NASCAR Draft Kit: 2024 Sleepers & Busts

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2024 Sleepers & Busts

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

Of all the articles that make up the NASCAR draft kit, this is probably the most important of all. Surprise drivers in both the positive and negative sense can make or break fantasy racing seasons. We all know what Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin can do, so there's little risk associated with those drivers, but it is the drivers that come out of nowhere to have huge seasons can take you to fantasy racing glory. Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Ty Gibbs likely helped many to win their leagues last season. While drivers like Chase Elliott, Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon most likely ended your fantasy racing championship hopes by mid-season. Identifying those drivers who will break-out and have career seasons, and those who are headed in the other direction for whatever reason is the key in fantasy racing success. Let's take a look at some of the drivers in 2024 that you should make every effort to get, and those who you should avoid at all costs.

Sleepers for the 2024 Season

1. Tyler Reddick               

Car: No. 45

Owner: 23XI Racing

Manufacturer: Toyota

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series360131613th  
2022 NASCAR Cup Series3633101514th  
2023 NASCAR Cup Series362210166th 
Three Year Totals108562347 

After two-straight early exits from the

Of all the articles that make up the NASCAR draft kit, this is probably the most important of all. Surprise drivers in both the positive and negative sense can make or break fantasy racing seasons. We all know what Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin can do, so there's little risk associated with those drivers, but it is the drivers that come out of nowhere to have huge seasons can take you to fantasy racing glory. Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Ty Gibbs likely helped many to win their leagues last season. While drivers like Chase Elliott, Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon most likely ended your fantasy racing championship hopes by mid-season. Identifying those drivers who will break-out and have career seasons, and those who are headed in the other direction for whatever reason is the key in fantasy racing success. Let's take a look at some of the drivers in 2024 that you should make every effort to get, and those who you should avoid at all costs.

Sleepers for the 2024 Season

1. Tyler Reddick               

Car: No. 45

Owner: 23XI Racing

Manufacturer: Toyota

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series360131613th  
2022 NASCAR Cup Series3633101514th  
2023 NASCAR Cup Series362210166th 
Three Year Totals108562347 

After two-straight early exits from the playoffs, Reddick made a deep drive into the playoffs in 2023. A lot of that was aided by some opportunistic racing at the end of last season and it made up for some of the inconsistency Reddick experienced during the regular season. For 2024 we're targeting this driver and team for a breakout campaign. The 23XI Racing youngster is a prime candidate to extend from the second tier and into the first tier of drivers in the Cup Series. Reddick has shown he can win not only on road courses but also on intermediate ovals, which make up the bulk of the schedule. With some improved consistency, he could easily elevate to the 4-to-5-win plateau and break through the 20 Top-10 finish mark for the first time in his career in the upcoming season. 23XI Racing is now starting their fourth season as a Cup Series team and things are beginning to come together for this race team. The timing is perfect for a budding Reddick.

2. Austin Cindric              

Car No. 2                    

Owner: Penske Racing                         

Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series10001N/A    
2022 NASCAR Cup Series36115912th   
2023 NASCAR Cup Series36001524th    
Three Year Totals7311615 

This is a do or die season or Cindric at Penske Racing. He will be starting his third full season with the No. 2 Ford team and is frankly on the hot seat after a woeful 2023 campaign. Penske is capable of much more as both Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano demonstrated last year, so the pressure to produce results will be squarely on Cindric's shoulders. His contract is not public but is thought to run through the 2024 season. We expect the young driver to reach deep and put up some performances that will possibly spur an extension at Penske Racing beyond the upcoming season. Cindric's best tracks are superspeedways and road courses, so his weakness that needs some work is the short tracks and intermediate ovals. He showed with his late-season Top-10 finish at Martinsville Speedway, that short track success is within his reach. We expect a rebound in performance (modest) for Cindric and the No. 2 team this season, but don't expect a major breakout. He'll come cheap in fantasy drafts, so snap him up in the later rounds.

3. Ty Gibbs                     

Car No. 54                  

Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing                    

Manufacturer: Toyota

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2022 NASCAR Cup Series150001N/A   
2023 NASCAR Cup Series360041018th
Three Year Totals5100411 

The next big thing at Joe Gibbs Racing is Gibbs and his No. 54 Toyota team. He took some nice steps in his first full season over his part-time campaign of 2022. The young driver was particularly impressive down the stretch run of last season, collecting two Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes during the Chase playoffs. Gibbs has shown some ability on road circuits and intermediate ovals mixed in with a dash of some impressive runs on short tracks. The youngster showed all-around skill in his Xfinity Series career, grabbing 12 wins in 59 starts on an array of different style tracks. We expect Gibbs will take some big steps forward in his second full Cup Series season. A first-career victory could be in store and he should push his Top-5 and Top-10 totals upward nicely. Gibbs still has some things to learn, but the growth should be undeniable. As it pertains to fantasy leagues with this driver and team, expect some results and returns but don't overpay in drafts if the "Gibbs enthusiasm" gets too high.

4. Chase Elliott                 

Car No. 9                    

Owner: Hendrick Motorsports             

Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series362015214th 
2022 NASCAR Cup Series365312204th 
2023 NASCAR Cup Series290071517th    
Three Year Totals101733456 

This is not as much a sleeper pick as it is a rebound pick. The 2023 campaign was a lost season for Elliott and the No. 9 Chevrolet team. An early season snowboarding accident and broken leg would cause the star driver to miss seven races between March and April. Elliott would make his return to action in the spring Martinsville event, but it would be clear he wasn't quite himself. The Top-10 efforts would be mixed in with puzzling performances that fell short and we saw Elliott lead very few laps last season. As a result, it was his first winless campaign since 2017. By the end of 2023 it was quite clear that he was ready for the season to be over and take a break from racing. We expect to see a healthy and reenergized Elliott in the upcoming season. He has a top notch team behind him and a top tier crew chief. You can't keep a driver of Elliott's caliber down for long. We anticipate a return to 2-4 wins and a push back to the 20 Top-10 mark.

5. Ross Chastain              

Car No. 1                    

Owner: Trackhouse Racing                  

Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series36003820th 
2022 NASCAR Cup Series362015212nd 
2023 NASCAR Cup Series362110149th  
Three Year Totals108412843 

Chastain experienced a bit of a pullback in performance last season. Some inconsistency crept into the No. 1 Chevrolet team that wasn't present in Chastain's fantastic 2022 campaign. The average finish jumped from 13.3 in 2022 to 15.0 in 2023. Still, the veteran driver pushed well into the playoffs and finished last season in a respectable ninth-place in the final driver points. We expect Chastain to rebound back closer to 2022 form in the upcoming season. He ended the last campaign on a high note with a win (Phoenix), two Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes in the final five races of 2023. That's a very good look for this driver and team headed into the short off-season. That momentum should easily carry into Daytona and the start of the 2024 season. We expect Chastain will still be a threat to win a couple races, but his Top 5 and Top 10 totals should rebound over last season.

6. Chris Buescher             

Car No. 17                  

Owner: Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing       

Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series36001819th  
2022 NASCAR Cup Series351131021st   
2023 NASCAR Cup Series36309177th    
Three Year Totals107411335 

It may be a bit of a stretch to call Buescher a sleeper at this point, but we believe we haven't seen all his potential just yet. Last season was a titanic leap in performance for this veteran Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing driver. Buescher would go from the third driver tier to borderline first driver tier with a three-win, 17 Top-10 finish campaign. The result would see him advance well into the playoffs and finish an impressive seventh in the final standings. Buescher showed improvement on all types of tracks: short tracks, road circuits and intermediate ovals. We're convinced this is just the beginning for this driver and team. Buescher could nab more wins, more Top 10's in the upcoming season and he could actually contend for the championship in November 2024. He has broad fantasy appeal on all types of tracks and ovals. Buescher ended last season with an exclamation point and strong fifth-place finish at Phoenix in the season finale.

Busts for the 2024 Season

1. Ryan Preece               

Car No. 41                  

Owner: Stewart Haas Racing               

Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series36001427th    
2022 NASCAR Cup Series20000N/A   
2023 NASCAR Cup Series36011223rd   
Three Year Totals740126 

After a one-season hiatus from NASCAR's top division in 2022, Preece returned last season to pilot Stewart Haas Racing's No. 41 entry. The campaign experienced a lot of ups-and-downs and at the end of it the veteran driver only managed a 20.8 average finish and 23rd-place spot in the final driver standings. Those marks were only slightly improved over Preece's 2021 campaign. This is a contract year for 33-year-old driver and he now has over 150 starts in NASCAR's top division. The pressure will be on to improve and succeed. However, Stewart Haas Racing as a whole has shown a downtrend in performance in recent seasons. From 10 team wins in 2020, the declined to zero victories as a four-driver team last season. The Top 10's as an organization have been halved in that same period of time. Preece will be facing a lot of internal challenges to succeed in the upcoming season. We're not sure he's performed enough to this point in his career to be up to the task.

2. Justin Haley                 

Car No. 51                  

Owner: Rick Ware Racing                    

Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series310002N/A  
2022 NASCAR Cup Series36003422nd   
2023 NASCAR Cup Series36001626th   
Three Year Totals10300412 

Haley makes the move from Kaulig Racing to Rick Ware Racing in 2024. The young driver has shown flashes of ability during his brief career and most of his success has come on short track and intermediate ovals. To evaluate this team move, Kaulig nabbed one win, five Top-5 and 13 Top-10 finishes last season as a two-car organization. Ware by contrast only managed only two Top-10 finishes total, spread between 12 different drivers and two teams. The comparison of performance is pretty telling. Haley will face a lot of headwinds to success with his new team. RWR simply has not had the equipment, people and performance that Haley leaves behind at Kaulig. It would be best to adjust your expectations accordingly for this young driver and his new race team.

3. Josh Berry                   

Car No. 4                    

Owner: Stewart Haas Racing               

Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series20000N/A  
2023 NASCAR Cup Series100013N/A  
Three Year Totals120013 

Berry is not completely inexperienced with the Cup Series car. His 12 starts of experience will help ease his growing pains in the 2024 rookie season. However, like many talented newcomers, there will still be a steep learning curve. By comparison, it really took about 20 races last season for Joe Gibbs Racing uber-talent, Ty Gibbs, to find a groove and get some consistency in his racing. We could see a similar scenario for the lightly experienced Berry. In addition, the Stewart Haas Racing stable he's joining for the upcoming campaign has been experiencing some poor performance trends. The car that Berry is taking over was piloted by Kevin Harvick last season, and he comes off one of the more disappointing campaigns of his career. The 2014 Cup Series champion was held winless and only posted 14 Top-10 finishes (an 11-season low mark) in his farewell tour with the No. 4 Ford team. Those specters weigh heavily on Berry's first full season ahead of 2024.

4. Noah Gragson             

Car No. 10                  

Owner: Stewart Haas Racing               

Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2022 NASCAR Cup Series180011N/A
2023 NASCAR Cup Series21000033rd    
Three Year Totals390011 

Gragson's rookie season was cut short due to an unfortunate conduct violation and subsequent suspension. He started 21 races for Legacy Motor Club and really struggled to get any traction or momentum. Gragson's 28.2 average finish across those starts tells the full, disappointing story. LMC parted ways with the young driver after his conduct incident and Gragson became a free agent. After completing NASCAR's sensitivity training he was reinstated late last season. Stewart Haas Racing wasted no time and signed Gragson to contract in December 2023. He'll take over the No. 10 Ford of the retiring Aric Almirola. We've outlined the headwinds that this team faces pretty extensively in this busts portion of the article, so no need to rehash those issues. While Gragson will get a fresh start with a new team, which is what he needs, there will be some mountains to climb here for certain. With 39 Cup Series starts, he's far from inexperienced, but Gragson has yet to discover much success in NASCAR's top division. It could be a long, hard 2024 campaign for this team and rebooting driver.

5. Alex Bowman              

Car No. 48                  

Owner: Hendrick Motorsports              

Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series364181614th 
2022 NASCAR Cup Series311041216th 
2023 NASCAR Cup Series330141020th  
Three Year Totals100521638 

The trend line above is clearly regression. Even in his four-win 2021 season, Bowman struggled to advance in the playoffs due to a lack of consistency. That is something that has always plagued him. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet is coming off his worst performing campaign in his last five years and the way he finished 2023 was not encouraging. Bowman's last six results of last season were 28th-, eighth-, 35th-, 19th-, 32nd- and 17th-place finishes for a disappointing 23.2 average finish down the stretch. That is not a good look headed into the upcoming season. Bowman is signed at Hendrick through 2026, so there's not the pressure cooker of urgency that comes with a contract about to expire. Quite frankly, after close examination, it's difficult to find any signs that would point to a rebound or improvement in 2024.

6. Erik Jones                     

No. 43                  

Owner: Legacy Motor Club                

Manufacturer: Toyota

NASCAR Three-Year StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5'sTop 10'sRank
2021 NASCAR Cup Series36000624th  
2022 NASCAR Cup Series361031318th    
2023 NASCAR Cup Series36001727th  
Three Year Totals10810426 

After a good by all accounts season in 2022, Jones saw some regression last season. The transition from Richard Petty Motorsports to Legacy Motor Club was the big headlines with this team last season, and somewhere in the mix performance suffered. Jones' average finish ballooned from 16.3 to 20.4 and he slid several spots in the championship standings. The 27-year-old Michigan native will look to reverse those trends in the coming season. LMC switches from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2024 and it's not quite certain that this manufacturer move will pay dividends right away. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if there's a bit a steep curve with the switch. Jones has undeniable talent and it shines brightly on the big ovals and road circuits, but we believe he's a driver to fade in the upcoming season due to some questionable team dynamics at this point.  

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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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