NASCAR Cup Series to pilot the team‘s No. 31 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 2024.
Hemric, the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, is currently finishing his second full-time Xfinity Series season with Kaulig Racing and in the playoffs to compete for the 2023 championship. Hemric previously competed in the Cup Series full time in 2019 with Richard Childress Racing, earning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors that same year.
“This is a big day, and it means so much to my family and me,” Hemric said in a team release. “It‘s truly special to have an opportunity to do something big with a group of people that want it just as bad as you. It takes heart, and each and every person at Kaulig Racing has it. I‘m looking forward to finishing out this season strong and getting right back to work in the offseason with everyone at Kaulig Racing.”
Hemric joined Kaulig Racing in 2022 to compete for back-to-back Xfinity titles and made select Cup Series starts for the team during the 2022 season. Across 47 total Cup Series starts, Hemric has earned one Busch Light Pole Award, one top five, three top-10 finishes and led a total of 22 laps.
The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native was a full-time Cup Series driver for Richard Childress Racing in 2019, then spent the 2020 season in Xfinity competition on a part-time basis with JR Motorsports before chasing and claiming the 2021 title with Joe Gibbs Racing.
The journey has been trying, but Hemric has been unrelenting.
“I appreciate these guys,” Hemric said Friday of team owner Matt Kaulig and president Chris Rice. “You know, they went to bat for me whenever I didn’t know what I had next in 2021. I said then whenever I got to sit down and actually hear them out, hear what their vision was not only for 2024, 2025 and beyond — back well before that was on the horizon —I knew after hearing what they had to say I wanted to be a part of it.”
“They say that tough times don‘t last, but tough people do,” Rice said in a statement. “That rings true with Daniel Hemric. Throughout all the ups and downs the past couple of years, Daniel continues to believe in the Kaulig Racing culture. Over the last few months, we have been asking ourselves, ‘What can make us a better race team?‘ We truly believe Daniel can and will continue to make Kaulig Racing better as an organization.”
Hemric will replace Justin Haley, who announced his departure July 20 after signing a multiyear agreement with Rick Ware Racing.
Kaulig‘s racing operations have grown in recent years, from a single-car Xfinity team in 2016 to a three-car outfit in that series. Kaulig made its first Cup Series appearance in 2020, and two years later went full-time with two chartered cars.
Hemric made nine Cup starts for Kaulig Racing in 2022, garnering experience not just at NASCAR‘s upper-most echelon but in its newest vehicle, the Next Gen car. His best finish came at Auto Club Speedway — a ninth-place result — all after falling as many as six laps down due to a mechanical failure early in the contest.
“To come back, make those laps up and get a top-10 finish,” Hemric said, “I got out of that car right then and man for me, it was like all of 2019, the years trying to figure out how to even get back to a Cup seat, period — even though then it was only a part-time basis — felt like, ‘Yeah, you’re right. You can do this back at this level.‘
“And for me, that was like ‘OK, how do we bridge this gap? How do I get back here full-time?‘ ”
The answer was with belief from Kaulig and Rice, who have placed him in their No. 31 car for the full 2024 season.
Hemric will continue to compete for the 2023 NXS championship, as the Round of 12 kicks off at Bristol Motor Speedway. Team partnership information will be announced at a later date, according to Kaulig Racing.
Contributing: Zach Sturniolo from Bristol, Tenn.