Friday 5: Could potential deal send Roush Fenway Racing soaring?


Roush Fenway Racing’s pursuit of Brad Keselowski not only was the best move it could make, but one it had to make.

While Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark declined comment on reports this week that a deal appears in place for Keselowski to join the organization next year as a driver/owner, the signs of something needing to take place were evident.

An organization that once jousted with Hendrick Motorsports to be the sport’s king, Roush Fenway Racing has fallen to mid-tier status in Cup.

This is how good the organization was: A Roush driver either won the championship or finished second in points from 2002-06.

2002 — Mark Martin was series runner-up

2003 — Matt Kenseth won the championship

2004 — Kurt Busch won the championship

2005 — Greg Biffle was series runner-up

2006 — Kenseth was series runner-up

Carl Edwards went on to score runner-up finishes in 2008 and ’11 for Roush Fenway Racing.

Things soon changed for the organization. Kenseth left after the 2012 season for Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards left for JGR after the 2014 season. Biffle was gone after the 2016 season.

Since Edwards’ departure, Roush has won two Cup races and not had a driver finish the season better than 13th in the points (Chris Buescher is 14th in points at the halfway mark of the regular season this year). With Biffle’s departure, the organization downsized to two Cup teams. Roush left the Xfinity Series after the 2018 campaign.

A partnership with Keselowski could reinvent Roush Fenway Racing.

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Gene Haas’ ability to persuade Tony Stewart to be a co-owner and driver of Haas’ team in 2009 dramatically changed the team’s fortunes. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Such a situation worked for Haas CNC Racing. Gene Haas’ team had no wins and 14 top-10 finishes from 2002-08. Haas enticed Tony Stewart to leave Joe Gibbs Racing to be an owner and driver for the renamed Stewart-Haas Racing organization. Stewart won four races in his first season at SHR. He won the championship in his third year there.

That doesn’t guarantee the same thing happening for Keselowski at Roush, but the move is worth trying.

It’s not that Keselowski has all the answers. He doesn’t, but he often views things differently than most and such foresight could help push Roush Fenway Racing to greater success.

Shortly after he won the 2012 Cup title, Keselowski gave car owner Roger Penske a list of things the organization could strengthen. Keselowski also was instrumental in bringing Joey Logano to Team Penske after he was let go by Joe Gibbs Racing for Kenseth.

Keselowski also has experience running a team. He owned a Truck Series team that served as a hub for Ford development drivers. Among those who drove for Keselowski were Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Hemric and Austin Cindric. The team shut down after the 2017 season.

In December, Keselowski said of his future: “My days on the car ownership side may not be active, but that doesn’t mean that they’re gone forever and time will tell how they play out.”

NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500
Brad Keselowski scored his 35th career Cup win in April at Talladega. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Asked about life beyond driving, he said in the same December media session: “You can only be a race car driver for a finite amount of time. Mark Martin did it better than anyone else or Harry Gant. Those are, most often, the exceptions to the rule. Most race car drivers are really at the end of their career once they hit their 40s or mid-40s. With respect to that, I know there will be a day where I can’t be a race car driver anymore.

“That’s the bittersweet day that is in front of me. When that day comes, I don’t want to just leave the sport behind. I would like to still be able to have a reason to come to the race track other than just to watch. What that will be in the future, I don’t know. … But I do have a love for the sport that has started at an early age that I don’t suspect will end when I’m done driving.”

The timing for a move to Roush Fenway Racing also is right for Keselowski, who is 37 years old. NBC Sports contributor David Smith has noted often on his Motorsports Analytics site that a driver’s peak age is 39. Making such a move still would give Keselowski time to pursue a second title he craves, should he not get it this season.

The timing also is good for such a move with the Next Gen car debuting next season. There will be more spec parts, so team development may not separate organizations as much.

Just as important could be the time for Roush to build over the next few seasons. Both of the sport’s network TV deals end in 2024 and the current charter agreement goes through the 2024 season.

Building over the next three years could prove beneficial with more money likely coming to the sport with the next TV deal — as has been the case with other sports recently. Should changes be made to the charter system, could Roush be in position to benefit?

Adding Keselowski has the potential to help elevate Roush Fenway Racing.

2. On the cusp of a record-breaking win

Alex Bowman’s victory last weekend at Dover moved Hendrick Motorsports within one win of tying Petty Enterprises’ 268 for most in series history.

There’s a good chance Hendrick Motorsports could tie the mark this weekend at Circuit of the Americas (2:30 p.m ET on FS1). Chase Elliott has won four of the last five Cup road course races.

Should it happen, it would blend past and present at a track that could be a part of NASCAR’s future for some time.

“When Petty Enterprises started its dynasty, Sears & Roebuck was a big deal,” Kyle Petty said of his family’s team. “Now, we’re at Amazon.”

Petty/Inman - NASCAR Late 1970s
Richard Petty and crew chief Dale Inman in the Petty Enterprises race shop in Level Cross, North Carolina in the late 1970s. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

But Petty, an analyst for NBC Sports, sees similarities between Petty Enterprises, which competed from 1949-2008 and Hendrick Motorsports, which made its debut in 1984.

“I think what Rick (Hendrick) has done … is the exact same thing, in a lot of ways, that Petty Enterprises did,” Petty said. “When you go talk to (former Petty Enterprises employee) Steve Hmiel, when you to talk to (former Petty employee) Adam Stevens, when you go talk to (Hall of Fame crew chief) Dale Inman, it was the Petty Enterprise way, it was the Petty way, the family way, and it was Richard Petty’s personality that was imprinted on that team.

“If you talk to Steve Letarte or Jeff Gordon or you could go back and talk to (Geoff) Bodine or Tim Richmond or those guys, if you had the opportunity, it’s the Hendrick Motorsports way, the Hendrick way, his family way … and it’s Rick’s personality and who Rick Hendrick is imprinted in that team.

“In that way, Petty Enterprises and Hendrick Motorsports are exactly the same organizations. It’s driven from the top down. The values that those teams have are so similar when you sit down and talk to Rick.”

Hendrick stresses the value of people. The result is that his organization rarely sees key members leave for other teams.

Letarte went from sweeping the floors to being a crew chief before joining NBC Sports. Chad Knaus went from a crew member to seven-time Cup champion crew chief to vice president of competition. Greg Ives went from an engineer for five of Jimmie Johnson’s championships to a crew chief. Alan Gustafson started in the chassis department before working his way to crew chief. Cliff Daniels went from team engineer to crew chief.

That stability has helped Hendrick Motorsports excel, winning 13 Cup titles — all within the last 26 seasons. With Kyle Larson winning at Las Vegas this season, 20 different drivers have contributed to Hendrick’s victory total.

The race is on among the team’s four drivers to give Hendrick the record-breaking win.

“We all know that milestone is out in front of us,” Larson said. “We know that it’s really important to (Hendrick). He mentions it almost every time I feel like I talk to him. I hope we can get there quickly. I hope I’m the driver to do it and break that record whenever we get to it.”

3. Learning the track

Christopher Bell enters this weekend’s race at COTA as the most recent Cup winner on a road course after his Daytona victory in February.

Preparing for Sunday’s race on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile track in Austin, Texas, though, proved challenging.

“For whatever reason, COTA has been by far the hardest road course to learn, turn in and turn out,” Bell said. “Road America is probably the most similar in length that we go to, but COTA just has so many corners. I don’t know if they look similar or what, but I spent a lot of time on iRacing just trying to know what corner comes next. You get a right-hander and then a left-hander. It was substantially harder than every other road course I’ve done of just learning and memorizing the track.

“That’s a huge part of being competitive. I spent a lot of time on iRacing before I went to the Trans-Am test (earlier this year). It was very beneficial. Getting track time, I think, is going to be a really big advantage, and I hope to apply that when we go there and race.”

iRacing and the Trans-Am test were among the tools that helped him get more comfortable with the track, following a similar pattern he used to learn other road courses. Bell estimates he did about 20-30 laps in the Trans-Am car earlier this year.

“It’s just about piecing all the pieces of the puzzle together from starting at iRacing, learning visuals, then picking up my points in the Trans-Am car, and now trying to apply all of that and changing my points but keeping my visual in the Cup car,” he said.

4. LeBron and NASCAR

With the recent news that NBA icon LeBron James joined Fenway Sports Group, which co-owns Roush Fenway Racing, team president Steve Newmark was asked this week about any impact James has had with the team.

“I wouldn’t say there’s been a direct impact on LeBron’s enhanced engagement at Fenway,” Newmark said. “He’s always been part of the Fenway Sports Group, or at least in recent years, and even has been a part owner of Liverpool (in the Premier League) before. He just expanded his presence.

“I think probably the bigger aim behind that transaction, which LeBron was part of, is that the Fenway Sports Group is expanding their sports empire. We’re very fortunate to be a piece of that with the (Boston) Red Sox, with Liverpool and Roush Fenway, and I’m really excited about where the future is going. 

“I think Fenway is extremely positive about the direction of this sport. They really see the Next Gen platform as being something that’s gonna be good for both Roush Fenway and the overall sport, so we expect more continued engagement from the Fenway side. As some of you know, the Fenway Sports Management team has got their sales team that works hand-in-hand with our group and they’ve been responsible, quite frankly, for bringing a lot of our partners in, so I can tell you that I hope at some point that we can get LeBron to a race and we’ll see if we can make that come to fruition.”

5. Feeling good until …

While Martin Truex Jr. has won at three of the four playoff tracks run this season with the 750 horsepower package — Phoenix, Martinsville and Darlington — points leader Denny Hamlin has been close behind.

Hamlin was second at Richmond, leading 207 of 400 laps. He finished third at Phoenix (33 laps led) and Martinsville (276). Hamlin placed fifth at Darlington. If you want to include Bristol, even though it was on dirt and won’t be that way in the playoffs, Hamlin finished third there.

So with such success, what more is there for the team to do at those style of tracks before the playoffs begin in September?

Crew chief Chris Gabehart says work remains even with all that has been done since last year.

“I think given the way the rules are now, you look at the evolution as more than one year,” he said. “You look at it as two (years). For the majority of what will be two seasons, there has been a rules freeze and that’s not just with the parts and pieces. That’s also with the aero packages.

“I’m very, very happy with the progress that we’ve made with our 750 stuff from last year to this year. Honestly, heading into Dover (a 750 horsepower package track), felt really good about it.

“Then the way this sport does so well, it humbles you very quickly, and Hendrick Motorsports reminds you that you’re not where you want to be yet. We’re going to keep working at it. I feel very good about our development path and the things we’re working on. One thing for sure is if you get to the playoffs and … you have not made strides from here, you will not be good enough. You have to keep working on it for sure.”

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Friday 5: Is it time to change how NASCAR champion is determined?

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Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both raise questions about how NASCAR determines its champion with a one-race event after whittling the 16-driver playoff field to four through a trio of three-race rounds.

Since 2014, the driver who finished the highest among the four championship contenders in the season finale won the title. The format creates a Game 7 type of moment for the sport in an event that has become a winner-take-all race. Joey Logano won the season finale at Phoenix to win his second Cup title. Ty Gibbs claimed the Xfinity title by winning the season finale at Phoenix. Zane Smith won the Truck title by winning the season finale at Phoenix. 

Thursday, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series announced a new way of determining its series champion that mirrors the NASCAR format. The late model series will cut its field of playoff drivers through eliminations, leading to one race where the four remaining championship contenders will vie for the title in 2023.

One of the questions with the NASCAR format is if it provides the most fair way to determine a series champion. Of course, the NFL determines its champion by the Super Bowl, a winner-take-all game. The best team hasn’t always reached that game or won that game, but the event has been played for more than 50 years with no change in sight.

Those who question NASCAR’s way of determining a champion note that the Super Bowl is between two teams, while the championship race for Cup, Xfinity and the Truck Series not only includes the four teams racing for a crown but also the rest of the field, which can include 30 more vehicles. What those drivers and teams do can make an impact on the race and play a role in who wins the championship.

“I think Dale Jr. covered it perfectly,” Hamlin said. “Should one season come down to this three-hour window?”

Hamlin, who seeks his first Cup title, says that the previous Cup champions have been worthy and admits that “I’m the last one that should comment on this” because he doesn’t have a title. 

Still, he raises questions.

“From a purist’s standpoint, it needs to have a bigger sample size,” he said.

Hamlin notes how he knew he wouldn’t win the 2020 Cup title even though he was among the four contenders because his team was not as strong at the shorter tracks such as Phoenix. 

“If you had more of a sample size, you have a chance,” he said. 

Earnhardt expressed the questions he had about the format when he spoke with former NASCAR Chairman Brian France on the Dale Jr. Download this fall.

Earnhardt said the playoff format, which features three-race rounds, is “compelling. It can be argued that it’s relatively fair. Everybody’s got the same opportunity. It’s three races. You can kind of dig yourself out of a hole. But I’ve always kind of struggled with the final race being all or nothing.

“The reason why I struggle with that is because the venue may suit a team or a driver. … You wouldn’t ever consider running it at a road course or a superspeedway because that certainly suits some drivers more than other. You try to have it at a neutral facility, if you will, like a Homestead or a Phoenix.

“But I always had a hard time with saying, ‘OK, it all boils down to this one race where you’ve got to get it right and if you don’t you’re not a champion this year.’ Even though you’ve really got this amazing body of work. You can still have that guy that wins one race be the champion and the guy that wins six not even make the final round.

“I wish we could figure out a way to make that championship moment not an all or nothing three-hour affair. … I’ve really warmed up to everything else we’ve done. It took me a long time because I was too much of traditionalist. But I still feel like there’s got to be a better scenario for the final moment.”

France responded to Earnhardt’s query by saying: “The reason you feel that way is because those are fair points that you make. They are.”

France went on to say that such questions are “part of the challenge of a playoff format in general with auto racing. You’re just going to have to accept that is not exactly perfect.”

France then said: “My decision was we’re not going to hold ourselves back from getting those (Game 7) moments because auto racing doesn’t quite fit perfectly into that. We just couldn’t do it.”

NASCAR changed how its champion was crowned ahead of the 2004 season. From 2000-03, three champions were so far ahead in the points that they clinched the title with one race left in the season (Bobby Labonte in 2000, Jeff Gordon in 2001 and Matt Kenseth in 2003). 

The Chase was created to generate interest in the fall, particularly when NASCAR was going against the NFL on Sundays. The Chase morphed into the playoffs and included eliminations and one race to determine the champion. 

Hamlin says a three-race round to determine the champion will keep the interest of fans.

“I think when you spread it out amongst a bigger sample size, such as a three-race (round), I don’t see how that’s not a positive thing for ratings. People will be compelled every week to tune in because this is the championship round. I think there’s something to be gained there.”

Asked about what if one of the title contenders wins the first two races to all but assure them the title ahead of the final race, Hamlin said: “Will not happen. There’ll be no lockup. No one will be locked going into the final race.”

Hamlin acknowledges that his viewpoint will not be shared by all.

“I’m a traditionalist like Dale,” Hamlin said. “This is just my opinion. I think that everyone is going to have a different opinion on it, but I just believe a larger sample size of our champion makes it more legitimate. I think it would be hard for anyone to argue that, especially in the industry. 

“If you ask the drivers, ‘Do you see championships as valuable today as they did 10 years ago?’ I don’t think any one considers them as valuable just because it’s one race. It’s one race.”

2. Plugged in

Tyler Reddick moves to 23XI Racing and will have Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan as his bosses. Reddick says that Jordan is not an absent owner.

“We’ve gotten to spend time (together) a little bit, here and there,” Reddick said of Jordan. “His involvement with the team is, I think, more than most realize.”

Reddick referenced the Martinsville race in October when he pulled out of the event because he wasn’t feeling well after contact on the track. Jordan reached out to Reddick afterward.

“It was really cool that you have a guy like him checking in on you to make sure you’re OK,” Reddick said. “He’s definitely locked in, and he really wants the team to do well. I’m excited to be working with him.”

3. Staying home

Kyle Larson said he will race very little this offseason. He’s staying at home for the birth of his third child with wife Katelyn Sweet.

Larson will compete in the Wild West Shootout, a dirt late model event at Vado (New Mexico) Speedway Park on Jan. 7-8 and Jan. 11-15.

Larson will not compete in the Chili Bowl this year. 

He said his focus will be on family this offseason.

“Help out where I can and just spend as much time with the family,” Larson said. “I normally go race a lot, but this year I’m not. I’m actually excited about it. I’ve only run one race so far this offseason. I’m surprised that it already feels like the offseason is going by really fast because I thought it’d be really slow with me not racing. It’s been good to just not race for once.”

4. Looking to improve

Ryan Blaney said he and crew chief Jonathan Hassler have looked back on the season and compiled a list of things to do for next year.

Blaney won the All-Star Race but did not win any points races. He finished eighth in points. It’s the sixth consecutive year he’s finished in the top 10 in points, but he’s never placed higher than seventh in the standings at the end of a season.

“We were up front so many races and led a lot of laps and won a bunch of stages, just never won (a points race),” Blaney said. “It is kind of a bummer. 

“So what kept us out of victory lane? Was it me? Was it a bad pit stop? It was kind of everything in some certain races. Sometimes they don’t work out for you. Some are self-induced. I felt like we took ourselves out of a handful of races I felt like we had a good shot of winning. … It is a bummer we didn’t win, but I was proud of the consistency and just hope to build on that.” 

Blaney is ready for the new season to begin.

“I’m kind of like two weeks is nice and then I kind of get itching to get back going,” he said. “It is nice to reset, and you kind of go through things you want to be better at. You have your own little list between myself and my team. … It’s a perfect time to work on that stuff.”

5. New partnership 

Among the new driver/crew chief pairings for 2023 is Austin Dillon working with Keith Rodden.

Rodden last was a full-time Cup crew chief in 2017 with Kasey Kahne. Rodden served as crew chief for William Byron in one race in 2020 but returns to full-time duty with Dillon, who finished 11th in points this past season, tying his career best. 

Rodden most recently worked on the Motorsports Competition NASCAR strategy group at General Motors. He takes over for Justin Alexander.

“Keith and I first got to work together in a wheel-force test for the Next Gen car at Richmond,” Dillon said. “It was a two-day test. We had dinner that night. It was good to talk to him. … Just knowing his passion was still very high to get back to the Cup level and crew chief. Him having the ability the work with Chevy this past year and seeing the different odds and ends of the Next Gen car was really the key to us (for him) to come over and crew chief for.”

Jesse Iwuji Motorsports seeks $4.125 million in lawsuit against sponsor


Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, a NASCAR Xfinity Series team, has filed a $4.125-million lawsuit against Equity Prime Mortgage, one of the team’s sponsors.

In the lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the team alleges that EPM committed a breach of contract. JIM alleges that EPM agreed to pay the team $2.25 million for sponsorship in the 2022 season and $3.75 million for 2023.

The lawsuit attempts to recoup what Jesse Iwuji Motorsports calls two missed payments totaling $375,000 from 2022 and the $3.75 million for 2023. The filing of the lawsuit was first reported by

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The team scored one top-10 finish in 30 Xfinity starts in 2022. The team’s cars were driven by Kyle Weatherman and Iwuji. Weatherman had a best finish of eighth; Iwuji’s best run was an 11th.

The team was founded by Iwuji, former National Football League player Emmitt Smith and a group of investors.

The lawsuit claims that an EPM executive informed the team in September 2022 that EPM had been “margin called” and was dealing with problems because of rising mortgage rates and that EPM could not make any more payments to Jesse Iwuji Motorsports .

According to the lawsuit, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports sent EPM a Notice of Intent to terminate the sponsorship agreement after the payment due Oct. 1 was missed. The suit claims EPM “took no action” after EPM offered 30 days to remedy the situation.

The suit also claims EPM “allegedly continued to take advantage of their status as a sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series team, as EPM continued to make promotional posts on social media, which featured the company’s logo on the JIM race car.”

EPM is based in Atlanta.

Dr Diandra: The best driver of 2022


NASCAR’s elimination playoff format means that the driver with the best statistics — arguably the “best driver of 2022” — doesn’t always win the championship.

Races unfinished

Drivers involved in a lot of crashes also failed to finish a lot of races. But not all accidents end drivers’ races. Comparing accidents and spins to DNF (did not finish) totals helps gauge how serious those incidents were.

Ross Chastain and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were involved in the most accidents for a single driver with 15 caution-causing crashes each. The difference is that Chastain had only five DNFs (33.3%), while Stenhouse had nine (60.0%).

Ty Dillion tied Stenhouse for the most DNFs in the series with nine DNFs and 10 accidents.

Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon and Corey LaJoie tied for third place with eight DNFs each. Reddick had 10 accidents, while Dillon and LaJoie were each involved in 11 crashes.

No driver avoided DNFs entirely. Among full-timers, Michael McDowell had the fewest DNFs in 2022 with two. Justin Haley and Ryan Blaney tied for second with three DNFs each.

In 2021, only Denny Hamlin finished every race running. This year he had five DNFs, with four in the first nine races.

This year’s 225 DNFs are up significantly from 179 in 2021. and the most DNFs since 2017. I’ll be watching in 2023 to see if the rise in DNFs continues, or if this was a one-time phenomenon due to the first year with a new car.


“Best driver” doesn’t necessarily mean most wins.

This year’s champion, Joey Logano, didn’t have the most wins. That’s not at all uncommon in NASCAR. With 19 different winners in 2022, no driver dominated the season the way Kyle Larson did in 2021 with 10 wins.

The winningest drivers in 2022 were: Chase Elliott (five wins) and Logano (four wins). Christopher Bell, Larson and Reddick tied for third with three wins each.

Top-five and top-10 finishes

While wins matter more than good finishes, the number of top-five and top-10 finishes show how close a driver got to taking home the checkered flag. Running up front means being there to take advantage of other drivers’ mistakes and misfortune.

In 2021, Larson had the most top-five finishes (20) and the most top-10 finishes (26). This year, good finishes were much more spread out.2022's best drivers in terms of top-five and top-ten finishes

Chastain deserves a special shoutout for having 13 more top-10 finishes than he earned in 2021.

Also deserving of a shoutout, but for different reasons: Hamlin had the same number of wins this year as last, but nine fewer top-five finishes. William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. also had nine fewer finishes in the top five.

Logging laps

While Truex didn’t make the championship race, he did tie Elliott for the most lead-lap finishes in the season with 29, or 80.6% of starts. Blaney, Byron and Kevin Harvick each had 28 lead-lap finishes.

Elliott led the most laps in 2022 with 857. He’s followed by Logano (784), Byron (746), Chastain (692) and Blaney (636).

I remain slightly wary of metrics that purport to measure quickness because so much of a car’s speed depends on where in the field it’s running. Lap traffic, or even being far back in the field, can slow fast cars. That’s especially true at short tracks.

For completeness, however, the next two tables show the drivers’ numbers of fastest laps and those with the best rank in green-flag speed according to NASCAR’s loop data.

Two tables showing the drivers with the most fastest laps and the highest rank in green-flag speedChampion Logano ranked 11th in fastest laps with 319, and eighth in overall green-flag speed with an average ranking of 9.281.

Best Finishes

The tables below show drivers’ rankings throughout the season for average finishes and average running position.

Two tables comparing 2022's best drivers in terms of average finish and average running position

Elliott ranks first in both average finish and running position. Chastain takes second for best average finish and fourth for best average running position, while Blaney is second for running position and fourth for finishing position.

Logano finished 2022 third in both metrics.


NASCAR defines a quality pass as a pass for position inside the top 15. Interpreting the meaning of the number of passes is a little tricky. A driver who runs up front a lot doesn’t make many quality passes because he doesn’t need to.

I focus instead on the percentage of quality passes: the fraction of all green-flag passes that qualify as quality passes. A higher percentage means that the driver is efficient: The passes mean something.

Elliott scores first in percentage of quality passes with 63.4%, just edging out Bell, who has 63.3% quality passes. Larson is third with 61.2%.

Who was the best driver in 2022?

I combined the metrics I think matter most for determining the best driver in the table below. I color-coded drivers who appear in the top five in more than one metric to make it easier to see patterns.

A table showing the top five in each of the metrics discussed in the hopes of identifying 2022's best driver.

This table confirms that the NASCAR playoffs format did a good job identifying the top four drivers in the series. Elliott, Logano, Chastain and Bell are well-represented in the top five in each metric.

The table also shows that Larson and Blaney contended strongly in 2022. With a slightly different distribution of luck, one (or both) might have found their way to the Championship Four.

Logano’s consistency is also evident, even though he doesn’t rank first in any of these metrics and fails to make the table in top-five finishes or quality passes. It’s not uncommon for the driver with the most wins not to win the championship. And this year has been anything but common.

But overall, it’s hard not to argue that Elliott had the statistically best year. He led the series in wins, laps led, average finish, average running position and percent quality passes. If his playoffs had been comparable to his regular season, he would have taken the trophy.

But they weren’t and he didn’t. That may have ended the 2022 season on a down note for the No. 9 team, but they can look forward to 2023 knowing they have a strong base on which to build.

While skill is reproducible, luck isn’t.

Kaz Grala, Connor Mosack join Sam Hunt Racing for 2023


Kaz Grala is scheduled to run the full NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule for Sam Hunt Racing in 2023.

Connor Mosack will drive a second Hunt car — No. 24 — in 20 races for the team. Grala will drive the No. 26 Toyota.

The new season will mark Grala’s first as a full-time Xfinity driver.

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“I’ve scratched and clawed for each opportunity over the past several seasons, and while it hasn’t been easy, it’s made me appreciate this sport and its difficulty more than I ever could if things had been easy,” Grala said in a statement released by the team. “I feel like everything has finally come together at the perfect time in my life with the right team around me to start that next chapter in my career.”

Grala, 23, has scored five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 44 Xfinity starts. He has raced in all three NASCAR national series and won a Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway in 2017.

Allen Hart will be Grala’s crew chief.

Mosack, who will begin his schedule at Phoenix Raceway March 11, was the CARS Tour rookie of the year in 2020. He drove in two Xfinity and two Truck races in 2022.

Kris Bowen will be Mosack’s crew chief. The team said it will announce other drivers for the 24 car later.