Following a crazy 2022 season, the 2023 NASCAR driver lineup is expected to be equally as entertaining with several drivers switching teams.
While other sports may be more known for their hectic off-seasons, NASCAR has had its fair share of excitement in recent years and this year is no different.. Two-time champion Kyle Busch is switching teams for the first time in over a decade. Tyler Reddick, one of the best young drivers in the sport, is moving to 23XI Racing following a multi-win campaign with Richard Childress Racing in 2022. AJ Allmendinger is also making his long-awaited return to the Cup Series for Kaulig Racing. These are only a few of the many changes to the 2023 NASCAR driver lineup.
While these moves to the 2023 NASCAR driver lineup are set in stone, there are still several seats left undecided. Most notably, the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and the #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford have yet to announce a confirmed driver for next season. Below is an overview of the 2023 NASCAR driver lineup so far, what rides are still available, and what to expect out of each team next year.
- #1 – Ross Chastain
- #99 – Daniel Suarez
After a breakout season for the team, it is no surprise to see Chastain and Suarez returning to their respective rides for 2023. Despite ruffling a few feathers along the way, Chastain had an amazing first year for Trackhouse with two wins, 14 top fives, 20 top tens, and 692 laps led. He also will race in this weekend’s Championship 4 at Phoenix following his heroic, video game-like wall run to advance at Martinsville on Sunday. While not securing as many headlines as his teammate, Suarez had a great second season for Trackhouse. He finally secured that elusive first win at Sonoma and would have advanced to the Round of 8 if not for power-steering troubles at the Charlotte Roval. Trackhouse established itself as a legitimate title threat in 2022 and should build off that momentum into 2023.
- #2 – Austin Cindric
- #12 – Ryan Blaney
- #22 – Joey Logano
A solid 2022 for Team Penske sees all of their drivers return for next year. Each driver reached the Round of 12 of the Playoffs. Blaney also advanced to the Round of 8 and Logano made it to the Championship 4. Logano remains the top driver for Penske. Along with his fifth Championship 4 appearance, he recorded three wins and 10 top-five finishes in 2022. Cindric was largely inconsistent and still has plenty of room to grow.
Yet, he still had one of the better rookie seasons in recent memory with a Daytona 500 victory and nine top tens. Blaney had arguably the weirdest season of any driver. He did essentially everything (11 top fives, 16 top tens, 3 poles, 527 laps led) except win. If he can find a way to finish off races, the #12 driver will be a title favorite next year. With three great drivers and elite equipment, Penske remains the best Ford team in the sport.
- #4 – Kevin Harvick
- #10 – Aric Almirola
- #14 – Chase Briscoe
- #41 – Cole Custer or Ryan Preece?
SHR has as much controversy and uncertainty around their lineup as any team in the NASCAR garage. Briscoe and Almirola are most secure in their respective rides. Coming off his first career win at Phoenix in the spring and an unexpected run to the Round of 8 in 2022, Briscoe will look to find more consistency in 2023. He disappeared during the summer, but the #14 stepped up with five top tens across the first nine playoff races and was seven laps away from a walk-off win at Martinsville to advance to the Championship 4. After announcing his retirement to start the year, Almirola instead signed a two-year extension with SHR midway through the season. On the track, Almirola had an abysmal 2022 and is poised to finished 20th in points. He is the definition of an average driver and will most likely continue to race as long as Smithfield backs him.
The #4 and #41 cars are where things get interesting. Following an up-and-down 2022 that saw him get back to victory lane twice despite being eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs, Harvick will return to the #4 in 2023. However, there remains speculation on whether next year could be Harvick’s final season before retirement. There is more uncertainty around Custer, who is not yet confirmed for 2023. He had another rough season, ranking 26th in points with no top fives and three top tens. Custer has just one win, two top fives, 12 top tens, and 26 laps led across three full-time seasons with SHR. The continual disappointment has led many to advocate for the #41 to be given to Preece. Preece signed with SHR as a reserve driver in 2022 following three seasons at JTG Daugherty Racing. Due to his success on the Whelen Modified Tour and in the Xfinity Series, several people believe that Preece will thrive more than Custer when given top-tier Cup Series equipment.
The drama around Harvick, Custer, and Preece was further complicated by co-owner Gene Haas. As quoted by Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass, Haas indicated that Harvick is set on retiring after 2023 and the team is trying to convince him to sign an extension. In a similar vein, Haas stated how he wants Custer to continue to pilot the #41. However, fellow co-owner Tony Stewart wants Preece to take over the ride. Only time will tell who drives the #41 in 2023 and the #4 in 2024, but it is safe to say that this is only the beginning of what is already a tumultuous off-season for SHR.
- #5 – Kyle Larson
- #9 – Chase Elliott
- #24 – William Byron
- #48 – Alex Bowman
After securing 11 victories as an organization, Hendrick made the easy decision to keep the same drivers for 2023. Elliott made his third consecutive Championship 4. He won the regular season championship, recording five wins, 20 top tens, and 857 laps led. Although he fell short of expectations as the reigning champ, Larson still had a great season. He has three wins, 18 top tens, and 635 laps led despite being eliminated in the Round of 12. Byron cooled off after a hot start to the year, but still had a breakout season of sorts. He had career-highs in wins (2) and laps led (746) while making his first appearance in the Round of 8. Even before his injury at Texas forced him out of the Playoffs, Bowman was clearly a step behind his teammates all season. He won at Las Vegas in the spring and had a respectable 12 top tens. However, Bowman lacked the winning speed of his teammates and was usually a non-factor. Regardless of Bowman’s struggles, Hendrick’s crop of drivers is still the best in NASCAR headed into 2023.
Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing
- #6 – Brad Keselowski
- #17 – Chris Buescher
“The night is darkest before the dawn.” “It gets worse before it gets better.” Both mantras were especially true for RFK during their first season with Keselowski as an owner-driver. Following a disastrous first half of the season, the team rebounded to have a more than respectable second half of the year. This led the team to keep the same lineup in 2023. Keselowski was vocal about his growing pains in his first season as an owner and his performance on track took a significant dip as a result. After making the Playoffs for eight straight years with Team Penske, the Michigan native recorded just one top five, six top tens, and is on track for his first winless season since 2010.
He will likely finish 24th in points after Phoenix this weekend. Despite the dip in performance, Keselowski’s off-track leadership helped to improve RFK and should help the team continue to grow. Since the team essentially started from scratch in 2022, it is surprising that Buescher had a great season. He had career-highs in top fives (3), top tens (10), poles (1), and laps led (194). Buescher also notched RFK’s first win at the Bristol Night Race. With a little more consistency, RFK could have two cars in the Playoffs next year.
- #7 – Corey LaJoie
- #77 – Ty Dillon
Aside from a near-win at Atlanta over the summer, it was another year of irrelevancy for LaJoie. He sits 31st in points and will likely remain there in 2023 unless Spire has significant equipment upgrades. Dillon joins Spire after Petty GMS Motorsports declined to re-sign him after a disappointing 2022. While his teammate Erik Jones competed for the Playoffs, Dillon was a non-factor all season and is 29th in points.
Richard Childress Racing
- #3 – Austin Dillon
- #8 – Kyle Busch
Tyler Reddick leaving may have been a blessing in disguise for RCR as they moved quickly to sign one of the best talents in the sport: Kyle Busch. In his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2022, Busch had arguably the worst season of his career. He has just one win, eight top fives, 16 top tens, and is 14th in points. However, the lack of performance was not unwarranted. Bush was mired in drama with JGR over his contract for much of the year. He is now driving with a chip on his shoulder and is joining a #8 team that won three times in 2022. Busch is also entering his late 30s, the prime years for most drivers. Meanwhile, Dillon returns to his grandfather’s team after a mediocre 2022. The driver of the #3 made the Playoffs after winning at Daytona in July. He also recorded five top fives and 11 top tens on the year. He has had a strong finish to the season and will likely be on the Playoff bubble again in 2023.
Joe Gibbs Racing
- #11 – Denny Hamlin
- #18 – ???
- #19 – Martin Truex Jr.
- #20 – Christopher Bell
Three of the four JGR drivers are returning for 2023 after an up-and-down 2022 for the team. Although he did not have the same consistency or elite-level speed as years prior, Hamlin still had a great season. He earned two wins and was a Ross Chastain-Hail Mary away from making it to his fourth straight Championship 4. Bell finally had the breakout season everyone has been waiting for. He posted career-highs in wins (3), top fives (12), top tens (19), poles (4), and laps led (573).
Bell also made it to his first Championship 4 after two walk-off wins at the Charlotte Roval and Martinsville. After flirting with retirement for much of the season, Truex Jr. elected to return for 2023. Similar to Ryan Blaney, MTJ did everything (15 top tens and 572 laps led) except win, which eventually cost him a spot in the Playoffs. He should enter 2023 hungrier than ever as he tries to return to victory lane.
Following Kyle Busch’s departure to RCR, the #18 remains empty. Ty Gibbs, the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, appears to be the favorite to land the ride following an exceptional Xfinity Series season. He won six races along with 15 top fives, 22 top tens, and a Championship 4 berth. However, there are legitimate maturity concerns plaguing Ty. These were on full display again last week at Martinsville. Despite already being locked into the next round, the 19-year-old wrecked teammate Brandon Jones to win the race. The move cost Jones a spot in the Championship 4. Ty then showed little remorse in post-race interviews. He welcomed the boos and compared his plight to that of Jesus Christ. Performance in Cup is also a concern for Ty. He has recorded just one top ten in 15 Cup Series starts while filling in for Kurt Busch this year. With all these concerns in mind, it would still be a shock to not see Ty race for his grandfather in the Cup Series next season.
- #16 – AJ Allmendinger
- #31 – Justin Haley
After it appeared his NASCAR career was over, Allmendinger’s comeback story culminates with his return to the Cup Series. Across two full-time Xfinity seasons with Kaulig in 2021 and 2022, Allmendinger amassed 10 wins, 34 top fives, 49 top tens, 6 poles, and over 700 laps led. He has also run 22 races in the Cup Series in the last two years. AJ put up five top fives, 11 top tens, and a win last year at the Indianapolis Road Course. While he has fallen short of expectations during his previous stints in Cup, this feels different.
Allmendinger is in the prime of his career, has proven to be more than just a road course specialist, and is driving the best equipment he has ever driven. The #16 had speed on a part-time basis in 2022. If this maintains, AJ should compete for a playoff spot in 2023. Haley had a solid first season with Kaulig that flew relatively under the radar. Four top tens and a 22nd standing in points is nothing to write home about. However, Haley made few mistakes, improved as the year went on, and should at least be around the Playoff bubble next year.
Wood Brothers Racing
- #21 – Harrison Burton
Nothing has been officially confirmed yet, but it seems inevitable that Burton will return to the #21 in 2023. Heading into 2022, several critics argued that Burton was being rushed into the Cup Series after two mediocre seasons in the Xfinity Series. The 22-year-old did little to silence these doubters in 2022. He posted just two top tens and a 27th spot in points in his rookie year. To make matters worse, Burton put up those stats in the same car that Matt DiBenedetto had been semi-competitive in during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. It is not a make-or-break season for Burton. However, he will need to at least make some strides in 2023 if he wants to become more than just Jeff Burton’s son.
- #23 – Bubba Wallace
- #45 – Tyler Reddick
Reddick makes the exciting yet controversial move to 23XI in 2023 following a career year for Richard Childress Racing. Similar to Christopher Bell, Reddick finally broke out in 2022 with three wins, ten top fives, 15 top tens, three poles, and 503 laps led. He did this while dealing with the wrath of owner Richard Childress after Reddick chose to leave the team. The California native now joins a #45 team that won at Kansas in May with Kurt Busch. They were a clear playoff team before Busch was forced out of the car due to injury.
Following a tough start to the season that featured outbursts on the radio and pit crew changes, Wallace came on in the second half and consistently had top-five or top-ten speed while also winning at Kansas in September. Whether he can keep his emotions in check will always be a concern with Bubba, but his recent interviews show that he has learned from Las Vegas and he rebounded to finish eighth this past week in Martinsville. With both of their drivers living up to their potential, 23XI should have one of the best one-two punches in the garage for 2023.
Front Row Motorsports
- #34 – Michael McDowell
- #38 – Todd Gilliland
Although neither driver has been officially confirmed, McDowell and Gilliland should return for 2023. Despite winning the Daytona 500 in 2021, McDowell had arguably a better season in 2022. He had career-highs in top tens (12) and laps led (67) while matching his career-high in top fives (2). Due to a points penalty midway through the year, McDowell’s standing of 23rd fails to acknowledge how great a year McDowell had as he was a legitimate playoff threat before the penalty. He should remain around the Playoff bubble in 2023. Gilliland showed flashes at times, but overall was a relative disappointment in his rookie year with just two top tens and the 28th spot in points. While he is not driving the best equipment, McDowell proved that Front Row can at least be competitive and Gilliland will need to improve if he wants to remain in Cup beyond 2023.
Petty GMS Motorsports
- #42- Noah Gragson
- #43- Erik Jones
Jones returns to Petty GMS following a resurgent 2022. He most notably led the #43 back to victory lane at the Southern 500. In addition to the win, Jones was in the playoff mix all year long, earning 13 top tens, an 18th standing in points, and leading his most laps since 2019 (147). Jones should also benefit from a teammate upgrade as Gragson replaces Ty Dillon in the #42 for 2023. Gragson is coming off a career year in the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports as he won eight races while also posting 20 top fives and 25 top tens. He also made it to the Championship 4 for the second straight year.
The 24-year-old is not without some concerns, however, as he has been known to get into fights with drivers, speak his mind in interviews, and lack maturity in several aspects. Performance may also be an issue seeing that Gragson has just one top ten across 18 races with Beard Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, and Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series this year. On the bright side, Gragson’s one top ten matches the number of top tens Dillon had across 35 races for Petty GMS in 2022. This should mean that Gragson will have little-to-no pressure in his rookie year. If Jones can sneak his way into the Playoffs and Gragson can make the #42 team better, it will be a successful 2023 for Petty GMS.
JTG Daugherty Racing
- #47 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Another year, another mediocre season for JTG. Stenhouse Jr. had just five top tens in 2022 and sits 25th in points. While occasionally having speed at other tracks, Stenhouse Jr. remains only a threat at superspeedways and this should hold true in 2023. They may find their way into the Playoffs with a win, but, barring any significant talent or equipment upgrades, Stenhouse Jr. and JTG Daugherty Racing will remain around 20th in points next year as well.
- Live Fas Motorsports: #78 – BJ McLeod
- Rick Ware Racing: #15 ??? & #51 Cody Ware
As the season comes to a close expect more confirmations for the 2023 NASCAR Driver Lineup.