Friday, 19 April 2024

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.

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Saturday’s race at Daytona was an exciting conclusion to a season where we’ve seen everything under the sun, as we finished our second regular season with the Next Gen car.

The three-wide racing for much of the night was downright thrilling and the best of what plate racing has to offer. On the flip side, no pun intended, Ryan Preece went on a terrifying ride when he barrel rolled at least a dozen times before finally landing right-side up. Thankfully he did not sustain any serious injuries, nor did any of the drivers involved in a “big one” at the end of the second stage.

While the extreme tumbling is cause for investigation by NASCAR (and they are examining the Preece car for data on why that happened), the fact that Preece could walk away shows that the Next Gen car has the goods to keep drivers safe even in extreme wreck situations like the one Preece experienced on Saturday.

The big news, of course was Bubba Wallace’s strong run that locked him into the final playoffs spot. Making the playoffs is a big burden off Bubba’s shoulders. And now he just has to perform and try to get as far along in the playoffs as possible. This will be a tough task to execute, with so many strong drivers ahead of him. But if he makes it to at least the round of 12, I would consider that a successful year and a launch pad for further playoff marches in the future.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman both missed the playoffs, and it’s been a rough year for Hendrick, which has only 2 cars in the playoffs. William Byron and Kyle Larson qualified and should both be contenders. But to put that in perspective, the Hendrick team only qualified as many cars as RFK Racing and 23XI racing, and one less than Joe Gibbs Racing.

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Now that we’ve reached the seven-race mark, and competed at a variety of different track types, it’s fair to start looking at this year’s winners and losers in the Cup series, to this point. Good fortunes can fade and bad fortunes can disappear, but it’s clear that some in the garage are in better shape than others right now. Here’s a few takes on the current landscape of the competition.

Biggest 2023 success stories


Hendrick Motorsports: 
Not really a surprise that the team that has more wins than anyone ever in NASCAR is leading the series this year, but the consistency this year is hard to ignore. 

William Byron is having a breakout year, and could win a lot of races (he’s already got two in the bag). Alex Bowman has six top-10s (more than anyone else in the Cup series) and leads the points. 

Kyle Larson just pulled out his first win (likely the first of many) this past weekend at Richmond. And while Chase Elliott will have a battle to make the playoffs once he returns from injury, fill-in driver Josh Berry was the runner-up at Richmond. Not too shabby of a start, and the future looks just as bright for HMS. In year two of the Next Gen car, they seemed to have things figured out better than anyone.

Published in NASCAR
Friday, 27 December 2019 23:14

5 key NASCAR stories to watch in 2020

While it seems like the 2019 season just ended, the start of NASCAR racing in 2020 is just weeks away.

As fans anticipate the new season, here are a handful of stories to keep in the back of your mind that will be worth watching as the year unfolds.

Cup Rookie of the Year Battle
There’s a larger crowd than usual battling for this honor in 2020.

  • Christopher Bell in the 95 car (as a temporary stopover until a Gibbs car is vacant)
  • Cole Custer in Stewart-Haas Racing’s 41 car
  • Tyler Reddick replacing Daniel Hemric in the 8 car for RCR.

Rounding out the ROTY contenders (battling for 4th, in all honesty, with inferior equipment) are:

  • Quin Houff (#00 car — StarCom)
  • Brennan Poole (#15 car — Premium)
  • John Hunter Nemechek (#38 car — Front Row)

So how will this battle finish up? The way I see it, Custer has the best equipment out the gate; Reddick has a chance at ROTY if he can avoid the wrecks Hemric had; Bell has the most talent of the bunch and ability to get the win that seemed close but eluded Matt DiBenedetto in the 95 in 2019. 

Published in NASCAR

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