Who’s the next new winner in the Cup Series?

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Among the surprising developments in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season — and there were many — is the fact that five drivers rolled into a Cup Victory Lane for the first time.

Rookie Austin Cindric started the points season with a stunner by winning the Daytona 500. Chase Briscoe scored at Phoenix. Ross Chastain (COTA), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma) and Tyler Reddick (Road America) all recorded their first Cup victories on road courses.

What does 2023 hold for drivers looking for a breakthrough victory? Although strange things are possible in NASCAR’s new world, it doesn’t seem likely that the new season will see as many as five first-time winners.

Approaching the start of the season, the three top candidates to join the list of Cup winners might be Ty Gibbs, Ryan Preece and Noah Gragson.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Things to watch for in 2023

Preece replaces Cole Custer in the No. 41 car at Stewart-Haas Racing, a team that has been sagging a bit but remains a threat to win almost every week. Preece has raced in Cup 115 times without a win, but the move into a full-time ride at SHR clearly gives him his best shot.

A veteran of numerous racing series, Preece has won twice in Xfinity and twice in trucks. And he’ll have the extra surge that comes from trying to cash in on a long-time-coming opportunity.

Gibbs will draw unusual amounts of attention in his first full season in Cup. He replaces Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing in one of the sport’s best cars, and he’ll be expected to perform more quickly than the average rookie.

Gibbs won the Xfinity Series championship last season but created a string of controversy along the way, most prominently by wrecking teammate Brandon Jones on the last lap at Martinsville, preventing Jones from a win that would have put him in the Xfinity Championship Four.

Gibbs’ aggressive racing style might be more difficult to sustain at the Cup level.

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

Gragson will be the season’s wild card. His offbeat personality and fast-forward driving style made him a star in the Xfinity Series, where he won 13 times. He moves to the Petty GMS team to start his full-time Cup career. Petty GMS has been a second-level team but won last year’s Southern 500 with Erik Jones and could be on the upswing with Gragson’s talent and the addition of new co-owner Jimmie Johnson.

Spire Motorsports’ two drivers — Corey LaJoie and newcomer Ty Dillon — are looking for first wins. LaJoie has had one top-five finish in five mostly-full seasons. Dillon has had two top fives in 202 starts.

Harrison Burton had one top-five finish in his rookie season with Wood Brothers Racing last year. The next victory for the Woods, who are winless since the 2017 season, will be the team’s 100th in Cup.

Todd Gilliland, another rookie last year, had one top-five run for Front Row Motorsports and returns to that team this season.






NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told Frontstretch.com: “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.