Shakeup at Team Penske, Wood Brothers

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The 2022 driver lineup became clearer on Thursday as Team Penske and Wood Brothers Racing both made major driver lineup announcements.

As rumored earlier in the year, Brad Keselowski will depart from Penske at the end of the year to "pursue other opportunities in the sport", opening the door of the No. 2. Austin Cindric will assume the driver role for the number Roger Penske made famous instead of the previous plans that had him moving into the Wood Brothers No. 21.

When the rumor began circulating, it raised the possibility that Matt DiBenedetto would be able retain his ride. Concurrent with the Team Penske announcement, however, the Wood Brothers announced that Harrison Burton will be their driver in 2022.

"Austin is a champion and has proven his abilities both on and off the track." team owner Roger Penske said in a statement. "The Cup Series is a big step for any rookie but making this move now, in conjunction with the introduction of the new Next Gen car, makes sense. He has gained valuable experience this year competing in a handful of races at the Cup level and he has shown that he belongs out there."

Cindric has 12 Xfinity wins for Penske.

The reigning Xfinity champion, Cindric has made six starts this year with a best finish of 15th in the Daytona 500. The remainder of his efforts have landed outside the top 20.

Cindric currently leads the 2021 Xfinity points.

Does this explain the struggles of the No. 2? Without being inside the Team Penske building, it is impossible to come to that conclusion, but it seems unlikely that everything will magically fall into place now that the pressure of this announcement is off Keselowski's shoulders.

Keselowski has one win in the last 29 races and that came on the wild card track of Talladega. Since then, he has two top-five finishes with third-place results at Kansas Speedway and Pocono Raceway - and yet he consistently has odds that make for a low Return on Investment (ROI). This week he is at +775, which ranks fifth. Avoid him for the moment.

Burton has one start at Talladega Superspeedway driving for the Gaunt Brothers. He finished 20th.

DiBenedetto has five top-10s in the first 21 races of the season. Two of these have come in the last two races with a 10th at Roaad America and a ninth at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He learned of the change on Wednesday night and in a Facebook video on Thursday, DiBenedetto said: "I didn't really sleep well last night. I though about and woke up this morning and - it's okay to have human emotion and I'm not going to lie to you, it's okay to be pissed off and angry and bitter and all of the above. It just is what it is. We're humans; we're not perfect. That doesn't change my faith in believing there's a plan in all this. But it doesn't make it not suck."

DiBenedetto joined the Wood Brothers in 2020 and almost earned their elusive 100th win their second outing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that year. He finished second.

While expressing gratitude for the opportunity to race the No. 21, he also said: "This 21 team has been broken for a while. Tried to give the benefit of the doubt, work through and put all of your effort into it and make it work - make it click. And it wasn't."

In 2019 with the modestly-funded Leavine Family team, he scored six tyop-10s. He lost that ride, which had an affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing, at the end of the season to make room for developmental driver Christopher Bell.

Prior to that, he raced for GoFas Racing in 2017/2018 and BK Racing in 2015/2016.

DiBenedetto has been one of the hottest dark horses of the season. With plus odds for top-10 finishes most week, he has cashed in several times and always seems to threaten. That may change with his short-time status and bettors will want to be a little more cautious.