NASCAR Draft Kit: 2023 Driver Rankings

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2023 Driver Rankings

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

Below are our driver rankings and outlooks for the 2023 NASCAR season.

  1. Kyle Larson – Larson had some difficulty adjusting to the Next-Gen car last season. He was unable to defend his 2021 Cup Series championship, but with a flurry of performance at the end of last season he still wound up with three victories and 19 Top-10 finishes. Larson would be eliminated prior to the championship round at Phoenix during the playoffs, but he still served notice he'll be a dominant force going forward. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet won 10 races during his championship season of 2021, and while it would be a stretch to see him revert to that form given the current parity with the new stock car, we could easily see Larson elevate himself above most of the title contenders in 2023. He signed a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports during the past year and is now extended through 2026 with the team. That security and his pairing with crew chief Cliff Daniels will keep him in the championship discussion for years to come.
  2. Joey Logano – The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series champion made the most of his opportunities during the playoffs. Logano would win two of his four victories last season in those playoffs to secure the championship. Despite some inconsistency earlier last season (just 17 Top-10 finishes, his lowest total since 2017), Logano rose to the occasion late in the campaign and will surely carry that momentum into the new season.

Below are our driver rankings and outlooks for the 2023 NASCAR season.

  1. Kyle Larson – Larson had some difficulty adjusting to the Next-Gen car last season. He was unable to defend his 2021 Cup Series championship, but with a flurry of performance at the end of last season he still wound up with three victories and 19 Top-10 finishes. Larson would be eliminated prior to the championship round at Phoenix during the playoffs, but he still served notice he'll be a dominant force going forward. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet won 10 races during his championship season of 2021, and while it would be a stretch to see him revert to that form given the current parity with the new stock car, we could easily see Larson elevate himself above most of the title contenders in 2023. He signed a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports during the past year and is now extended through 2026 with the team. That security and his pairing with crew chief Cliff Daniels will keep him in the championship discussion for years to come.
  2. Joey Logano – The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series champion made the most of his opportunities during the playoffs. Logano would win two of his four victories last season in those playoffs to secure the championship. Despite some inconsistency earlier last season (just 17 Top-10 finishes, his lowest total since 2017), Logano rose to the occasion late in the campaign and will surely carry that momentum into the new season. The Penske Racing star is now a two-time Cup Series champion and he's averaged three wins per season over the last nine years. Logano has established himself as a year-in-year-out championship contender. He's locked into a good position with the No. 22 Ford team and just signed a long term extension in 2022 that will keep him in place for a good while. Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe have a good handle on this new generation stock car and it will show in the upcoming season.     
  3. Chase Elliott – Elliott fell short at Phoenix last November, and did not win last season's championship. However, the Hendrick Motorsports star had what many would describe as a championship caliber campaign in 2022. Elliott won five races and posted 20 Top-10 finishes, which statistically right in line with his two previous seasons. The good timing of winning during the playoffs was the only ingredient missing last year. Now that he has a year under his belt with the new Next-Gen car, we expect Elliott to find more consistency in the upcoming season. He'll once again be paired with Alan Gustafson atop the team's war wagon and the two will look to recapture the magic of their 2020 championship season. With a long-term contract extension in tow, Elliott has averaged four wins and 21 Top-10 finishes over the last three seasons. Those are dependable performance marks you can count on going forward.     
  4. Denny Hamlin – It took some time for Hamlin to acclimate to the new generation stock car last season, but once he made the adjustment he was able to stack up some solid stats. His two wins and 16 Top-10 finishes were below recent seasons, but still good enough to net a strong fifth-place finish in the final driver standings. His slow start to 2022 led to the lower stat totals and elevated (15.5) average finish for the campaign. Now that Hamlin and the No. 11 team have 36 starts under their belt with the new car, we should see him return to more normal consistency and performance levels in the upcoming season. Chris Gabehart returns to the team as crew chief and Hamlin will look to continue his pursuit of the elusive NACAR Cup Series title. Certainly a return to multiple race wins and low-to-mid 20's in Top 10's should be expected.    
  5. Christopher Bell – This young driver elevated his game last season and Bell served notice that he's entering the elite tier of NASCAR's top division. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota piled up three victories and 20 Top-10 finishes en route to a third-place points finish. Bell made the season finale at Phoenix and raced for the championship last November, but his 10th-place finish would fall short of clinching the 2022 title. Bell will look to build on these impressive numbers in the upcoming season. With Adam Stevens returning as crew chief, the sky's the limit for this duo. Stevens is a championship-winning crew chief and Bell's talent is undeniable. We expect to see the Joe Gibbs Racing youngster post another multi-win campaign and even improve his consistency to increase his Top-5 and Top-10 totals in 2023. It would surprise us at all to see Bell participating in the Championship 4 of the Chase once again.
  6. Kyle Busch – The biggest free agent mover of the off-season was easily Busch. He concluded a 15-season tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing that would see him win two NASCAR Cup Series championships and pile up 56 total victories. Now the talented racer heads to Richard Childress Racing and takes over the seat of the No. 8 Chevrolet, that was piloted by Tyler Reddick last season. The move also takes Busch from the seat of a Toyota and into a Chevrolet for the first time since 2007. His performance was down last season likely due to the distraction of his contract status at JGR and the introduction of the Next-Gen car. Busch will get a much-needed reset on his outlook and morale in 2023. We expect to see him return to multiple wins and 20+ Top 10's in the upcoming season. That should be a reasonable goal considering Reddick posted three wins and 15 Top 10's in this same car last season.
  7. William Byron – Byron's progress and development hit a bit of a snag last season. While he did post his first-ever two-win season, the Hendrick Motorsports youngster saw his Top-10 totals drop to just 11 after posting 20 the previous season. Byron's average finish also ballooned from 13.6 to 15.6 over the previous campaign. We'd credit much of this as the pains of adjusting to the new generation stock car. Things will improve for the No. 24 team in 2023 now that Byron and crew chief Rudy Fugle have one year behind them with the Next-Gen car. In fact, we see Byron as the driver that could come a bit cheaper in the fantasy drafts and bring higher returns this season than most probably expect. He improved his consistency over the final 10 races of this past season, and that's a good indicator heading into the upcoming campaign.            
  8. Ryan Blaney – Blaney has been a classic underachiever the last few seasons since promoting to the NASCAR Cup Series. We keep waiting for the Penske Racing youngster to take that big leap and have a breakout campaign. Last season was his first winless campaign since his rookie year of 2016, although Blaney kept his Top-5 and Top-10 totals at a comparable and reassuring 12 and 17 respectively. His laps led were also in line with recent norms at 636 for the season, so it wasn't like Blaney wasn't racing up front. He was just missing that luck or magic ingredient to close wins in 2022. We're sort of taking a "hold" approach to Blaney for the new season. There were some highlights in the final 10 races of last season to be sure, but no real signs of a major breakout heading into 2023.    
  9. Ross Chastain – The Trackhouse Racing veteran was the breakout surprise performer of 2022. Chastain used a fast car and opportunistic performances to propel him to runner-up in the championship chase last season. The four-race Top-5 streak he ended the playoffs on was a key factor in that outcome. Chastain came from out of nowhere to post two wins, 15 Top-5 and 21 Top-10 finishes to shatter his old career-best marks. The 29-year-old Floridian has pushed himself into the upper tier of the sport and will be challenged to equal those marks going forward. We do, however, believe Chastain could be in for a bit of a regression. That coupled with other teams catching up in terms of performance to close the gap could push Chastain down in the rankings a bit this season. He and crew chief Phil Surgen will be reunited again in 2023, but they'll face tall odds to attempt to replicate the near-perfect season they had last year. We expect a decline in terms of Top 5's and Top 10's for Chastain and the No. 1 Chevrolet team.          
  10. Kevin Harvick – After an early exit from Round 1 of the playoffs, Harvick is pondering his future heading into the upcoming season. He'll certainly race in 2023, but beyond that is a bit cloudy to say the least. Harvick pronounced he'll have that decision made before Daytona, so we'll see if he's up for more racing in 2024 and beyond. However, when we look back on this past season we see Harvick's struggles and they were apparent. He did win two races, but they came in a mini-hot streak of back-to-back wins last summer. Otherwise, Harvick's 17 Top-10 finishes were his lowest total since 2012 and his average finish of 14.3 was his highest since 2009. His lack of consistency from week-to-week was almost maddening, and his historically strong tracks were never a guarantee of a good finish. A lot of question marks surround Harvick and the No. 4 team heading into 2023. If he can dig up a few more wins and better consistency, that will likely dictate his future in the sport and where the 22-season veteran falls in the driver standings.
  11. Tyler Reddick – Reddick drew a lot of attention after his career-best three-win and 10 Top-5 finish campaign in 2022. The young driver was already being courted by 23XI Racing for a planned 2024 move into their Toyota, but the retirement of Kurt Busch put his move on the fast track. Richard Childress Racing agreed to release Reddick early from his contract and he will now pilot the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing in 2023, one season earlier than planned. It's clear the 26-year-old Californian is a rising star in the sport. Reddick was sharp on intermediate ovals, short tracks and road courses. Crew chief Billy Scott will be paired with him in the No. 45 team and Reddick will look to build on the impressive stats he posted with RCR last season. He will partner with teammate, Bubba Wallace, and look to make the NASCAR championship playoffs for the second year in a row.
  12. Martin Truex Jr. – Many veteran drivers struggled to adapt to the Next-Gen car last season, and Truex was not immune to those struggles. The Joe Gibbs Racing star posted his first winless campaign since 2014 and his 15 Top-10 finishes were his lowest season total since that same year. It all added up to a distant 17th-place finish in the final driver standings and a very forgettable campaign. Truex never really has been the same since the departure of his long-time crew chief, Cole Pearn, at the end of 2019. His win and Top-10 totals have regressed in each of the last three seasons. We don't believe Truex's competitive racing days are over by any stretch, but last season may have signaled his demotion from the top tier of drivers in the Cup Series to the "B" tier of drivers at NASCAR's top level. With his future in the sport hanging in the balance, it will be interesting to see how Truex and his current crew chief, James Small, respond in 2023.  
  13. Chase Briscoe – Briscoe's second season of Cup Series racing held the improvement we expected to see over his rookie campaign. The driver of the No. 14 Ford nabbed an early-season win at Phoenix last year, which was the first of his career. He also peddled the Stewart Haas Racing Ford to 10 Top-10 finishes and a respectable ninth-place finish in the final driver standings. During the playoffs, Briscoe was one of the more consistent drivers down the stretch run of last season. He nabbed six Top 10's in those final seven races of last season and that would propel Briscoe to a strong ninth-place finish in the final driver standings. All parts and members of this team return intact for 2023. Briscoe was a strong performer last season on intermediate ovals and short tracks, and that bodes well for his upcoming campaign.     
  14. Alex Bowman – Bowman had a perplexing and inconsistent season in 2022. The Hendrick Motorsports veteran managed to snag a win early last season at Las Vegas, but he'd struggle to a three-season low of just 12 Top-10 finishes. Bowman's average finish would balloon 1.5 spots to 16.7 over the previous season. We're sure struggles adjusting to the new generation stock car were much of the problem. To make things even worse, Bowman sustained a concussion in at Texas early in the playoffs and would miss five of the final six events, eliminating him from championship contention. Bowman will look to put all that behind him in the upcoming season and with a new crew chief to boot. Greg Ives has moved on and Blake Harris will take over crew chief responsibilities for the No. 48 team. With last season ending the way it did and a team shakeup, it's difficult to imagine a big rebound in the offing for this driver and team.
  15. Daniel Suarez – Suarez was one of the pleasant surprises of last season, far exceeding pre-season expectations as the second team at Trackhouse Racing. The young driver peddled to his first-career Cup Series win at Sonoma in June and nabbed a career-best 13 Top-10 finishes. Suarez would wind up a very surprising 10th-place in the final driver standings after a good drive into last season's playoffs. He and the No. 99 team will look to recapture their magic heading into the new 2023 season. There are no significant changes within the team, and Travis Mack returns to guide Suarez as crew chief. Some regression is expected, but Suarez should do a good job hanging onto most of the level of consistency he posted last season. Road courses and short tracks seemed to be his real sweat spots last year, and that's something to note from the fantasy side as we head into a new season.
  16. Austin Dillon – Richard Childress Racing enjoyed a bit of a revival last season and Dillon would see the benefits of that performance boost. He would pilot the No. 3 Chevrolet to his fourth-career win in Daytona last August and Dillon grabbed a six-season high in Top-10 finishes with 11 total. The veteran driver's consistency was down a bit (16.5 average finish) but when the No. 3 team was on, they were good last season. Dillon gets a new teammate in the form of Kyle Busch in 2023, so there's a lot of buzz and excitement around the RCR camp heading into the new season. The veteran driver should benefit from having a two-time Cup Series champion in the stable and one of the most prolific drivers of the modern era. Dillon will be breaking in a new crew chief in Keith Rodden this season as he replaces Justin Alexander atop the team's war wagon. This driver and team should hold the line in terms of performance despite some of the changes at RCR.
  17. Austin Cindric – You couldn't start a season better than Cindric did in 2022. The Penske Racing rookie grabbed an upset victory in last season's Daytona 500 to kick off his rookie campaign. After that, it was a mix of highs and lows that would ultimately lead Cindric to nine Top-10 finishes and a 12th-place rank in the final driver standings. It was a bit of overachievement considering that the young driver only cracked the Top 10 once in the 10 races of the playoffs. The No. 2 Ford team looks to be returning completely intact with Jeremy Bullins still calling the shots as crew chief. Cindric's inconsistent end to last season is a bit concerning moving forward. His 16.3 average finish is something that has to improve in 2023 or he won't be able to climb these rankings much higher. Right now, Cindric is unquestionably the third-best driver in this three-driver Penske Racing camp.
  18. Bubba Wallace – Wallace had by all accounts a career-best season last year. He posted career-best marks on many front (laps led, Top 5's and Top 10's), however, he still only managed a marginally improved to an 18.3 average finish and came in 19th-place in the final driver standings. There were many positives to point to including his second-career victory which came at Kansas during the Round of 16. Still, Wallace only cracked the Top 10 twice in the seven races that came after Kansas to close the season. It's that inconsistency that keeps the 23XI Racing veteran well-grounded in the upper-teens of the driver rankings. Wallace signed a contract extension with the team in 2022 and he'll continue forward with crew chief Bootie Barker for now. If the two can find better consistency in the team's cars and Wallace can qualify better, he could climb the driver rankings in 2023.
  19. Erik Jones – Petty GMS Motorsports took some very positive steps last season as the merger between the two entities seemed to work out for the best. Jones' one win, 13 Top-10 finish effort was the best performance a Petty driver has posted in a single season since Marcos Ambrose's one win, 12 Top-10 finish campaign way back in 2011. The 26-year-old veteran now has 219 Cup Series starts to his credit, and Jones has this historic race team pointed in the right direction after a number of years of mediocrity. The good season led to a contract extension with Petty GMS and Jones will continue to work with crew chief Dave Elenz going forward. It will be tough to hang onto these gains in the upcoming season, but we believe Jones is up to the task. His best tracks by far last year were the road courses, superspeedways and larger ovals. The lone win came at Darlington for his third-career victory.     
  20. Brad Keselowski – We knew things would be tough for Keselowski making the transition from Penske to Roush last season, but we had no idea they would be as disastrous as they would become in 2022. The veteran driver and co-owner of the No. 6 Ford struggled to just six Top-10 finishes and no victories last season. It was Keselowski's worst campaign since his rookie season of 2010. To compound performance issues, Keselowski and the No. 6 team were slapped with one of the biggest fines/penalties in NASCAR history (100 points, $100,000) after their modification of single-sourced parts was discovered following the March Atlanta race. It was a severe blow to this driver and team and they'd never dig out of that hole the rest of the way. It was the primary reason Keselowski finished 24th-place in the driver points last year. We're cautiously optimistic about some form of rebound in the upcoming season, but we're conservatively ranking Keselowski 20th prior to the start of the season.
  21. AJ Allmendinger – Allmendinger had a wildly successful season racing part-time for Kaulig Racing in 2022. The veteran driver nabbed three Top-5 and eight Top-10 finishes along with a respectable 15.4 average finish in just a half-season schedule of 18 starts. When we extrapolate those numbers over a full season, Allmendinger could and should be a Top 20 driver in 2023. We've been a tad conservative placing him 21st overall in these pre-season rankings, but just know he has the easy potential to climb as the season rolls on. Allmendinger will pilot the No. 16 Chevrolet for this team and make a very capable hand behind the wheel. If last season is any indication intermediate ovals and road circuits will be Allmendinger's sweet spot. As always, the veteran driver is more than capable of staging an upset win on a road circuit.  
  22. Chris Buescher – Buescher had by a lot of measures a career-best season in 2022. The Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing veteran out-performed his teammate, Brad Keselowski, and drove to one win and 10 Top-10 finishes. The average finish of 17.9 was similar to other recent seasons for Buescher, but when he was on, he nabbed Top-10 and Top-15 finishes. It all added up to a 21st-place finish in the point standings for the driver of the No. 17 Ford. Buescher and the team will return mostly unchanged for the 2023 campaign. Scott Graves remains in command of the crew chief position and the two will look to build on what was a very solid and positive season last year. Buescher's prime tracks were short tracks and road circuits last season. Bristol yielded the lone win and the many road courses were good events for this driver and team. That's a note to remember in weekly lineup fantasy leagues in 2023.
  23. Ryan Preece – Preece makes a full-time return to NASCAR's top division this season, after a 2022 campaign of part-time action which saw him race across all three upper divisions of NASCAR in some part. He's been promoted to drive Stewart Haas Racing's No. 41 Ford in replacement of the demoted Cole Custer. Preece made good, productive use of his time in the lower divisions capturing one win and nine Top-10 finishes in a half-schedule truck series effort and two more Top 10's in just three starts in the Xfinity Series. The results were likely what boosted Preece's stock and paved the way for him to rejoin the Cup Series. The 31-year-old driver's 115 Cup Series starts of experience will prove valuable for a No. 41 team that's coming off two down seasons of struggles under Custer's tenure.
  24. Ty Gibbs – Gibbs has the inside track on Rookie of the Year in 2023. The talented youngster got some valuable Cup Series seat time last season in relief of Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing. Gibbs would end up making 15 starts for that team, and although the success was quite limited, it was tremendously valuable for the exposure Gibbs got with the new generation stock car. The 19-year-old prodigy nabbed just one Top-10 and three Top-15 finishes in those 15 starts for a 22.9 average finish. Now Gibbs gets to fill the seat of the departed Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing. The No. 18 Toyota will get a No. 54 rebrand and a brand new sponsorship lineup. Gibbs is wildly talented as his 2021 ARCA Menards Series and 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series championships illustrate (17 total wins the last two seasons) but it's going to take some time for the young driver to adapt to the radically different car and the top competition of the Cup Series.
  25. Michael McDowell – McDowell returns to Front Row Motorsports for his sixth season with this race team. They've gotten better together gradually over these last few years. McDowell had a bit of a mixed bag in 2022. He grabbed a career-high 12 Top-10 finishes but was held out of victory lane. McDowell lowered his average finish to a career-best 16.7 despite finishing only 23rd in the driver point standings. All-in-all it was a pretty good season for this veteran driver despite failing to make the playoffs. He returns to the No. 34 Ford team in 2023 but gets a new crew chief in Travis Peterson. Peterson replaces Blake Harris atop the team's war wagon and faces a big challenge to follow up what McDowell and Harris achieved last season. As has been the case for many years, McDowell is most dangerous in superspeedway racing and road circuits as they are his best tracks by far.      
  26. Aric Almirola – Rumors circulated for much of last season that 2022 would be the last full-time season for Almirola in the Cup Series. The 38-year-old veteran mulled that option for much of last season, but in August he would reverse course. Almirola announced he would stay for two more years in the No. 10 Stewart Haas Racing Ford. There has been a definite regression in Almirola's performance over the last two seasons, and much of the reason for his speculated retirement. He posted just seven Top 10's in 2022 and finished a five-season low of 20th-place in the final driver standings. Almirola didn't make it into the Chase playoffs for the first time in the last five seasons as well.  Drew Blickensderfer will once again pair with Almirola as crew chief, and the two veterans will see if they can turn things around in the struggling No. 10 Ford team.  
  27. Justin Haley – Haley will be back for a second, full-time campaign with Kaulig Racing in 2023. The young driver made good progress last season with four Top 10's and 22nd-place finish in the driver points. He would manage a very respectable 16.9 average finish over the final 10 events of last season. Haley should continue to get better and progress as we enter the new season. He'll have a full-time teammate in AJ Allmendinger, which will only help with his weekly feedback and team collaboration. Haley will be with crew chief Trent Owens once again and the two will look to continue building on what they've established over the past year. Haley seemed to have his best races on intermediate and larger ovals, and he wasn't too bad on road circuits either. That's something to keep in mind for weekly lineup fantasy leagues.
  28. Noah Gragson – Gragson got a nice introduction to NASCAR's top division last season with his patchwork 18 starts with Beard Oil Motorsports, Kaulig Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. When Alex Bowman would miss time late in 2022 with a concussion, Gragson was tabbed for five starts in the No. 48 Chevrolet. The upcoming season will be his first full campaign and rookie season in the NASCAR Cup Series. Gragson was signed to drive the No. 42 Chevrolet for Petty GMS Motorsports. He'll bring his Xfinity Series crew chief, Luke Lambert, to the team and they will hope to continue the success they achieved in NASCAR's second-largest national touring series. The duo grabbed eight victories and finished runner-up in last season's Xfinity Series championship. This team is reinvigorated thanks to the good work that Erik Jones did last season, and now Gragson will get to team with Jones and get the No. 42 entry up to a more competitive level.          
  29. Harrison Burton – Burton will be back for another season of action with Wood Brothers Racing. He was a part of last year's deep rookie class. Burton nabbed one Top-5 and two Top-10 finishes in the 36-event schedule. It was a reasonably good performance for a driver that made the jump from Xfinity to the Cup Series with just two seasons in NASCAR junior circuit. Now Burton will look to build on that campaign with a better performance in 2023. The young driver will be reunited with Brian Wilson at crew chief and the two will look to build on the solid foundation they laid down in Burton's rookie season. He will look for more week-to-week consistency and to improve on the 22.8 average finish he posted in 2022. Burton will face some stiff competition to improve as there is quite a bit of parity and excellence, even in the lower tiers of the driver field.     
  30. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse struggled through another inconsistent campaign with JTG Daugherty Racing last year. He would collect five Top-10 finishes, which were a four-season high mark. However, Stenhouse would labor with week-to-week consistency and post his lowest average finish (22.8) of his last seven seasons. The veteran driver will be back with the No. 47 Chevrolet team in 2023 and hope to reverse some of these trends. Stenhouse will have a new crew chief in the form of Mike Kelley. Hopefully, the shakeup in leadership will have a positive effect on team chemistry. Stenhouse has signed a multi-year extension, so the team has complete confidence in the 10-season veteran to turn things around. To dig out of their current hole, it's going to take some time and effort for this rebuild process.
  31. Todd Gilliland – Gilliland will return for a second season with the Front Row Motorsports team. However, now the pressure is on the young driver to up his performance and match a level closer to his teammate, Michael McDowell. Gilliland nabbed just two Top 10's in his rookie campaign last year, and finished a distant 28th-place in the final driver standings. He'll have to improve in his sophomore season with a new crew chief as Seth Barbour has moved on to take over the competition director's role at Front Row Motorsports. In 2023 Gilliland will be led by first-time crew chief Ryan Bergenty, who comes over after being the char chief for the No. 34 car at FRM for the last two seasons. Gilliland made the jump from the truck series to Cup, which is rare, and it will obviously take him some time to find his footing at NASCAR's top level.   
  32. Corey Lajoie – The six-season veteran will return to the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet in 2023. Lajoie grabbed one Top-10 finish in all of last season and posted a 24.3 average finish, which was a career-best mark. As per recent history, the intermediate and larger ovals were his best tracks on the circuit. Lajoie will look to reduce the number of DNF's (8) and hope to find better week-to-week consistency in 2023. Most of the team, including crew chief Ryan Sparks, returns to help Lajoie to this end. Spire Motorsports will continue to get technical and engine support from Hendrick Motorsports, so fast cars will hopefully continue to roll out of their garage each week. Lajoie showed some improvement on the short tracks and road courses over the last half of last season, and hopefully that's a trend that continues into the upcoming season.
  33. Ty Dillon – Dillon moves from Petty GMS Motorsports to Spire Motorsports in 2023. The veteran driver will pilot the team's second full-time entry, the No. 77 Chevrolet in the upcoming season. Dillon is a veteran of over 200 Cup Series starts in the last nine seasons. Last year was a bit of a low point for him with just one Top-10 finish, a 22.6 average finish and a distant 29th-place finish in the final driver standings. Dillon will look to hit the reset button with his new team and reverse some of these trends. Equipped with a new, second Spire team this will be a bit of an uphill climb. Dillon will team up with veteran crew chief, Kevin Bellicourt, so that will help in a lot of ways. He will partner with teammate, Corey Lajoie, so that added feedback will also help to establish Dillon with this new team. However, we don't expect any surprises or breakouts in terms of performance.  
  34. Cody Ware – Ware was the majority pilot of his team's No. 51 Ford entry last season. He made 35 of the 36 events en route to just one Top-10 finish for the campaign. Ware would end up a distant 32nd-place in the final driver standings of last year and post a 27.8 average finish. At the time of this writing, there has been no confirmation that Ware will return in a full-time capacity to this team. The owner/driver has raced part-time in the past and could easily decide to revert to that status. Either way, part-time or full-time, this small team faces the uphill battles, equipment and personnel challenges of a small racing team. By a lot of measures and metrics Ware's campaign last season was his best performance-wise, and also an indicator of this team's high water mark in terms of potential.
  35. B.J. McLeod – The veteran driver ran a near full-time schedule in 2022 with 29 of the 36 events to his credit. McLeod is a co-owner and driver of the Live Fast Motorsports No. 78 Chevrolet. Last season he only stepped aside when other drivers could bring sponsorship to help fund the team and buy seat time for those drivers. LFM is likely looking at another scenario similar to that in 2023 with McLeod again being the majority time driver. The team's decision to switch to Chevrolet in the upcoming season could bear immediate fruits and they will get engines supplied by ECR. Lee Leslie will guide McLeod and the other drivers at the crew chief position, and they will look for better results in the upcoming season.    
  36. Josh Bilicki – Bilicki was a part-time driver for Spire Motorsports last season, making 16 starts across the 36-race schedule. He would earn only a 29.1 average finish in those starts and struggle to be relevant in NASCAR's top division. Bilicki's deal with Spire ended and he will likely become a floater in 2023. He does have a deal locked down with Live Fast Motorsports for four events, but what comes after that remains a big question mark. At the maximum, Bilicki will only likely cobble together a half-time schedule at the most among multiple teams. It's really not a situation set up for much if any consistency in performance or success.
  37. Jimmie Johnson – Johnson announced last November that he was entering into an agreement to become part-owner and part-time driver for Petty GMS Racing in 2023. The seven-time champion has spent much of the last two seasons away from NASCAR and competing in IndyCar and IMSA sports car racing. He now returns and has decided to run a very limited, and part-time schedule in the upcoming season. Johnson will race in the season-opening Daytona 500, but the rest of his schedule has not been announced at the time of this writing. The 44-year-old veteran finished 18th in the driver standings his last two seasons in NASCAR and did collect the occasional Top-10 finish, so he does represent some driving value. However, the new generation stock car has arrived since his last performance in this racing series and will present some steep learning curve challenges for Johnson.                    
  38. Austin Hill – After making one Cup Series start in 2022, Hill will make his first real foray into NASCAR's top division in the upcoming season. The young Xfinity Series star signed to make six starts with Beard Oil Motorsports and their part-time effort in 2023. This small team will field Hill in all four superspeedway event between Daytona and Talladega and he'll get additional starts at Michigan and on the Chicago Street Course as well. Hill is a 10-time winner between the truck series and Xfinity Series so he's a more than capable driver that is quickly climbing the ranks. The team has high capability as well. Over the past five seasons they've fielded 21 entries into various events and collected five Top-10 finishes between drivers like Brendan Gaughan, Justin Allgaier and most recently Noah Gragson. Hill will have spot-start impact in the upcoming season.         
  39. J.J. Yeley – Yeley's plans for the 2023 season have not be announced at the time of this writing, but he has been modestly engaged in Cup Series racing the past six seasons. The veteran driver made 19 starts last season, mainly for the No. 15 Ford of Rick Ware Racing. There's at least a reasonable chance he could be back in a driver rotation with that team in the upcoming campaign or he could see some time in the No. 55 entry of MBM Motorsports. At 46-years-old and racing for smaller operations, Yeley's potential impact is limited. He managed just three Top-25 finishes last season with a 29.9 average finish across his 19 starts. Yeley will have limited impact again in the upcoming season.     
  40. David Ragan – Ragan has been a part-time driver for the past three seasons since his retirement from full-time competition at the end of the 2019 season. Last season was his most impactful with four starts for Rick Ware Racing in the No. 15 Ford. Ragan started all the superspeedway events and surprisingly nabbed two Top-10 and three Top-20 finishes in those four starts for an impressive 14.8 average finish. There's no word at the time of this writing if Ragan will be back in that same capacity for RWR in 2023, but we're certain the team would love to have him race the large ovals again in the upcoming season. It's hard to argue with results, and Ragan fetched some of Rick Ware Racing's best results in 2022, albeit in a part-time slate.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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