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NASCAR Cup Series team grades for 2023: Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, 23XI Racing Featured

Posted On Monday, 13 November 2023 02:45 Written by
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Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 car for Hendrick Motorsports, and crew chief Cliff Daniels talk on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 4, 2023. Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 car for Hendrick Motorsports, and crew chief Cliff Daniels talk on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 4, 2023. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With the racing wrapped up for 2023, and the teams already looking forward to getting back to it next February starting with the Clash at the Coliseum, this is a time for Cup teams to reflect on what went right (or wrong) in 2023. And more importantly, what the future might hold in next year’s battle.

Below is part one of my reflections on the year that was, and what’s to come in 2024.

Team Penske
Results: Ryan Blaney (champion); Joey Logano (12th in points); Austin Cindric (24th in points)
Grade: A-

Team Penske was not the championship favorite all season, but the great thing about a playoff system is that sometimes a competitor will rise above expectations. 

Just as the New York Giants beat a previously undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the formerly young Ryan Blaney won his way into the Final Four and then rose above the stiff Hendrick competition in the final race of the season to become the 2023 Cup Champion. That gave Roger Penske a second straight Cup title, following Joey Logano’s title in 2022. Blaney will be an excellent champion for the sport, and his win shows you can never count out the Captain.

Despite Ford’s woes throughout most of the 2023 season, Joey Logano managed to get a win, and top-10s in roughly half the races. He was eliminated early in the playoffs, but he’s the type of driver who can always compete for a title, so expect him back in the hunt in 2024 along with Blaney.

Regarding Austin Cindric, I’m not sure what to say other than his year in the 2 car was pretty dreadful. He has lots of talent, which we saw on display during his dominating time in Xfinity cars, but the Cup car has not been kind to him lately. He has to make improvements and step up his game in 2024.

Hendrick Motorsports
Results: Kyle Larson (2nd in points); William Byron (3rd in points); Chase Elliott (17th in points); Alex Bowman (20th in points)
Grade: B+

Team Hendrick is all about winning. It’s kind of what they do, going back to Geoff and Jeff and Jimmie, etc. And it’s kind of what they did in 2023, taking home 10 checkered flags between Kyle Larson and William Byron — their two Final Four drivers. 

Then there is the flip side. Both Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman missed races this season due to injuries suffered away from NASCAR, and neither one took a victory or made the playoffs. And the two Final Four drivers were outdueled by Blaney at Phoenix, despite Ford not being as strong this season as Chevy has been.

Looking ahead to 2024, all drivers will return to Hendrick, and no one is in danger of losing their seat. But Elliott and Bowman both seem to be stuck in neutral and need to get charged up for better runs in 2024. Otherwise they’ll be looked on as the disappointing half of the Hendrick lineup, and fans (and Mr. H) will wonder why they aren’t measuring up yet again.

23X1 Racing

Results: Tyler Reddick (6th in points); Bubba Wallace (10th in points)
Grade: B+

23XI Racing — owned by a couple guys named Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin — went into the 2023 season with the goal of both teams making the playoffs, and that’s what they did. 

Tyler Reddick arrived via a pair of victories, and Bubba Wallace pointed his way in after flirting with victory on several occasions. The team, which is heavily allied with Joe Gibbs Racing, delivered fast cars week after week, and both drivers were consistently strong in qualifying. This relatively new team at the Cup level firmly established itself as one the competition needs to watch out for each weekend.

The key for 2024 will be translating those strong starting positions into more victories and stacking up playoff points that will help them advance into the Final Four.

Follow AutoTechReviews on Instagram at @autotechreviews, and on Twitter @AutoTechReview. Follow Matt Myftiu on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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