Wednesday, 06 December 2023

NASCAR Cup Series team grades for 2023: Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Trackhouse Racing, Spire Motorsports Featured

Posted On Monday, 13 November 2023 20:41 Written by
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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, celebrates with a burnout in front of fans after winning at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 16, 2023. Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, celebrates with a burnout in front of fans after winning at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 16, 2023. Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Part two of my reflections on the year that was, and what’s to come in 2024, for Cup series teams:

Joe Gibbs Racing
Results; Christopher Bell (4th in points); Denny Hamlin (5th in points); Martin Truex Jr. (11th in points); Ty Gibbs (18th in points) 
Grade: A-

Despite only one driver making the Final Four, this was a very strong overall year for Joe Gibbs Racing, with 8 wins between the trio of Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell. Ty Gibbs did not win, but he did run very well as a rookie and had the second-best finish in the points among non-playoff drivers. With all four drivers returning in 2024, I expect all four, including young Ty, to make the playoffs and several to make deep runs. 

Denny Hamlin’s continued struggles with completing a title run will once again be at the forefront of conversation next season, but I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility that Hamlin does win it all in 2024, and Truex and Bell could be right there beside him battling for the title.

Stewart-Haas Racing
Results: Kevin Harvick (13th in points); Aric Almirola (22nd in points); Ryan Preece (23rd in points); Chase Briscoe (30th in points)
Grade: C-

This team is quite frankly in chaos, and its 2023 was completely forgettable (outside of a successful Xfinity series championship with Cole Custer). 

They lost their Cup series anchor driver in Kevin Harvick, who is now retired after a valiant final season in the 4 car. Aric Almirola has also retired, taking his sponsor Smithfield with him. And Harvick’s sudsy sponsor has moved over to Trackhouse and Ross Chastain for 2024. 

Returning drivers for 2024 are Chase Briscoe, who must become a team leader now, and Ryan Preece. Josh Berry takes over the No. 4 car from Harvick, and it’s rumored Noah Gragson could be the driver of the No. 10 car. Between sponsor woes and a driver lineup with no clear leader, I don’t see this team making major strides in 2024, unless a driver like Berry really steps up straight out the gate for the SHR squad. 


Trackhouse Racing
Results: Ross Chastain (9th in points); Daniel Suarez (19th in points)
Grade: B

2023 was a bit of a hiccup for Trackhouse Racing, but there were also a lot of highs. 

They won the inaugural Chicago street race with international talent Shane Van Gisbergen, and signed him for 2024 to do some NASCAR racing (with a potential goal of full-time Cup racing in 2025), so their future is bright in that regard.

Ross Chastain won two races, including a dominating win in the season finale at Phoenix (too bad he wasn’t in the Final Four, though). Chastain is still an excellent driver, despite his reputation for roughness, but he lost his edge for part of this year, and seemed to get it back by year’s end. That could carry momentum into 2024 and he could have a breakout year and emerge as a legitimate title contender. 

His teammate Daniel Suarez struggled this season, with only three top-5s and 10 top-10s, and needs to get back to his winning ways in 2024.

Spire Motorsports
Results: Corey Lajoie (25th in points); Ty Dillon (32nd in points)
Grade: D

Spire is a team that has been getting a lot of attention in 2023 as it made many high-profile acquisitions (buying Kyle Busch’s truck team, and a Cup charter from Live Fast Motorsports for a reported $40 million). 

I’m not sure where all that money is coming from, but it’s certainly not from their Cup series team, which was lackluster in 2023. Corey Lajoie was rarely a factor in races outside of a couple occasions, and Ty Dillon was downright dreadful and won’t return to the team. Lajoie is back in 2024, and Carson Hocevar takes over the 77, but don’t expect either one to run anywhere near the front next year unless there’s a serious equipment upgrade. 

And I’m curious about the Zane Smith ride that will use the newly purchased charter in a partnership with Trackhouse, and how that will pan out.

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Matt M. Myftiu

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

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