NASCAR is returning to the legendary 0.625-mile North Wilkesboro Speedway as part of its 75th anniversary to run its All-Star Race where the winner will take home $1 million dollars.
North Wilkesboro Speedway
All-Star Open lineup
All-Star Race lineup
Drivers to watch
Notable paint schemes
Located in the heart of NASCAR country, Wilkes County, NASCAR, Marcus Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Incorporated and the local community have spent the last year restoring North Wilkesboro Speedway to its former glory while making it a venue fit for a modern day NASCAR Cup Series race after the track was abandoned by NASCAR in 1996 in pursuit of furthering national expansion efforts beyond the Southeast into it’s schedule to grow regional markets.
NASCAR has now come home though, returning to its roots in what many are calling the ‘Field of Dreams of Racing’.
New grandstands have been built, a freshly repaved pit road has been put down, and the cracks in the asphalt filled in. Surrounding this though still is much of its history, with old signage including the original scoreboard have remained in place and the original walls and buildings also kept wherever possible including the famous NASCAR Winston Cup Series wall.
The track has been described as a cheese grater by the drivers who have teared around the half mile track of dreams so far this week such as in the CARS Tour Late Model race on Wednesday, the NASCAR Truck Series 250-lap race on Saturday, and during the various practice sessions.
Sunday night’s All-Star Race will consist of 200 laps with a break at 100 laps while the 100-lap All-Star Open race being run prior to decide the final three spots to make up the 24 car field for the All-Star Race.
The green flag for the 100-lap All-Star Open will fly at 5:30pm ET while the All-Star Race will begin at 8pm ET.
In the All-Star Open there will be a competition break around lap 40. The top-two finishers will advance to the All-Star Race as well as the fan vote driver (the driver from the All-Star Open who received the most fan votes to advance to the All-Star Race).
For the All-Star Race, there are three sets of sticker tyres allocated to each team in addition to the sticker set they start on. Strategy will come into play in when to and when not to take tyres due to the high falloff with over a second a falloff being seen in the lap times in a matter of laps around the historic half mile.
To complicate matters further, only one additional set of sticker tyres can be used following the competition break.
Eligibility to be locked into the All-Star Race is if a driver is a previous champion of the sport or previous All-Star Race winner that is currently competing full-time, or has won a Cup Series points paying race in the 2022 or 2023 season.
The Grand Marshals for the All-Star Race will be seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty and three-time Cup cahmpion Darrell Waltrip who combined have won 25 Cup races at North Wilkesboro, Petty 15 to Waltrip’s 10.
The Honorary Starter will be Ray Evernham, three-time Cup Series champion crew chief.
The Honorary Pace Car Driver will be Jeff Gordon, four-time Cup Series champion driver who won the very last Cup race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1996.
The track itself sees 13 degrees of banking in both turns one and two, and three and four ,with the a downhill frontstrectch and an uphill backstretch.
The starting lineup for the All-Star Race was decided in Saturday night’s two 60-lap heat races with heat race one determining the inside row lineup and heat race two the outside.
Daniel Suarez won heat one in damp conditions to start on pole for the All-Star Race while Chris Buescher led every single lap of heat two that a saw a switch onto rain tyres on lap 25, to start alongside the Mexican.
All-Star Open Lineup
Friday’s Pit Crew Challenge won by the Ty Gibbs No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Team determined the starting lineup for the heat races as well as the All-Star Open, with Gibbs securing the pole for the All-Star Open due to not being locked into the main event.
The All-Star Open lineup is as follows.
All-Star Race Lineup
The first 21 of 24 positions with the final three to come from the All-Star Open are as follows.
*Josh Berry won the All-Star Open with Ty Gibbs being the runner up. Noah Gragson won the Fan Vote. All three advance through to the All-Star Race. Berry, Gibbs, and Gragson, will start 22nd, 23rd, and 24th respectively.
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Drivers to watch
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson have both won two All-Star Races, in 2007/2018 and 2019/2021 respectively and with Kyle Larson winning the 250-lap NASCAR Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro in dominating fashion leading over half the laps, he is one of the favourites to make it a third All-Star Race win.
Kyle Larson was joined by four other Cup regulars for Saturday’s truck race, in Chastain, Bell, Wallace and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron.
They all saw action at the front, most notably Bell and Larson charging through the field together to the front in stage one, Larson and Byron duelling for the lead in the final stage, and Larson passing Wallace, who was on older tyres inside of 20 laps to go, and holding him off in an overtime finish, to go onto the win the race.
The more in-race track time the better prepared a driver will be for the All-Star Race due to having to rely on old data, and sim time prior to this week.
Ryan Blaney is the reigning All-Star Race winner having won the 2022 All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway in an overtime finish.
Chase Elliott won the 2020 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway that was accompanied by all car having fluorescent light bars attached to the rear of the cars that made it quite the spectacle around the colosseum.
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Ryan Newman all have one All-Star Race win, all having come at Charlotte Motor Speedway where the event was held in 1985 and then from 1987-2019.
Notable paint schemes
Erik Jones is piloting the No. 43 STP LEGACY MOTOR CLUB Chevrolet that is throwing it back to Richard Petty, who won 15 times at North Wilkesboro in the Cup Series, including eight time while racing STP colours.
Kevin Harvick is throwing back to his 2001 Atlanta scheme when he was promoted to the Cup Series by Richard Childress Racing following the tragic passing of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. It is Harvick’s final full-time season before retiring.
Michael McDowell is racing the No. 34 Ford that is throwing it back to Mark Martin’s 1990 Cup win at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Follow ThePitCrewOnline’s twitter @PitCrew_Online for live updates and reporting of the All-Star Open and All-Star Race.
Featured Image: Erik Jones, driver of the #43 STP Chevrolet, exits the track during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 19, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Sunday saw William Byron, for two-weeks in a row, beat Kyle Larson in a overtime restart to win the Cup Series race, this time at Phoenix Raceway in the United Rentals Work United 500. Kevin Harvick had overtaken Larson for the lead with 43 laps to go but a caution with 11 laps to go for Harrison Burton blowing a tyre, saw Harvick lose the lead on pit road and fall back to seventh, having taken four tyres, while Larson and Byron came off pit road first and second on just two tyres.
William Byron had taken the lead away from pole-sitter Kyle Larson on lap two and went on to win stage one but Kyle Larson took the lead back on pit road during the stage break and won stage two.
Heading towards the white flag, Tyler Reddick gave a helpful push to Byron coming down the backstretch heading, as Blaney, Larson and Byron were three-wide for the lead with Byron on the outside, helping Byron clear Larson and Blaney going into turn four to take the white flag and the checkered flag.
It’s Byron sixth career win and his first at Phoenix in the Cup Series.
Byron thanked crew chief Rudy Fugle for the win saying: “Owe the last couple weeks to him. He’s done a really good job strategy-wise, and execution-wise we’ve done a good job to put ourselves in those positions on the front row with a shot at the end.”
Kyle Larson led 201 of the 312 laps so was not too pleased to come in fourth after losing the win to Byron in the same fashion for two-weeks running, being beat in last week’s overtime restart in Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 400-mile race, saying: “Restarts are just tough. [Byron] did a really good job of holding it to my outside, clearing me down the back. Yeah, I’m pissed off.”
Kevin Harvick aka “The Closer” was looking to become a 10-time Phoenix Cup Series winner. Having started 15th, he finished eighth and third in stages one and two respectively before in the final stage on a long green flag run passed Larson for the lead with 43 laps to go.
Harvick was clear sailing prior to the caution with 11 laps to go and was not able to gain any positions when the field went back to green with three laps to go before Noah Gragson, AJ Allmendinger, and Ty Gibbs wrecked in turns one and two sending the race into overtime.
Harvick said: “That’s the way it goes. Just smoked ’em up until the caution. They did a great job with our Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang. Didn’t need the caution at the end.”
It was Harvick’s 20th straight top-10 finish at Phoenix Raceway in the Cup Series.
Ryan Blaney had a strong race from start to finish coming home in the runner up spot. Blaney finished sixth and eighth in stage one and two respectively. The Team Penske driver was running sixth at the time of Burton blowing his tyre.
Ford and former Penske teammate Brad Keselowski also had a strong race prior to the overtime finish, being ninth and fourth in stages one and two respectively before finishing eighteenth.
Josh Berry, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott, drove the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet to an impressive 10th place finish. Berry was getting used up in stage one struggling to get inside the top 25. The full-time JR Motorsports Xfinity driver worked his way into the top 15 in the final stage before finishing one place behind Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman, placing all four Hendrick Chevrolet’s in the top-10.
Rest of race recap
The United Rentals 500 marked the debut of the new short track package, seeing a 30% reduction in downforce compared to last year’s short track package, due in part to halving the spoiler from four inches to two.
The cars were permitted to race in wet conditions if they occurred during the race as part of NASCAR’s expansion to allow wet-weather racing at one mile or less sized oval tracks in addition to the road course races.
2021 Phoenix winner Kyle Larson led the field to green flag before Byron released Larson of the lead getting by on the inside of turn one on lap two.
With under ten to go in stage one, BJ McLeod retired with a fuel pump issue before Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tagged the turn one wall running 25th but was able to continue. Byron led the rest of the laps to win stage one.
During the stage one caution break, Kyle Larson was able to win back the lead on pit road in part to having the number one pit stall at the end of pit road.
Aric Almirola brought out the caution on lap 139 after his wheel hub and tyre broke free. Larson was first off pit road again and went on to win stage two.
Harvick started the final stage side-by-side with Larson on the restart but Larson quickly pulled away to a 2.5 second gap by lap 207.
During the rest of the final stage, the whole field split the 127-lap stage in half except Erik Jones who stayed out in the lead on old tyres until Kyle Larson caught and passed him for the lead on much fresher tyres with 52 laps to go. Jones was hoping for a caution to force everybody else down pit road again while with the lead but one didn’t come before having to pit. Jones finished 21st.
As the run went on Harvick closed back down the gap to Larson to just 0.3 seconds and cleared him coming out of turn three with 43 laps to go.
The crash that led to the overtime finish came from Gragson and AJ Allmendinger colliding into the turn two wall together, while Gibbs piled into the back of them after getting tangled with Corey Lajoie on the high lane in turn one.
The 2022 Hamlin-Chastain clash was revived on the final lap when Denny Hamlin washed up the race track in turn two dragging Chastain into the wall. Hamlin had spent most of the day in the top five but would only come home 23rd in the end, with Chastain 24th. Both had a long conversation with each other on pit road post-race.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday, with the race starting at 3pm ET.
Featured image: William Byron, driver of the #24 Valvoline Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
This Sunday the NASCAR Cup Series’ regular season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida, for the 65th running of the Daytona 500 on its 75th anniversary. 40 cars will compete in the Great American Race in front of a sold out crowd at speeds over 200mph, inches apart from each other for 200 laps, in a bid to win one of NASCAR’s most prestigious prizes, the Harley J. Earl Trophy and forever immortalise themselves in the history books on stock car racing’s biggest day.
Drivers to watch
42 drivers have entered into the 500-mile 200 lap race around the 2.5-mile superspeedway with seven part-time entries including seven-time Cup Series champion and Legacy Motor Club co-owner Jimmie Johnson and X Games gold medallist and Hoonigan driver Travis Pastrana.
Last year saw Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric win the Daytona 500 on his full-time debut. It was the first time a rookie has won the Daytona 500 since Trevor Bayne in 2011, driving for Wood Brothers Racing.
There are 36 chartered cars in this year’s Daytona 500 meaning they are guaranteed a spot in the race regardless of where they qualify. There are four spots available for non-chartered cars to claim with six entering meaning two will fail to qualify for this year’s race. Two cars will able to secure their spot from single car qualifying while the remaining two spots will be decided in the duels.
The NASCAR Cup Cars will run single car qualifying on Wednesday at 8pm ET where in round one they will run a single timed lap attempting to lay down a top-10 lap to get through to the final round where they will set another single timed lap in an attempt to secure the pole for the Great American Race.
The top two from single car qualifying will keep their starting positions on the front row for the Daytona 500 regardless of where they finish in their duel race. Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson scored the pole in last year’s event with teammate Alex Bowman qualifying second.
The Bluegreen Vacations Duels, the two qualifying 60-lap races, will be run on Thursday starting at 7pm ET. The finishing positions determine where the drivers will start the Daytona 500, and which two non-chartered cars will go home. Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher won last year’s duels.
As and added incentive, the top 10 in each duel race will receive points; 10 for finishing first, nine for second and so on all the way down to receiving one point for finishing 10th.
On Friday the Cup Series will have the first of two 50-minute practice sessions starting at 5:35pm ET before the NextEra Energy 250, the Craftsman Truck Series 100-lap night race, starting at 7:30pm ET.
Saturday sees the Cup Series have its final 50-minute practice session starting at 10:30am ET before the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner 300, the Xfinity Series 120-lap race, starting at 5pm ET.
Sunday sees the biggest day in stock car racing with the 65th running of the Daytona 500 starting at 2:30pm ET in front of a sold out crowd for the eighth year running. The 200-lap race will be broken down into three stages of 65,65 and 70 laps respectively.
Drivers to watch
Two-time Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson will attempt to win the Daytona 500 for a third time to join the likes of three-time Daytona 500 champions Denny Hamlin and old Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon in the history books. He will drive the No. 84 Carvana Chevrolet for Legacy Motor Club. He has to qualify his way into the race due to having an non-chartered car.
Travis Pastrana, the legendary Hoonigan stunt performer and Nitro RallyCross series founder will attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 as a third entry for 23XI Racing driving the No. 67 Black Rifle Coffee Toyota.
Pastrana said: “I’m thrilled at the chance to race in the Daytona 500. It’s the one event every year that all my friends and family come together to watch at our buddy Dale’s house and it’s an event I’ve wanted to race my entire life.”
He has competed in five Craftsman Truck Series races and 42 Xfinity Series races and has raced at Daytona three times before in NACAR’s national series including finishing 10th in the 2013 Xfinity Series Daytona season-opener.
Conor Daly, who competes full-time in the NTT IndyCar Series, will also attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 with The Money Team Racing which is co-owned by boxing legend Floyd Mayweather, sporting the No. 50 BitNile.com Chevrolet. Daly has one Cup start to his name, competing in last year’s Charlotte Roval race where he finished 34th.
Rookie Ty Gibbs will make his first start for his grandfather’s team Joe Gibbs Racing competing full-time, replacing two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch. The reigning Xfinity Series champion will be driving the No. 54 Monster Energy/Interstates Batteries Toyota.
Ty Gibbs is racing with a heavy heart after his dad, a member of the Joe Gibbs Racing family, Coy Gibbs, suddenly passed away the day after he won the Xfinity Series title last November. Ty made 15 Cup starts last year after subbing for Kurt Busch where he earned one top-10 at Michigan.
Rookie Noah Gragson will drive the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Wendy’s Chevrolet in what will be his second Daytona 500 start. Gragson is in his first full-time Cup season, after 18 Cup races last year with the majority being with Kaulig Racing. The 13-times Xfinity Series winner was runner up to Ty Gibbs last season championship finale in Phoenix.
Denny Hamlin will be going for a fourth Daytona 500 victory with Joe Gibbs Racing, sporting the FedEx 50 Toyota. Hamlin won the 2016, ’19, and 2020 Daytona 500’s with JGR.
In case you missed the unveil, here is the scheme I'll be running at @DAYTONA. Anytime you have a 50th birthday, it's a cause for celebration and definitely deserves a special paint scheme. Excited to hit the track! pic.twitter.com/O4X9wcDp3g
Bubba Wallace will compete in his sixth Daytona 500, racing the No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota for Denny Hamlin’s and Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing. The Alabama native will hope to finish one place better after being the 2018 and 2022 runner-up. If Wallace wins this year’s race, he would become the first African-American to have done so.
This will be Kevin Harvick’s final Daytona 500 driver as a full-time Cup driver after announcing his retirement in the off-season. Harvick won the 2007 Daytona 500 when he pipped fan-favourite Mark Martin at the finish line. Harvick will drive No. 4 Busch Light Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Austin Hill, the 2022 Daytona Xfinity Series race winner, will attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 for Beard Motorsports and will pilot the No. 62 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet. He made his Cup debut at last August’s Michigan race in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Bennett Transportation and Logistics sponsored Chevrolet where he impressively finished 18th.
23-year-old Zane Smith, the 2022 Craftsman Truck Series champion, will attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 with Front Row Motorsports driving the No. 36 Wellcare Ford. Smith impressed the NASCAR garage when he subbed for RFK’s Chris Buescher last season, finishing 17th on his Cup debut at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Rookie Chandler Smith, the five-time Craftsman Truck Series winner, will attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 with Kaulig Racing driving the No. 13 Quick Tie Inc. Chevrolet. The 20-year-old is racing full-time in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing this season.
Austin Cindric will hope to go back to back in this year’s edition of the Great American race, joining Denny Hamlin and Sterling Marlin who did it in 2019 and 2020, and 1994 and ’95 respectively. Cindric will drive the No. 2 Discount Tire Team Penske Ford.
Rookie Riley Herbst will race in his first Daytona 500 and first Cup start with Rick Ware Racing, sporting the No. 15 Sunny D Ford. The Las Vegas native has competed in 109 Xfinity races, bagging 54 top-10 finishes.
Herbst said: “It’s such a big event and for it be my first Cup start will be a crazy experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do behind the wheel.”
Catch the 65th running of the Daytona 500 this Sunday at 2:30pm ET!
Wednesday 8:15pm ET – Cup Series single car qualifying
Thursday 7pm ET – Bluegreen Vacations Duels (Cup Series two 60-lap qualifying races)
Friday 5:35pm ET – 1st Cup Series 50 minute practice session
Friday 7pm ET – NextEra Energy 250 (Craftsman Truck Series 100-lap race)
Saturday 10:30am ET – 2nd Cup Series 50 minute practice session
Saturday 5pm ET – Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 (Xfinity Series 120-lap race)
Sunday 2:30pm ET – 65th running of the Daytona 500 (Cup Series 200-lap race)
Featured Image: 20: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.”
Alex Bowman will miss Talladega with concussion-like symptoms.
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.
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 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)
Martin Truex Jr. led the final 25 laps holding off the chasing Richard Childress Racing duo of Austin Dillon and former teammate Kyle Busch to win the 150-lap Clash at the LA Coliseum under the lights.
Truex Jr. spent most of the race up front alongside Toyota teammate Bubba Wallace who led 40 laps including leading going into the halftime break after a two-lap shootout holding off Dillon. With seven laps to go Dillon dumped Wallace in turn one fighting over second place as Truex pulled away. Wallace ended up finishing 22nd.
Truex stated that there was a “lot of fire in my belly to change what we did last year” in reference to going winless in the 2022 season and just missing making the playoffs.
It’s a complete reversal of last year’s inaugural clash at the LA Coliseum where the 2017 Cup champion barely made the main event, was unable to pass and spun on his own on the final lap. Truex said Sunday’s race day from winning heat two before the main race onwards has been “a huge confidence booster” now going into Daytona.
A new and unexpected addition for NASCAR fans to this year’s Clash at the LA Coliseum was the top three drivers receiving honorary “Clash” medals post-race, in what was a nod to the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games previously held at the Coliseum, as opposed to just the race winner receiving a trophy. Truex additionally was awarded with a separate Clash trophy.
Dillon’s new teammate and two-time champion Kyle Busch experienced getting moved himself when with 65 laps to go, reigning champion Joey Logano drove deep into turn three and tagging Busch, spinning him around. Not at all pleased with the Team Penske driver’s actions Busch said post-race “Logano didn’t get hit by nobody. He just flat-out drove through me, so he’s got another one coming. I owe him a few.” Busch then impressively drove back up through the field from 25th to second before relinquishing the position to Dillon with four laps to go.
Busch’s climb back through the field was all the more impressive given that this year’s race at the Coliseum dealt out 16 cautions, over three times as many compared with last year’s five, including being bombarded with yellows during the middle third of the race with many cars spinning out including AJ Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin, Ty Gibbs, and Kevin Harvick after being tagged, attempting to race around the extremely tight quarters arena.
Busch post-race said “we were spoiled” by last year’s race with Dillon adding there was “much more parody” this time around with the teams and drivers being more familiar with the track. Most of the race was also ran under the lights increasing the overall grip for the drivers compared to last year’s daytime running of the event.
Busch went on to say that if they had used the old generation car in Sunday’s race, half of the radiators would have been knocked out with Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson adding that the current generation car is much stiffer and stronger in comparison.
It was actually New England’s Ryan Preece “Lightning” who led the most laps with 43 but shortly after getting bumped out of the way for the lead by Truex Jr. with 25 to go, his car experienced a temporary electrical problem and quickly fell back to fifth; Preece finished seventh. Preece had been Stewart-Haas Racing’s reserve driver in 2022 after competing full-time for three seasons for JTG Daugherty Racing.
Preece climbed through the stock car ranks by dominating on the short tracks in the New England region so Truex was “not shocked at all” to see him leading at the quarter-mile mile track despite being out of a full-time Cup ride last year.
Pole-sitter Aric Almirola led the opening 16 laps before being overtaken by Denny Hamlin. By lap 67 however he found himself being lapped by then leader Bubba Wallace.
It was a short lived race for Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones, previously known as Petty GMS Racing in 2022, after he made contact with Kevin Harvick, damaging the toe link, forcing him to retire.
Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney had a rough ride of a race after being spun out twice, the first time in turn one in the opening stage of the race, with the second incident seeing him end up backwards in the turn two wall while running ninth.
Ty Gibbs and Todd Gilliland crossed swords for several laps knocking into each other’s fenders before on lap 43 AJ Allmendinger, an innocent bystander, would get wiped out by Gilliland after Gibbs ran into the back of him. Gilliland would then spin out Harvick on lap 72 before having the favour returned with 69 laps to go. Gibbs would retire with suspension damage.
Another draw for fans attending the Clash was the pre-race entertainment as well as the Clash’s halftime show. Cypress Hill performed ahead of pre-race ceremonies that had many bobbing their heads to the multi-platinum hip hop group.
As NASCAR celebrates its 75th anniversary, the biggest race of the season, the 65th running of the Daytona 500 is less than two weeks away, with the Daytona Duels taking place on February 16th starting at 7pm ET and the green flag for the Daytona 500 flying on February 19th at 2:30pm ET. You don’t wanna miss it!
Full race results
Martin Truex Jr.
Heat 1 winner – Aric Almirola
Heat 2 winner – Martin Truex Jr.
Heat 3 winner – Denny Hamlin
Heat 4 winner – William Byron
First last chance qualifying race – Michael McDowell
Second last chance qualifying race – Chase Elliott
Featured Image: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, celebrates with the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Clash at The Coliseum at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)