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.

 

 

 

 

 

2022 Season in Review: Ty Gibbs

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CREW CHIEF: Chris Gayle

TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing

POINTS: Xfinity Series champion

WINS: Seven (Las Vegas I, Atlanta I, Richmond, Road America, Michigan, Martinsville II, Phoenix II)

LAPS LED: 990

TOP 5s: 16

TOP 10s: 23

QUALIFIED FIRST: Four times (COTA, Richmond, Martinsville I, Bristol)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Ty Gibbs was fast, and he was fast almost everywhere. Seven races into the season, he already had three wins, scored two more in the middle part of the year at Road America (where he outran Cup champion Kyle Larson) and Michigan, then finished the season with wins at Martinsville and in the title race at Phoenix.

The Martinsville win was the 10th of his career and made him the youngest Xfinity driver (20) to reach that level.

Gibbs failed to finish only three races, all because of accidents.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Gibbs spent almost as much time in trouble as he did in Victory Lane.

Along the way to the championship, he had significant disagreements with Ryan Sieg, John Hunter Nemechek, Noah Gragson and William Byron.

Gibbs was hit with the heaviest criticism, however, after he bumped JGR teammate Brandon Jones from the lead to win the season’s next-to-last race at Martinsville, thus denying Jones a spot in the Championship Four.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2023: Gibbs is moving on to the Cup Series, where he will replace Kyle Busch. His aggressive style of racing might not be quite as productive immediately at the next level.

Silly Season scorecard: A new mix for the new year

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Deep into December, the start of the 2023 NASCAR season seems far away, but shops have been busy getting cars and plans ready for the new year.

Some teams have new faces in new places. The biggest change for the new year will be Kyle Busch sitting in the No. 8 Chevrolets at Richard Childress Racing after winning championships with Joe Gibbs Racing. Ty Gibbs replaces Busch but will drive JGR’s No. 54. Ryan Preece moves into the No. 41 at Stewart-Haas Racing, and Tyler Reddick joins 23XI Racing.

A look at Silly Season as the calendar approaches 2023:

Cup Series

No. 1: Ross Chastain, the surprise driver of 2022, returns to keep the fire burning — and the watermelons smashing — at Trackhouse Racing.

No. 2: Austin Cindric, Daytona 500 winner and rookie of the year, returns to Team Penske.

No. 3: Austin Dillon returns in Richard Childress Racing’s flagship number.

MORE: NBC Power Rankings: The best of one-hit wonders

No. 4: Kevin Harvick will seek a return to playoff power.

No. 5: Signed by Hendrick Motorsports through 2026, Kyle Larson drives toward a second championship.

No. 6: Now firmly established as the boss at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, Brad Keselowski will look to boost RFK’s profile in his second season there.

No. 7: Corey LaJoie returns, and why not put his face on his car hood for Daytona again?

No. 8: After a long and successful run at Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch joins Richard Childress Racing. What will happen? Just watch.

No. 9: Chase Elliott might be in this car for the rest of his career. He’s signed through 2027.

No. 10: Aric Almirola announced his retirement but made an abrupt U-turn and will return to this car for Stewart-Haas Racing. Bring the bacon.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin tries again to nab that first championship.

MORE: Sometimes you just gotta laugh…some NASCAR funnies

No. 12: Ryan Blaney, “Mr. Almost But No Point Wins in 2022,” is back with Team Penske.

No. 14: A return to Stewart-Haas Racing for one of the surprise drivers — Chase Briscoe — of 2022.

No. 15: Several drivers will share this ride for Rick Ware Racing.

No. 16: AJ Allmendinger jumps back into Cup full-time for Kaulig Racing.

No. 17: Chris Buescher scored RFK Racing’s first win this season.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. considered retirement for a while but will be back with JGR for at least another year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell was Mr. Magic in the 2022 playoffs. He’s back for another shot.

No. 21: Harrison Burton returns for another season in the iconic Wood Brothers car.

No. 22: The champ, Joey Logano, won’t be leaving the Penske ride.

No. 23: Bubba Wallace is back.

No. 24: William Byron remains at Hendrick Motorsports.

No. 31: Justin Haley makes another run for Kaulig Racing.

No. 34: Michael McDowell returns to Front Row Motorsports.

No. 38: Todd Gilliland back at FRM for his sophomore season.

MORE: Spiders? Snakes? What scares NASCAR drivers?

No. 41: Ryan Preece takes over this ride from Cole Custer in 2023.

No. 42: Noah Gragson, fresh from a sensational season in Xfinity, moves up to Cup with the new and improved Petty GMS team, now co-owned by Jimmie Johnson. Johnson plans to run a part-time Cup schedule with the team — car number not yet known.

No. 43: The King’s car will carry Erik Jones again.

No. 45: Tyler Reddick drives from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI in one of Silly Season’s biggest moves.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse returns.

No. 48: Alex Bowman expected back full-time after missing several races late in 2022 with concussion-like symptoms.

No. 51: Cody Ware and possibly other drivers will be in this ride.

No. 54: Ty Gibbs will drive this car, while Joe Gibbs Racing parks the No. 18 for the 2023 season.

No. 77: Ty Dillon moves from Petty GMS to race for Spire.

No. 78: Josh Bilicki will drive part-time for Live Fast Motorsports.

No. 99: Daniel Suarez, now a Cup winner, is back for Trackhouse.

Xfinity Series

No. 00: Cole Custer returns to the Xfinity Series for Stewart-Haas Racing after three years in Cup.

No. 1: Sam Mayer returns to JR Motorsports for a second season.

No. 2: Sheldon Creed returns to Richard Childress Racing.

No. 4: Bayley Currey is back at JD Motorsports.

No. 6: Brennan Poole is on board at JD Motorsports.

No. 7: Justin Allgaier returns to JR Motorsports for another shot at an elusive title.

No. 8: Josh Berry looks to reach the playoffs again for JR Motorsports.

No. 9: Brandon Jones departed Joe Gibbs Racing to drive for JR Motorsports.

No. 10: Landon Cassill is back with Kaulig Racing.

No. 11: Daniel Hemric returns with Kaulig Racing.

No. 16: Chandler Smith moves into the Kaulig Racing vacancy left by AJ Allmendinger.

No. 18: Sammy Smith driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

No. 19: Ryan Truex will run a part-time schedule for Joe Gibbs.

No. 20: John Hunter Nemecheck driving for JGR.

No. 21: Austin Hill returns to Richard Childress Racing and also will run six Cup races for Beard Motorsports.

No. 24: Connor Mosack with Sam Hunt Racing.

No. 25: Brett Moffitt on board with AM Racing.

No. 26: Kaz Grala runs Xfinity full-time for Sam Hunt Racing.

No. 34: Jesse Iwuji and Kyle Weatherman possible drivers here.

No. 39: Ryan Sieg back for another season.

No. 44: Jeffrey Earnhardt will drive full-time for Alpha Prime Racing.

No. 45: Ryan Ellis and Saga Karam on board at Alpha Prime Racing.

No. 48: Parker Kligerman will run Xfinity full time for the first time since 2013.

No. 51: Jeremy Clements back with his family team.

No. 78: Garrett Smithley will race full time for BJ McLeod Motorsports.

No. 98: Riley Herbst returns to this ride and will have Cole Custer as a teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series.

 

 

JR Motorsports makes changes to crew chief lineup

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JR Motorsports announced changes to its crew chief lineup Thursday for the 2023 Xfinity Series season.

The driver-crew chief lineups will be:

“As successful as 2022 was for JR Motorsports, we’re always asking ourselves ‘How can we be better?’” said Mike Bumgarner, JRM’s director of competition. “While we performed at a very high level this season, a tweak here or there can help push us even further. We were fortunate to bring in Jim and Mardy. Both have past success with their drivers and we expect that will aid in making a smooth transition.”

Bumgarner had been Berry’s crew chief before taking over the role as director of competition. Moyer had been Mayer’s crew chief this past season.

Burdett had led Allgaier to the title race in five of the past seven seasons. He will be with Jones, who joins the team for the upcoming season. Pohlman, who had been at Richard Childress Racing, takes over as Allgaier’s crew chief. Lindley, who spent the past two seasons at Kyle Busch Motorsports, joins the organization to work with Mayer. Lindley and Mayer won titles in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in 2019 and ARCA Menards Series in 2020.

Phoenix Xfinity practice: Ty Gibbs tops title contenders

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Sammy Smith was the fastest, while Ty Gibbs had the best lap among the championship contenders in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Phoenix Raceway.

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers took the top three spots in practice, led by Smith (131.128 mph). Brandon Jones, who was wrecked out of the lead by Gibbs last weekend at Martinsville, was second on the speed chart at 130.581 mph and then Gibbs (130.520 mph).

MORE: Phoenix Xfinity practice

Daniel Hemric was fourth on the speed chart at 130.105 mph and Riley Herbst completed the top five at 129.557 mph.

Gibbs was the only championship contender to be in the top 10 in practice. Justin Allgaier was 12th with a lap of 129.408 mph, Noah Gragson was 13th with a lap of 129.371 mph and Josh Berry was 14th with a lap of 129.366 mph.

Gibbs had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 129.520 mph. Gragson was fifth at 128.616 mph, Allgaier was sixth at 128.579 mph and Berry was ninth at 128.121 mph.

The Xfinity championship race is set to begin at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network.