Team Penske and Wood Brothers Racing, which have a technical alliance, made 2022 driver announcements Thursday morning that include a change of plans for Austin Cibdric and a promotion for Harrison Burton. Cindric will drive the #2 Team Penske Ford and Burton the #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series next season.
“Since I began racing quarter midgets, the hope and goal was always to become a full-time driver in the NASCAR Cup Series,” Burton said. “Now, I get to do this with one of the most storied teams in NASCAR history in the Wood Brothers and with an association with Ford Motor Company and Ford Performance. I don’t think I could have dreamt of a better situation to put myself in when it comes to the start of my NASCAR Cup Series career. Add to that the technical alliance with Team Penske and the knowledge I’ll gain from working with their drivers, and I’m really excited for 2022 and the future. This is a great opportunity for me and I can’t thank Eddie and Len Wood enough for giving me this chance.”
Cindric, who races for Penske full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and part-time in the Cup Series, already had been announced as driver of the #21 for 2022, but the expected departure of Brad Keselowski from the #2 at the end of the 2021 season created an full-time opening at Penske at the Cup level. Keselowski has, reportedly, accepted a deal at Roush Fenway Racing that includes partial ownership of that team.
Cindric is the reigning Xfinity Series champion and is the series points leader 18 races into the 2021 season. He is in his his fourth full-time season in the Xfinity Series and has 12-career wins, including four this season.
“Austin is a champion and has proven his abilities both on and off the track,” Roger Penske said. “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, meanwhile, has contested six Cup races in a fourth Team Penske entry this year in preparation for his full-time move to NASCAR’s top level in 2022.
Cindric’s move to the #2 instead of the #21 prompted the hiring of Harrison Burton from Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR Xfinity Series program to drive the #21. He’ll replace Matt DiBenedetto in that seat.
Burton has been a development driver for Toyota through his NASCAR national-level career, to this point — first with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the last two seasons with JGR in the Xfinity Series.
Burton is in his second full-time season at the Xfinity level. He is fifth in the series driver standings through 18 races. He has four-career Xfinity Series wins, all coming in 2020.
DiBenedetto told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Thursday morning he didn’t have a ride lined up for 2022 but he hoped to remain a Cup Series driver.