NASCAR Draft Kit: 2023 Top Rookies

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2023 Top Rookies

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

The 2023 rookie class will be about the same size as last season's group. The level of talent is no less impressive when we examine their racing resumes, in fact, this may be the most talented rookie class in quite a while. We have some very seasoned, young Xfinity Series drivers who will be making the transition in the upcoming season, and they're not entirely unfamiliar with NASCAR Cup Series cars. In addition to our full-time rookies we have some young drivers that will be making some part-time forays into the world of NASCAR Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport. The transition from the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers. However, as last season showed, drivers like Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton will have their highlights to go along with their struggles. We'll take a look at the ROTY candidates and some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will make part-time starts in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

Rookie Driver Rankings and Profiles

  1. Ty Gibbs                      

      No. 54             

      Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing                    

      Manufacturer: Toyota

  NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10's
ARCA Series4718173842
K&N Pro Series East16651515

The 2023 rookie class will be about the same size as last season's group. The level of talent is no less impressive when we examine their racing resumes, in fact, this may be the most talented rookie class in quite a while. We have some very seasoned, young Xfinity Series drivers who will be making the transition in the upcoming season, and they're not entirely unfamiliar with NASCAR Cup Series cars. In addition to our full-time rookies we have some young drivers that will be making some part-time forays into the world of NASCAR Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport. The transition from the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers. However, as last season showed, drivers like Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton will have their highlights to go along with their struggles. We'll take a look at the ROTY candidates and some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will make part-time starts in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

Rookie Driver Rankings and Profiles

  1. Ty Gibbs                      

      No. 54             

      Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing                    

      Manufacturer: Toyota

  NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10's
ARCA Series4718173842
K&N Pro Series East16651515
K&N Pro Series West43144
Xfinity Series511162533
Cup Series150001

The 20-year-old prodigy has been on the fast track to stardom since he arrived in the ARCA Menards Series in 2019. Gibbs nabbed two victories in that season in just 11 starts and served notice he'd be a face to watch for the coming years. He would not disappoint grabbing 10 ARCA victories in 2021 and capturing that racing series championship. That would propel Gibbs straight into the Xfinity Series, completely bypassing the Camping World Truck Series in the blink of an eye. His one and a half seasons in the Xfinity Series would see Gibbs notch 11-combined victories and march away with the 2022 Xfinity Series championship. The young driver would get a taste of Cup Series cars last season due to a season-ending injury for Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing, but his 15 Cup Series starts would produce little in the way of results and merely give him some valuable seat time before his promotion for 2023. Gibbs will pilot the No. 54 Toyota that was Kyle Busch's team the past several years and bring his crew chief, Chris Gayle, to NASCAR's top level with him. Gibbs is primed for success, although it may take some time for him to fully adjust to the new generation stock car. 

      2. Noah Gragson                     

      No. 42             

      Owner: Petty GMS Motorsports                   

      Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10's
ARCA Series100125
K&N Pro Series East172159
K&N Pro Series West28511625
Truck Series47291230
Xfinity Series1351326296
Cup Series180011

After two seasons of racing in the Camping World Truck Series and four full seasons of competition in the Xfinity Series, Gragson is finally set to make his full-time debut in the NASCAR Cup Series. Gragson got a good taste of Cup action in 2022 with 18 starts spread between three different teams. It was a good initiation for the 24-year-old talent. He's been incredibly successful in the lower divisions of NASCAR with 15-combined victories between the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series. Gragson has finished inside the Top-3 of the last two points battles in the Xfinity Series. He'll carry all that experience to the No. 42 Chevrolet of Petty GMS Motorsports where Gragson will replace the outgoing Ty Dillon. Lack of performance would be Dillon's undoing at this team so there will be some immediate pressure for Gragson to produce. Petty GMS teammate, Erik Jones, netted one win and 13 Top 10's last season and finished 18th in the driver point standings, so there is potential to produce within this team.

      3. Austin Hill                    

      No. 62             

      Owner: Beard Oil Racing                   

      Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10's
ARCA Series50023
K&N Pro Series West10000
K&N Pro Series East39511324
Truck Series121832754
Xfinity Series48211225
Cup Series10000

Hill won't be eligible for Rookie of the Year, but he'll make a good part-time foray into NASCAR's top division in 2023. The young driver just completed a two-win campaign in the Xfinity Series and finished sixth in the final driver standings of that racing series. Hill will now pilot Beard Oil Racing's part-time Chevrolet in the upcoming season. He's tabbed to make six starts that will include all four superspeedway events (Daytona & Talladega) as well as Michigan and the Chicago Street Course. This very capable team will give the 28-year-old driver good cars and good exposure to NASCAR's top division. The Beard Oil car has made it into the Top 10 on a few occasions over the past five seasons, so Hill will have that potential. While Hill's impact will be limited due to the very light schedule, he's a driver to watch closely heading into the future. The 2023 season could be the exposure that boosts Hill to a full-time rookie slate with another race team in 2024. 

      4. Kaz Grala                   

      No. 50             

      Owner: The Money Team Racing                   

      Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10's
ARCA Series20112
K&N Pro Series West20000
K&N Pro Series East38001224
Truck Series4811618
Xfinity Series4400510
Cup Series70002

While nothing has been announced at the time of this writing, Grala could be slated for another part-time season in the Cup Series in 2023. He's raced in each of the last three campaigns at NASCAR's top level and in those seven starts he's impressed with a pair of Top-10 finishes. The 24-year-old talent is signed to race one of Sam Hunt Racing's two Toyotas in the Xfinity Series this season, so he'll be full-time in that division of NASCAR. However, we wouldn't rule out Grala making a couple starts in the Cup Series, possibly with TMT Racing. He made three starts with this team last season in the No. 50 Chevrolet and claimed a pair of Top-25 finishes. The potential is limited due to the small budget of this relatively new race team, but Grala's talents are undeniable. He has a good feel for the new generation stock car and has good skills at both road course racing and superspeedway ovals.

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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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