Ka-chow: Daniel Suárez wins Atlanta race in three-wide Pixar-esque photo finish

The Disney Pixar Cars movie intro came to life on Sunday night when Daniel Suárez edged Ryan Blaney by 0.003 seconds and Kyle Busch by 0.007 seconds in a three-wide finish in the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway to take his second Cup series win of his career and his first oval win.

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, crosses the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Zero Sugar Ford, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)
  • Suárez wins
  • Blaney and Busch
  • Front Row Motorsports vs Team Penske
  • Rest of race recap
  • Full race results
  • Points standings

6 min read

In what had been a thrilling and intense restrictor plate race, with dynamic hypercompetitive pack racing all race long, came down to a five-lap shootout that Suárez lost control of on the restart as Blaney retook the lead, only on the final lap coming out of turn four for Kyle Busch and Suárez to pull up alongside Blaney, with Suárez surging ahead with side drafting and momentum on the top lane to win the third closest NASCAR Cup series race in history.

Suárez said: “It was so damn close. It was good racing. Ryan Blaney there, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric also was doing a great job giving pushes. In the back straightaway he didn’t push me because he knew I was going to [screw] his teammate, but man, what a job. We wrecked [on] lap two. The guys did an amazing job fixing this car.”

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Suárez was caught up in an Atlanta record-breaking 16-car crash on lap two when Front Row Motorsport’s driver Todd Gilliland checked up to let teammate and polesitter Michael McDowell in on the top, causing a large stack up behind, pinballing Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace sideways, taking Josh Williams out of the race and later Noah Gragson as he would retire the car at the end of stage one as a result of the crash.

Suárez recovered from the crash but would narrowly escape further carnage when with 21 laps to go, Chase Briscoe boldly made it four-wide with Suárez on the bottom entering turn three resulting in Denny Hamlin collecting Briscoe, taking them both out of contention.

Suárez would find himself on the row front row inside of 30 laps to go, and would battle for the lead until taking the checkered flag.

It’s Suárez’s second Cup win, his first coming in the 2022 Sonoma road course race, both with Trackhouse Racing.

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, and crew celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Reigning Cup series champion and race runner up Ryan Blaney was one of the cars to beat throughout the race, leading six times for 31 laps, including duelling with Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson for the lead in the first half of stage one, and staying up front for the second half of stage two, before leading for much of the final 40 laps prior to the checkered flag.

Blaney said: “I thought I laid back enough in [turns] one and two to not let both lanes get that big of a run. What a cool finish. Appreciate the fans for sticking around. That’s always a good time when we can do that, race clean, three-wide finish to the end. Happy for Daniel. Fun racing with Kyle. I can’t complain; I’ve won them by very, very little too, so I can’t complain too much when I lose them by that much.”

Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Zero Sugar Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Third place Richard Childress Racing driver Kyle Busch had an up-and-down race being involved in three crashes including when Denny Hamlin spun off Busch’s front end as he came down on him with nine to go in stage one, at the beginning of stage three when Kaz Grala ran Busch very tight on the bottom of turn one before being collected by Busch as a result, and escaping the four-wide melee crash with Briscoe with Busch up top.

Busch even had to come from a lap down in the final stage after a serving a drive through speeding penalty under green but after getting the free pass, he found himself charging to the front inside of 50 to go through a four-wide manoeuvre and would fight to the checkered flag to try to claim his third Atlanta Cup win.

Busch said: “Typically whoever is behind getting into [turn] three prevails at the start finish line with the side draft and everything, so I was second to the 12 [Blaney] right there, and the 99 [Suárez] was the furthest back, and he made the ground back up with the side draft and stuff. It’s good to see Daniel get a win. We were helping each other, being Chevy team partners and working together there.”

The finishing order may have been different if Bubba Wallace, who is close friends with Blaney, had been able to lock bumpers and push Blaney in turns three and four on the final lap but instead washed up the race track and lost touch with the front three.

The race featured a record 48 lead changes amongst 14 different drivers. Suárez led twice for nine laps. The race saw 10 cautions for 65 laps of the 260 lap 400-mile race.

Front Row Motorsports vs Team Penske

It was a bittersweet day for Front Row Motorsports after competing with Team Penske for the top positions in the race.

Front Row’s Todd Gilliland led a career high of 58 laps, the most of anyone, on six separate occasions while Michael McDowell would lead five times for 27 laps including winning stage one in a one-lap shootout.

Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Benebone Ford, lduring the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Team Penske’s Joey Logano was due to start second but the reigning race winner was sent to the rear for the start of the race and had to serve a drive through penalty under green due to wearing a webbed left glove during qualifying that NASCAR deemed illegal due to violating NASCAR rule governing driver protective clothing and equipment. It is possible that Logano wore the glove to gain a competitive advantage due to being able to manipulate the airflow more on the drivers side.

To Logano’s fortune, he was serving the drive through penalty as the 16-car crash on lap two happened, so was able to stay on the lead lap.

Stage two was a fierce battle between the two teams, as Gilliland led the opening segment with Logano behind, and McDowell inside the top five.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 BuildSubmarines.com Ford, and Todd Gilliland, driver of the #38 Georgia Peanuts Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

The second half of stage two saw Front Row’s race become undone as they first drifted back as their cars became tight before McDowell, during the green flag pit stop, wheel hopped entering pit road and collided with last week’s Daytona 500 winner William Byron, sending them both spinning into and off the wall. The race miraculously stayed green and both were able to continue with McDowell just one lap down after repairs.

After the green flag pit stop cycle, it was the Penske trio of Austin Cindric, Logano, and Blaney out front but Logano drifted back with a few laps to go and coming off turn two on the final lap crashed into the wall as his car got very tight, collecting Chris Buescher.

Cindric won stage two. Logano would finish the race several laps down following multiple repairs.

Front Row fell short in the final stage as despite Gilliland leading the start of stage three and again later, Gilliland had to pit for damage late on, and was forced to pit under green inside of 15 laps to go for right side tyres, taking him out of contention.

Todd Gilliland, driver of the #38 Georgia Peanuts Ford, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

McDowell gambled to stay out longer than most of the field in stage three to regain track position but was forced to pit with 35 laps to go as he began slipping down the order. McDowell still recovered to an eighth place finish.

Rest of race recap

Ross Chastain sent Georgia’s Chase Elliott for a spin as he pushed Elliott in the rear in turn three with 65 laps to go, as Chastain was fighting with Wallace for the free pass who was just one car length ahead.

Elliott rescued his car with a sideways drift in the turn three grass reminiscent of Lightning McQueen’s save at the end of the Cars movie.

Elliott was then caught up in Josh Berry’s crash with 12 to go spinning down the backstretch, but was able to recover to a 15th place finish.

Denny Hamlin, despite being involved in multiple crashes including with Busch and Buescher, led parts of the final stage, only to receive heavy damage in the Briscoe crash with 21 to go.

Hamlin’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. would lead parts of the final stage also, fighting Kyle Larson for control of the race.

The next race is the Pennzoil 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday 3rd March with the race starting at 3:30pm ET (8:30pm UK time).  

Full race results 

  1. Daniel Suárez
  2. Ryan Blaney
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Austin Cindric
  5. Bubba Wallace
  6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  7. Ross Chastain
  8. Michael McDowell
  9. Chris Buescher
  10. Ty Gibbs
  11. Harrison Burton
  12. Martin Truex Jr.
  13. Corey LaJoie
  14. Kaz Grala
  15. Chase Elliott
  16. Ryan Preece
  17. William Byron
  18. Daniel Hemric
  19. Carson Hocevar
  20. Justin Haley
  21. John Hunter Nemechek
  22. Austin Dillon
  23. Denny Hamlin
  24. B.J. McLeod
  25. Erik Jones
  26. Todd Gilliland
  27. Alex Bowman
  28. Joey Logano
  29. Josh Berry
  30. Tyler Reddick
  31. Chase Briscoe
  32. Kyle Larson
  33. Brad Keselowski
  34. Christopher Bell
  35. Zane Smith
  36. Noah Gragson
  37. Josh Williams

Points standings

*=win -=playoff cut line

  1. Kyle Busch – 77
  2. William Byron* – 76
  3. Austin Cindric – 76
  4. Bubba Wallace – 74
  5. Ryan Blaney – 69
  6. Chase Elliott – 65
  7. Daniel Suárez* – 64
  8. Ross Chastain – 62
  9. Alex Bowman – 60
  10. Martin Truex Jr. – 60
  11. Kyle Larson – 58
  12. Corey LaJoie – 57
  13. John Hunter Nemechek – 53
  14. Ty Gibbs – 50
  15. Chris Buescher – 49
  16. Christopher Bell – 47

  17. Erik Jones – 47
  18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 44
  19. Denny Hamlin – 44
  20. Michael McDowell – 40
  21. Daniel Hemric – 40
  22. Chase Briscoe – 37
  23. Harrison Burton – 36
  24. Ryan Preece – 35
  25. Tyler Reddick – 31
  26. Noah Gragson – 29
  27. Zane Smith – 29
  28. Justin Haley – 29
  29. Carson Hocevar – 26
  30. Kaz Grala – 24
  31. Josh Berry – 20
  32. Todd Gilliland – 19
  33. Joey Logano – 18
  34. David Ragan – 17
  35. Austin Dillon – 16
  36. Brad Keselowski – 16
  37. Jimmie Johnson – 9

Featured image: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, crosses the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Zero Sugar Ford, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Ambetter Health 400 race preview

Following on from the closest Daytona 500 finish ever, this weekend sees NASCAR returns to its moonshining roots in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

3 min read

The NASCAR Cup Series will race around the 28 degree banked 1.54-mile superspeedway oval for 260 laps (400 miles), with stage lengths of 60, 100, and 100 laps.

This will be the fifth NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the track reconfiguration in 2021 turning the track into a steeper banked, repaved, ‘mini-Daytona’ type racing track, with the cars using a superspeedway package like at Daytona and Talladega.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #6 King’s Hawaiian Ford, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

For large parts of the race, drivers will be racing in high-speed packs, utilising the draft and pushes to get to the front, especially on restarts. As the tires begin to wear more into a run, cars will begin to spread out and large packs will break up, racing more like a traditional 1.5-mile speedway race.

Last year’s Ambetter Health 400 saw Joey Logano achieve his childhood dream by winning the race after outduelling former Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the final laps of the race, partly due to a helpful push from Christopher Bell down the backstretch to clear the pack.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Michael McDowell earned his first ever Cup series pole today with a lap time of 30.999 seconds (average speed of 178.844mph). With 467 Cup races under his belt, it’s the most start’s by a Cup driver before securing a pole since J.D. McDuffie’s 404 Cup starts before securing a pole at the 1978 Delaware 500 at Dover Motor Speedway.

Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Benebone Ford, poses for photos after winning the pole award during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 24, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Josh Williams will make his fourth Cup series start at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for Kaulig Racing, qualifying 30th.

This follows a memorable 2023 spring Xfinity race at Atlanta where Williams grabbed the headlines after parking his No. 92 DGM Racing Chevrolet at the start finish line and walking across the track to the garage after refusing to accept NASCAR’s ruling for him to park his car for the race, due to multiple yellow flags coming out for debris off his car following race damage.

It led to a surge of fan, garage, and sponsor support for Williams, who is known to be a big personality, and unafraid to express himself in NASCAR, being a ‘what you see is what you get’ type character, as well overachieving in his equipment, leading to a full-time Kaulig Racing ride in the Xfinity series this season as well as a part-time Cup schedule with them including at Atlanta this weekend.

Since the reconfiguration in 2021, last week’s Daytona 500 winner William Byron has won two of the first four Atlanta races, including the first race in the spring of 2022, and the summer 2023 race. Chase Elliott won the 2022 summer race and Joey Logano won the 2023 spring race.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – JULY 09: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Available at Walmart at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 09, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Other active drivers to have won at Atlanta Motor Speedway pre-2021 reconfiguration include two-time winners Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, as well as reigning Cup series champion Ryan Blaney, and Denny Hamlin.

Tune in Sunday for the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this with the race beginning at 3pm ET (8pm UK time).

Full qualifying results 

  1. Michael McDowell
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Todd Gilliland
  5. Kyle Larson
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Chris Buescher
  8. Austin Cindric
  9. Chase Brisoce
  10. Austin Dillon
  11. William Byron
  12. Martin Truex Jr.
  13. Denny Hamlin
  14. Josh Berry
  15. Noah Gragson
  16. Harrison Burton
  17. Alex Bowman
  18. Bubba Wallace
  19. Tyler Reddick
  20. Ryan Preece
  21. Ross Chastain
  22. Christopher Bell
  23. Daniel Suárez
  24. Brad Keselowski
  25. Ty Gibbs
  26. Daniel Hemric
  27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  28. Chase Elliott
  29. Zane Smith
  30. Josh Williams
  31. Justin Haley
  32. Corey LaJoie
  33. Kaz Grala
  34. John Hunter Nemechek
  35. Carson Hocevar
  36. B.J. McLeod
  37. Erik Jones

Featured image: HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 19: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Menards/Knauf Ford, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Joey Logano achieves childhood dream win at Atlanta

Joey Logano outduelled former Penske teammate and two-time Atlanta winner Brad Keselowski in the final laps of the Ambetter Health 400 on Sunday, with a push from Christopher Bell down the backstretch helping Logano clear the pack to win for the first time at Atlanta in the Cup Series.

  • Race summary
  • Rest of race recap
  • Full race results
  • Points standings 

It was a dominant display from Logano, having nabbed the pole from Penske teammate Austin Cindric by 0.006 of a second on Saturday, and going on to lead the most laps in Sunday’s race, leading 140 of the 260 laps, and also winning stage one before taking the chequers.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The reigning Cup Series champion said: “Yeah, first off so special to win Atlanta for me. So many memories of me and my dad racing right here on the quarter mile. This is the full circle for us. So many memories gritting over there with the Legends car, racing, having a big time. Dreaming of going straight at the quarter mile and going onto the big track. That was always the dream to do it. To finally win here means so much to me here personally, but the team.”

The track has deep family ties for Logano, having lived at one of the condo’s at the race track for four years with his family whilst working his way through the racing ranks.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Autotrader Ford, celebrates with his father, Tom Logano, after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Photo by Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Logano and his Team Penske teammates executed a strong race plan all day long. After the trio qualified one-two-three for the race with Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney qualifying second and third respectively, they helped Logano lead from the off. They stayed together for most of the race including in the final twenty laps where they persisted on the bottom lane, not allowing Brad Keselowski and the top lane to run away with the race.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #6 King’s Hawaiian Ford, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

With six laps to go it appeared all momentum and hope for Logano and Team Penske had been lost but a reenergized bottom lane put Logano back in contention.

On the final lap, Corey Lajoie bump-drafted Logano into turn one propelling Logano to lead the top lane and race side-by-side with Keselowski before Bell bumped him down the backstretch and into the lead.

Logano said: “The Auto Trader Mustang; this thing was an animal. Very, very fast.”

Runner-up Brad Keselowski furthered a dominant Ford display, with Ford having taken the top eight spots in qualifying, a feat that Ford hadn’t reached since 1965.

Keselowski looked in control of the race until he could no longer halt the momentum of Logano and raced cleanly to the chequered flag. Keselowski led the second most laps with 47.

Keselowski said: “The coolest thing about this race is two veterans showed you can run a race here side by side, bump-drafting, and not wreck the field. It can happen if you race respectfully. I thought everybody did a great job.”

Corey LaJoie had a career best fourth place finish after running inside the top 15 for the majority of the race.

Rest of race recap 

Joey Logano and Austin Cindric led the field to green for the third Atlanta race since the 2021 repave where the banking was raised to 28 degrees in both corners, as well narrowing the corners, turning the track into a downsized Daytona superspeedway with the cars using the same race package used for Daytona and Talladega.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, leads the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Logano led the first 10 laps before a caution came out for an out of control Bubba Wallace when he got loose on the outside next to Kyle Busch coming off turn two, before spinning across the track into the wall. Wallace was able to continue the race after repairs but would finish 27th five laps down.

Early on in stage one saw Kevin Harvick lead the bottom lane, but was not able to take the lead away from Logano for long. The NASCAR veteran was competing in his final Spring Atlanta race before retirement, the race of which he won in just his third Cup start 22 years ago, driving for Richard Childress, only three weeks after Childress and the NASCAR world suffered the loss of Dale Earnhardt Sr. 

It was single file for the second half of stage one with Logano comfortably taking the stage win.

Stage two briefly saw a six-car breakaway at the front, midway through the fuel run in Logano, Kyle Busch, Blaney, Keselowski, Chris Buescher, and Cindric, before the rest of the pack came back to them.

Green flag pit stops just after 70 laps into stage two saw Ryan Blaney who had been running second behind Logano receive a speeding penalty for driving too fast on the apron in turn four in what is now part of pit entry, after NASCAR doubled the length of pit road entry, after the drivers had voiced safety concerns of having no runoff for pitting under green with the new configuration.

After serving the drive-through penalty, Blaney ended up being three cars in front of Logano trying to prevent his No. 12 BodyArmor SportWater Ford going two laps down before the stage break.

Blaney held on, with Cindric pinching the stage two win coming off turn four. Blaney would get the free pass later in the final stage.

The final stage saw both lanes in use with Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Harvick all taking turns to lead.

Disaster struck for Harvick when on lap 190, as he was sent around after Ross Chastain pushed air onto his rear bumper aggressively around the corner in turns one and two until Harvick’s car squirrelly lost control causing carnage for the field behind to avoid.

Buescher, Josh Berry, Daniel Suarez, Harrison Burton and BJ McLeod all got collected up in the mayhem.


Aric Almirola led the field back to green but on lap 209, on 72 lap old tyres, he blew a tyre in front of the pack, taking out Kyle Larson who was running second. Almirola had prior to the restart, gained 17 spots on pit road after taking fuel only under the caution.

The final 40 laps saw a duel between Logano and Keselowski, swapping the lead, before the duel intensified further with 13 laps to go.

Logano had help in his Penske teammates on the bottom, while the three Toyota’s in Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Denny Hamlin raced on the top, with Keselowski methodically blocking both lanes with help from his spotter TJ Majors.

Tyler Reddick, driver of the No. 45 Xfinity 10G Network Toyota, and Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 20 DeWalt Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Photo by Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images)

Logano outduelled Keselowski on the final lap with help from LaJoie and Bell sending the Connecticut driver to victory lane at Atlanta for the first time in the Cup Series.

The next race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is the 68-lap road-course race around Circuit of The Americas (COTA).

It’s a star-studded lineup for COTA’s Cup race with F1 champions Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen as well seven-time Cup Series champion as well as 2017 IMSA Champion Jordan Taylor all competing in the first road-course race of the season.

The race starts at 3:30pm ET.

Featured Image: Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Autotrader Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Photo by Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images)

Full race results 

  1. Joey Logano
  2. Brad Keselowski
  3. Christopher Bell
  4. Corey LaJoie
  5. Tyler Reddick
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Ryan Blaney
  8. Erik Jones
  9. Ty Gibbs
  10. Kyle Busch
  11. Austin Cindric
  12. Noah Gragson
  13. Ross Chastain
  14. Alex Bowman
  15. Todd Gilliland
  16. AJ Allmendinger
  17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  18. Josh Berry
  19. Martin Truex Jr.
  20. Austin Dillon
  21. Michael McDowell
  22. Justin Haley
  23. Ty Dillon
  24. Chase Briscoe
  25. Cody Ware
  26. JJ Yeley
  27. Bubba Wallace
  28. Ryan Preece
  29. Daniel Suarez
  30. Aric Almirola
  31. Kyle Larson
  32. William Byron
  33. Kevin Harvick
  34. Harrison Burton
  35. Chris Buescher
  36. BJ McLeod

Stage one 

  1. Joey Logano
  2. Austin Cindric
  3. Brad Keselowski
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. Christopher Bell
  7. Kyle Busch
  8. Chris Buescher
  9. Daniel Suarez
  10. Martin Truex Jr.

Stage two

  1. Austin Cindric
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Alex Bowman
  4. Tyler Reddick
  5. William Byron
  6. Chris Buescher
  7. Martin Truex Jr.
  8. Denny Hamlin
  9. Brad Keselowski
  10. Corey LaJoie

Points standings after 5 of 36 races

  1. Joey Logano* – 177
  2. Christopher Bell – 176
  3. Ross Chastain – 172
  4. Ryan Blaney – 161
  5. Brad Keselowski – 160
  6. Kevin Harvick – `155
  7. Kyle Busch* – 153
  8. Martin Truex Jr. – 145
  9. Denny Hamlin – 140
  10. Daniel Suarez – 129
  11. Austin Cindric – 126
  12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* – 124
  13. Chris Buescher – 122
  14. Corey LaJoie – 113
  15. Tyler Reddick – 111
  16. Bubba Wallace – 102

  17. AJ Allmendinger – 92
  18. Michael McDowell – 92
  19. Ty Gibbs – 90
  20. Alex Bowman – 85
  21. Erik Jones – 82
  22. Austin Dillon – 80
  23. Chase Briscoe – 72
  24. Noah Gragson – 68
  25. Todd Gilliland – 68
  26. Ryan Preece – 63
  27. Aric Almirola – 63
  28. William Byron* – 55
  29. Harrison Burton – 51
  30. Cody Ware – 50
  31. Chase Elliott – 49
  32. Kyle Larson – 43
  33. Ty Dillon – 31
  34. BJ McLeod – 27
  35. Travis Pastrana – 26
  36. Jimmie Johnson – 10

NASCAR 2023 Season Preview: Always Forward

NASCAR is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and is meshing the old with the new, bringing back the iconic and beloved North Wilkesboro Speedway for its All-Star Race, while introducing its first ever street course in downtown Chicago this summer. There has also been exciting changes made to the rulebook including the introduction of wet weather tyres for short oval tracks. With a revised Next Gen car coming off its maiden voyage last season, and plenty of significant driver changes, this year’s NASCAR season is set to bring the thunder.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – December 14th 1947, Founder’s Day: NASCAR’s early leaders meet in the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach. Seated (L-R): Bob Richards, Freddie Horton, Jack Peters, Ed Bruce, Chick DiNatale, Harvey Tattersall Jr., Tom Galan, Alvin Hawkins, Bill Tuthill, Bill France Sr., Mildred Ayres, Joe Littlejohn, Jimmy Cox, Eddie Bland, Joe Ross, Sam Packard, Bill Streeter, Lucky Sauer. Standing (L-R): Larry Roller, Fred Dagavar, Bob Osiecki, Jimmy Quisenberry, Ed Samples, Marshall Teague. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

Discussing the 75th anniversary, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said: “I think anyone who is involved in this sport at all, whether you work at NASCAR, or you work at a race team or for a racetrack, or our fans, it’s just a moment in time for us to take a step back and really celebrate and honor the past which is what we’re going to do. And I think the unique thing is we also need to celebrate what’s happening today in this sport and then a look forward. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re talking about this, our “75th” and we have a tagline, “always forward”. That’s going to represent what we’re going to do.”

  • Schedule changes
  • Driver changes
  • Driver updates
  • Rule changes
  • Safety changes
  • 75th anniversary

Schedule changes

North Wilkesboro Speedway

North Wilkesboro Speedway returns to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule for it’s All-Star Race, after being removed from the schedule following the conclusion of the 1996 season after NASCAR had to replace some Southeast tracks in order to expand further into new markets across America such the Midwest. Wilkes County historically, was NASCAR’s heartland for both team and fans with much of their fanbase still found there and in the surrounding region today.

NASCAR have rightly brought one of NASCAR’s most legendary tracks back into the limelight where it will shine again on May 21st. It makes North Wilkesboro Speedway officially the oldest track on the schedule, having being opened in 1947. It saw on-track racing again last August including Late Model racing, after being closed since 2011. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will also have a 250-lap points-paying race on May 20th.

Chicago Street Course

NASCAR is in with the old and new this year, introducing it’s 220-mile street course in the downtown Chicago area. Chicago continually proves to be one of NASCAR’s largest market, with a much needed return to the region after cutting Chicagoland Speedway from the schedule in 2021.

The new street course debuted virtually in iRacing in 2021.

Atlanta Motor Speedway

The July Atlanta race has been converted into a night race with all races since the 2021 reconfiguration, where it was turned into a superspeedway, taking place in the daytime. They have not had a night race in the Cup Series there since 2014.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

World Wide Technology Raceway & Bristol Motor Speedway

The 300-mile race at World Wide Technology Raceway returns for a second year after the Cup Series’ inaugural race there last season, where Joey Logano took his second points-paying win on his way to his second Cup Series championship.

We will also see a third rendition of the Bristol Dirt Race, hoping to capitalise on last year’s dramatic race ending that saw Chase Briscoe collide with Tyler Reddick on the final lap allowing Kyle Busch to beat both to the finish line.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Mars Crunchy Cookie Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Auto Club Speedway

NASCAR is taking its 75th anniversary tagline “Always Forward” to the construction site as well as it will sadly be the last race for Auto Club Speedway on February 26th in its two-mile configuration before being temporarily taken off the schedule to be reconfigured into a half-mile track on the same site with the race venue not set to return to the NASCAR schedule until after 2024.

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 27: Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Menards/Quaker State Ford, leads Daniel Hemric, driver of the #16 Poppy Bank Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Erik Jones, driver of the #43 FOCUS factor Chevrolet, in a five-wide salute to the fans prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 27, 2022 in Fontana, California. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Driver changes

Kyle Busch

By far the biggest driver change this season is the switch of two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch from leading Toyota team Joe Gibbs Racing after racing for “The Coach” for 15 years, to Richard Childress Racing’s Chevrolet team.

Busch was unable to secure new sponsorship with Gibbs after M&M’s announced in the 2021 off-season that they were pulling out of the sport. Busch replaces RCR hotshot Tyler Reddick after he controversially signed a contract with Denny Hamlin’s 23XI Racing to drive for them starting in 2024 without consulting with Childress. This resulted in Childress removing Reddick from his seat early as he was due to race for RCR still for the 2023 season.

Kyle Busch returns to Chevrolet after starting his Cup Series career with them in 2004 with Hendrick Motorsports until 2008 when he went to Toyota’s JGR. It is a huge loss for Toyota, having lost their most successful NASCAR driver, with Busch winning the first Cup Series race with them in 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and having won the 2015 and 2019 Cup Series championships with them.

Tyler Reddick

Luckily for Reddick, Denny Hamlin, who ironically drives for JGR, had the contract brought forward to have him race for him this season instead of having to sit the year out. This became possible after 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch announced he would no longer be racing full-time after not being able to return to race for 23XI Racing following a serious injury he received during qualifying for the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway last July. Kurt Busch remains a key part of the 23XI Racing operation.

Ty Gibbs

Ty Gibbs, the grandson of Joe Gibbs, replaces Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing and will compete full-time this season after he filled in for Kurt Busch last season competing in 15 Cup races for 23XI Racing. Ty Gibbs won last year’s Xfinity Series Championship after controversially spinning out teammate Brandon Jones at Martinsville Speedway the week before, preventing him from having the chance to make the Final 4 at Phoenix to compete for a championship.

Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, embraces the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship trophy in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 05, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Tragically, Ty’s dad Coy Gibbs, a much beloved long-time member of the Joe Gibbs Racing family, suddenly passed away the day after he watched his son win the championship and be loudly booed by fans. Ty Gibbs has been through an incredibly difficult time but is now all set to go for the 2023 season.

Ryan Preece

Ryan Preece returns to the Cup Series full-time after he was left without a ride after the 2021 season. He replaces Cole Custer who’s performance was mediocre at best across his three seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing, only bagging one victory at Kentucky Speedway in 2020. It’s not all doom and gloom for Custer however, as he will still race part-time for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series.

Jimmie Johnson

Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, to the world’s excitement announced in the off-season he had become a co-owner at Petty GMS Motorsports, now renamed to Legacy Motor Club, and would also race on a part-time schedule for them including the Daytona 500 and the Chicago street course.

Jimmie Johnson will also compete in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hour race as part of NASCAR’s Garage 56 program alongside the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button and 2010 Le Mans 24 winner Mike Rockenfeller.

Drivers Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, and Jenson Button pose for a photo after a press conference announcing the NASCAR Garage 56 driver lineup for entry in 2023 Le mans before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 28, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

AJ Allmendinger

Kaulig Racing have promoted AJ Allmendinger to a full-time Cup ride this season alongside Justin Haley after competing part-time only in the Cup Series after the 2018 season when he then raced for JTG Daugherty Racing and joined Kaulig’s Cup program the following year. He brought Kaulig success when he won the Cup Series race at the Indy Road Course in 2021. This was his second Cup win after earning his first at Watkins Glen in 2014.

AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #16 Hyperice Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 15, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson, the 13-time Xfinity Series winner, replaces Ty Dillon at Legacy Motor Club after competing for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity series from 2019-2022. Gragson is another fresh driver like Ty Gibbs that we could see some outstanding performances from this year. The Las Vegas native has already competed in a handful of Cup races for Beard Motorsports and Kaulig Racing over the last two seasons.

Ty Dillon

Ty Dillon, while having one of his strongest season performances last year, including at Talladega and the Bristol Dirt Race, did not perform consistently enough compared with teammate Erik Jones but has found himself a new home at Spire Motorsports with new teammate Corey LaJoie, joining the teams ambition to become a more competitive car this year. Ty is more motivated than ever to prove to everyone he belongs in the Cup Series and at the front. He will also race a part-time schedule for his grandfather Richard Childress in the Xfinity Series racing the infamous No. 3 car.


Josh Bilicki

Ty Dillon replaces Josh Bilicki who will now race part-time for Live Fast Motorsports who have switched from Ford to Chevrolet. It will be Bilicki’s seventh year in Cup.

Zane Smith

Zane Smith will run a select number of races this year for Front Row Motorsports with six of his seven starts replacing Todd Gilliland, who is good friends with the 2022 Craftsman Truck Series Champion, forcing Gilliland to find new rides for those races in order to compete full-time this season and be eligible for a championship run. The two will race alongside each other as teammates for Front Row for the Daytona 500.

Austin Hill

Austin Hill will attempt six Cup Series races with Beard Motorsports for 2023 including the Daytona 500 and Chicago street course.

Driver Updates

Kevin Harvick

In the off-season Kevin Harvick announced that 2023 would mark his final season in the NASCAR Cup Series before retiring following a 23-year run in the Cup Series. He will join the FOX Sports Booth NASCAR alongside former Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer.

Harvick has accomplished a lot, including taking the 2014 Cup Series championship, winning the 2007 Daytona 500, and helping take the sport out of a tragically difficult time when he took over the Richard Childress Racing seat, making his Cup debut in 2001, following the passing of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. after a serious crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick, a highly respected voice in the garage, will surely continue to voice his opinion about all things NASCAR this season too.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford Ecoboost 400 and championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16th, 2014 in Homestead, Florida (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Joey Logano  

The Team Penske driver from Connecticut, will attempt to go back-to-back for Cup championships this year after becoming a two-time Cup champion last season. He took four wins on his way to his second title, in addition to winning the inaugural LA Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race at the start of the season, including the inaugural World Wide Technology Raceway Cup race and winning the Championship 4 race at Phoenix. The 2015 Daytona 500 winner earned his first Cup championship in 2018.

2022 NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano poses for a photo on the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge on December 01, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Harrison Burton

Harrison Burton, son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver and now NBC Sports commentator Jeff Burton, comes off his rookie season with only two-top 10’s with him struggling to be seen in his first campaign in the Cup Series. Driving for the famed Wood Brothers, who have a technical alliance with Team Penske, Burton will be expected to step up this season and deliver a more competitve performance.

Harrison Burton, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/DEX Imaging Ford, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Rule changes

Wet weather tyres

There is a whole roster of rule changes that aims to improve the racing and keep the cars on track. No more exciting is the addition of wet-weather tyres being permitted at several tracks of one mile or less including the LA Coliseum, Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Richmond Raceway.

Officials tested wet weather tyres at Martinsville’s 0.526-mile short track in March 2021 and June 2022. Windshield wipers will also be required on the cars for these tracks but only starting with the Phoenix Raceway race in March.

Stage breaks

Road course races will no longer have mandatory caution periods during stage breaks. Instead, the race will continue under green at the stage break with stage points being given out as normal at the end of the stage-ending lap. With the removal of mandatory stage break cautions, this brings back the prospect of having entire green-flag races with only organic strategies influencing them.

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 CommScope Chevrolet, spins after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Echopark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on March 27, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Loose wheels

Loose wheels became a thorn in teams’ sides last season. Thankfully, there will no longer be any four-race crew chief suspensions for loose wheels. Instead, pass through penalties under green or being sent to the tail end of the longest line under yellow will be given out with however NASCAR have said: “If the wheel breaks free outside of pit road, the new rules guidelines mandate a two-lap penalty, plus a two-race suspension for two crew members.”

Choose rule

Drivers will now be able to choose which lane they restart on during races at superspeedways and dirt tracks. This adds Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Speedway, and the Bristol Dirt Race to the list of eligible tracks.

Hail Melon move

Ross Chastain’s “Hail Melon” move at Martinsville Speedway last season, where he wall-rided around turns three and four like it was an EA Sports NASCAR video game to gain enough positions to qualify for the championship 4 in Phoenix, has been clamped down by NASCAR due to safety concerns.

There will be a time penalty handed out to anyone who tries to make the move. Still, it became one of NASCAR’s most iconic moments in history becoming the most viewed moment of NASCAR in a matter of days via social media.


Little has changed to the playoff structure despite calls from fans to have it changed, such as cycling the championship 4 race destination, other than making it so that drivers will no longer be required to be in the top 30 in points to be eligible for the playoffs.

Damaged Vehicle Policy

Teams will now be see a seven-minute repair clock instead of five for working on the car on pit road under the damage vehicle policy.

Safety changes

Safety became a huge talking point last season after serious concussions caused by crash impacts fell upon the drivers Kurt Busch, while qualifying at Pocono, and Alex Bowman during the Texas Motor Speedway race, as well as serious car fires experienced by Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski due to rubber build up in the wheel well. In addition, many drivers complained of hard impacts during crashes throughout the season with driver such as Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Noah Gragson concerned for their own safety.


This season, teams will use new centre and rear clips on the car chassis, with both sections modified to better absorb rear impacts.

NASCAR stated: “The improved 2023 design features the removal of some bars, a reduction in the thickness of some tubing and adding pivot points called “triggers” in the structure to encourage deformation while protecting both the oil tank and fuel cell.”

Data collection

NASCAR are mandating new incident data collection systems on all Cup cars for 2023. Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR’s Vice President of safety engineering said: “It is a completely new system from the ground up. This will give us more data channels, will give us dedicated GPS data as far as the speed of the vehicle, and we’ll have a lot of those things all synchronized in time.”

Some drivers will also voluntarily wear mouthpiece sensors this season, continuing from 2022, which provide vital information about the driver’s bodies during the crashes as well as the race in general.


The SFI-approved foam that surrounds the driver’s head has been improved to better protect the drivers from injury, addressing the most significant heights, positioning and gaps that best protect the driver’s head in a crash.

75th anniversary

Longtime NASCAR executive Mike Helton, talking about the 75th anniversary 2023 season said: “It’s kind of indicative going into 2023, [that] our 75th anniversary, with the uniqueness of the LA Coliseum for the Clash and then the Chicago Grant Park race because it all signals we’ve been doing this for 75 years, but one of the ways we figured out how to do it for 75 years was to stay fresh and current.”

NASCAR 75th Anniversary Icon Logo (Photo by NASCAR)

NASCAR President Steve Phelps furthered the sentiment by saying: “Our fans have told us again and again and again, they want schedule variation. So, whether we’re going to North Wilkesboro for the All-Star race, or to the Chicago street course, in our 75 years we’ve never raced on the street ever, so you’re talking about milestones.”

NASCAR 2023 has the most diverse schedule ever seen for a season in decades, with arguably the most competitive driver line-up to date. In the modern era, and most certainly in the playoff era, it’s not just an exciting time to be a NASCAR fan on it’s 75th anniversary, it’s the best time to be a NASCAR fan.

We cannot wait to cover the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season for you here at ThePitCrewOnline!

Featured Image: NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary logo (Photo by NASCAR)

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