A look at Cup driver uniforms for 2023

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It won’t be long before cars are on track for the Feb. 5 Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Before the action takes place there, check out the driver uniforms for the 2023 Cup season.

Listed below are the drivers, based on their car numbers. Driver uniform pictures are not yet available for AJ Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, Erik Jones, Ty Gibbs and Ty Dillon. The rest of the drivers with chartered teams are displayed here.

 

1 – Ross Chastain

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

2 – Austin Cindric

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

3 – Austin Dillon

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

4 – Kevin Harvick

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

5 – Kyle Larson

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

6 – Brad Keselowski

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

7 – Corey LaJoie

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

8 – Kyle Busch

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

9 – Chase Elliott

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

10 – Aric Almirola

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

11 – Denny Hamlin

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

12 – Ryan Blaney

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

14 – Chase Briscoe

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

17 – Chris Buescher

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

19 – Martin Truex Jr.

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

20 – Christopher Bell

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

21 – Harrison Burton

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

22 – Joey Logano

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

23 – Bubba Wallace

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

24 – William Byron

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

31 – Justin Haley

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

34 – Michael McDowell

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

38 – Todd Gilliland

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

41 – Ryan Preece

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

45 – Tyler Reddick

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

47 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

48 – Alex Bowman

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

51 – Cody Ware

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

78 – BJ McLeod

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

99 – Daniel Suarez

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

NASCAR Power Rankings: Things to watch for in 2023

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The calendar having flipped into a new year, it’s now only a matter of weeks before another NASCAR season, major sports’ longest, pops into gear.

With NASCAR continuing to test new fields of play and new approaches to a 75-year-old sport, there is much to anticipate entering the 2023 season.

NASCAR Power Rankings: What to expect in 2023

1. Daytona 500 — Despite new wrinkles, new locales and the continuing merry-go-round of drivers moving from team to team, the Great American Race always should be the most anticipated event of any NASCAR season. Over the years, many have been classics; few have been duds. A full field of cars roaring out of Daytona International Speedway’s fourth turn to start another points season lights the fire for another year.

2. Chicago Street Race — It might be thrilling. It might be disappointing. It might be somewhere in the middle. However it evolves, the July 2 race, a significant departure for NASCAR, will draw major attention. NASCAR drivers racing along the shore of Lake Michigan, with Chicago’s skyscrapers towering overhead? Definitely undiscovered country.

3. North Wilkesboro All-Star Race — Fans of one of NASCAR’s oldest tracks never gave up hope that racing would return to North Wilkesboro Speedway after the Cup Series departed in 1996. The track fell into disrepair and was largely forgotten by much of the racing community. In May, it returns in a big way, hosting the Cup Series’ annual All-Star Race, whose recent history hasn’t exactly been filled with excitement. Wilkesboro should change that.

MORE: 2023 NASCAR, ARCA schedules

4. Kyle Busch and RCRThis odd pairing will be the most-watched team as the new year opens. Once combatants in a brief garage-area scuffle, Busch and team owner Richard Childress will try to recreate the magic that produced six Cup championships for RCR when Dale Earnhardt was behind the wheel of the No. 3 Chevrolets. Busch leaves behind a decade-plus of success at Joe Gibbs Racing.

5. Ross Chastain‘s next chapter — Chastain burst onto the Cup scene like an exploding watermelon last year, winning twice, annoying a cast of drivers with questionable aggression and challenging for what would have been a very unlikely championship. No longer the New Guy and with a reputation for controversy, Chastain could find this year very challenging.

6. The return of Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion, now part owner of Petty GMS, plans to return to the track in a partial schedule for the Chevrolet team. His first race back is scheduled to be the Daytona 500, a race he’s won twice.

7. 20 winners? — The 2022 season produced 19 different winners, tying an all-time record for a single Cup season. Could 2023 be as productive?

8. Ty Gibbs, Noah Gragson arrive in Cup — The two biggest stars from the Xfinity Series move into Cup racing full-time and seek to make a mark early.

9. NASCAR at Le MansNASCAR will have a significant on-track presence in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race, for the first time since 1976. Hendrick Motorsports will field a Camaro through the event’s “Garage 56” program in the June 10-11 race. Champion crew chief Chad Knaus is leading the effort. The driver lineup has not been announced, but winning sports car driver Mike Rockenfeller is expected to anchor the team. Former Hendrick drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are considered possibilities.

10. Tyler Reddick and 23XI Racing — Reddick had a breakthrough season last year with three victories for Richard Childress Racing. Along the way, he made some of the year’s biggest news by announcing he would move to 23XI Racing for the 2024 season. There was immediate speculation that some sort of deal would be worked out for Reddick to arrive early — for the 2023 season — at 23XI. That happened, and his progress with one of the sport’s rising teams will be a big storyline this year.

Honorable mentions: The season-opening Clash returns to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a second run. … Kevin Harvick races into the final year of his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing in what also could be his final full-time season as a driver. … Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney try to bounce back from a season in which neither won a points race.

 

2022 Season in Review: Ryan Blaney

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CREW CHIEF: Jonathan Hassler

TEAM: Team Penske

POINTS: Eighth in Cup Series

WINS: 0

LAPS LED: 636

TOP 5s: 12

TOP 10s: 17

QUALIFIED FIRST: Three times (Phoenix I, COTA, Richmond I)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Ryan Blaney was consistent enough across the regular season and the playoffs to reach the Round of 8 – a considerable achievement in light of the fact that his only win came in the non-points All-Star Race.

He had 12 top-five finishes, including four in the playoffs, and led 636 laps, more than three drivers who finished ahead of him in points. Only two drivers (Ross Chastain with 15 and Kyle Larson with 13) had more top-five runs than Blaney.

He led 84 of 140 laps in winning the All-Star Race.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Blaney was close enough to Victory Lane to reach in and touch it, but he couldn’t make the final step.

He led 143 laps at Phoenix but finished fourth. He led 128 laps at Richmond but finished seventh. He led 109 laps in the Phoenix finale but finished second.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2023: Blaney has seven career wins and had been expected to add to that total in 2022. He’ll be under a bit more pressure to grab victories in 2023 after teammate Joey Logano drove Penske cars to the championship in ’22.

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.

 

 

Dr. Diandra: Next Gen success depended on experience: More wasn’t better

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The Next Gen car’s introduction in 2022 challenged everyone. But more experience wasn’t better when it came to the final season ranking, the number of top-10 finishes or the average finish position.

Ranking 2022

I compared drivers’ 2022 season-ending rank to their 2021 numbers, including only drivers who ran all 36 races in both seasons.

In the graph below, drivers with the largest drop in rank are toward the left in red. Drivers with the largest improvements are toward the right in blue.

A bar chart showing changes in drivers' season rank for 2022 compared with 2021

Brad Keselowski suffered the largest drop, down 18 positions. But Keselowski also changed teams from Penske — home of this year’s champion — to RFK, which won its first race since 2017 this year.

Martin Truex Jr. fell 15 positions. Toyota got off to a slow start, in part due to fielding fewer cars than the other manufacturers. Truex got the worst of it, following up last year’s second-place finish with a 17th-place season — and no wins.

Kevin Harvick broke a 65-race winless streak but finished 15th, 10 positions down from last year’s fifth-place finish.

While Michael McDowell had a career-best year, not making the playoffs automatically lowered his ranking relative to 2021. Defending champion Kyle Larson finished sixth this year after what he called an “up-and-down” season.

If some drivers fall in the standings, others must rise.

Trackhouse Racing led the way in improvements. Ross Chastain earned his first two career wins on the way to making the largest gain in positions at 18.  Teammate Daniel Suárez, had the second-best improvement with a jump of 15 positions.

Chase Briscoe, in his second year at Stewart Haas Racing, went from 23rd to ninth, an improvement of 14 positions. Christopher Bell rose nine positions relative to 2021, and Joey Logano improved by seven positions.

Experience proves a negative

The most-improved drivers at Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing were their most-junior drivers. At Team Penske, the oldest driver not only improved the most but won the championship.

Then again, Penske’s oldest driver is only 32.

Much has been made of NASCAR’s “youth movement,” but age doesn’t measure experience. Logano and Austin Dillon were born one month apart, but Logano has run 507 Cup Series races, while Dillon has run 336.

So instead of plotting changes in rank as a function of age, I plot them as a function of how many Cup Series races each driver totaled as of the end of this season. I again put gains in blue and losses in red.

A scatter graph showing changes in rank as a function of number of races run as of the end of 2022

Only 19 drivers qualified for inclusion, but I argue that there’s a clear trend from the lower right to the upper left of the graph. The drivers with the most Cup Series experience had the largest decreases in rank.

  • With the exception of Logano, no driver with more than 365 races under his belt improved his ranking relative to last year.
  • No driver who has run fewer than 275 races lost more than one position in his season rankings. Of the two drivers in this group who each lost a single position:
    • Tyler Reddick had eight DNFs in 2022 compared with two in 2021.
    • Ryan Blaney went winless, which made matching his three-win 2021 record a challenge.
  • The top four gainers in rank have a total of 548 races between them. Suárez is the most experienced of these four drivers with 216 races run.
  • The top four losers in rank have run a combined 2,357 races. Harvick alone has run more races than all four top gainers combined.

Top-10 and average finishes support the trend

The playoff’s elimination format skews the final season rankings. So I examined top-10 finishes — and found the same results.

A scatter graph showing changes in number of top 10 finishes from 2021 to 2022 as a function of number of races run as of the end of 2022. The results show that more experience isn't always better.

More-experienced drivers had fewer top-10 finishes this year than last. Even Logano had two fewer top-10 finishes this year than last year.

  • No driver with more than 470 races earned more top-10 finishes this year than last year.
  • Trackhouse Racing again led the way.
    • Chastain went from eight top-10 finishes in 2021 to 21 in 2022, notching the biggest improvement with 13.
    • Suárez had nine more top 10s, increasing from four to 13.
  • Briscoe, McDowell and Erik Jones each earned seven more top 10s this year than last year.

Bubba Wallace isn’t on the graph because he missed one race in 2022. Nevertheless, he also earned seven more top 10s this year — while running one fewer race.

The data for changes in average finish reinforce the trend: More experience wasn’t better when it came to the Next Gen car.

But the converse isn’t true. Some less-experienced drivers improved while others didn’t.

Will the trend continue in 2023?

Veterans — Denny Hamlin in particular — improved as the season went on. This trend may just be a question of drivers needing to break old habits that don’t work in the new car.

I’ll be watching 2023 to see if the old guard springs back or if some of these drivers decide its time to hang up their firesuits.