Earlier this week we were given the news that Daniel Hemric will be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity program and join Kaulig Racing in 2022. A bit of a surprise to leave a powerhouse team when the option for a return was on the table, but Hemric’s decision probably has good justification.
Kaulig is no slouch, but they’re not thought of on the same level as JGR. That being said, JGR currently has no drivers that are favored for a championship run whereas Kaulig has two that are favored to make it to the champ four. So, from a competitive standpoint, this is a lateral move.
On a deeper level, this move makes a lot of sense. When I saw the headlines of Hemric at Kaulig, it felt right. Hemric has been a journeyman through his career, searching for a home, it’s the type of driver that Kaulig always goes after. A.J. Allmendinger and Jeb Burton both fell into this category before joining the race team and have talked about how familiar and comfortable their environment at the team is. Justin Haley somewhat fits this category despite being a young driver. He was a guy who had talent but no backing to get onto bigger teams and was able to build his career in a positive environment.
The main catalyst for this move I think could be the opportunities it present in the Cup series. Kaulig is starting up a brand new Cup team that will have a lot of availability in the coming years. Getting out of a crowded pipeline at JGR and Toyota and jumping over to a near wide open roster at Kaulig gives him a great opportunity to make it back to Cup in the next couple of years.
Daniel Hemric has talent, not a next-level amount, but enough to possibly be a solid Cup driver. With this move, Kaulig now has another driver to build around along with Haley should they decide to field a second full-time car. The issue is, he’s got to step up his performance in the next season.
He’s had a solid season; In my opinion, though, he’s underperformed for a veteran of the sport getting the best equipment he’s ever had at any level. In certain stats, his younger teammate Harrison Burton has put together a better, or best-case equal season to him. I’m not going to give him too much grief for still not winning a race, but at this point, it’s become clear that something is missing from Hemric’s skillset that is keeping him from victory lane.
Who knows why he’s yet to win a race? I chalk it up to a matter of having the same issue as Elliott Sadler and Jamie McMurray, extremely talented but missing that extra gear that star drivers can get to. Whether you want to say they’re missing the ability to come in the clutch or they’re just too nice and considerate on the track, there was something always holding Sadler and McMurray back from reaching their full potential and it seems the same affliction is plaguing Hemric. The biggest issue for Hemric is this issue is biting him before he’s able to get to the Cup series.
To have as many opportunities as he has had and to never claim a checkered flag is concerning for his Cup prospects on a mainstream team with a lot of talent to pull from. With this move to Kaulig, I believe he has set his long term future up to be successful because either he goes on a tear and ends up with a Cup ride with the team, or he keeps doing what he’s doing and may not end up in Cup but makes a living on a team that will remain loyal to him.