NASCAR 2023 Preview: The Races, The Drivers, The Chase
We are days away from the points-based start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series. The Daytona 500 means the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.”
As part of our NASCAR picks page on gambling.com, it is time to examine some headline tracks, explain a few changes, and look at some drivers and manufacturers. Let's begin.
NASCAR Big Races 2023
Again, the 2.5-mile tri-oval track features those patented 31-degree banked turns and the 16-18 degree tri-oval. Daytona feels like a 200-lap centrifuge. No wonder it is often referred to as one of the top “car collectors” in NASCAR.
It represents the first and grandest race for drivers. This track typically is dominated in qualifying by Hendrick Motorsports, who carries some fast cars. Now, the race is where Ford naturally excels.
Last year, seven of the top nine finishers were from Ford. Could there be a repeat? Toyota was extremely quick in the early going. Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch were up front last year, and though Busch changed teams to Richard Childress Racing, he has to be considered a contender for this race and the Series.
Expect Daytona to have its share of cautions, but not the competitive break. The race often finishes under cover of night and on a track that cools down. Expect the unexpected.
Memorial Day weekend brings the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte, North Carolina. The 400-lap race is another one that begins during the day and ends at night. Some look toward the dirt race at Bristol, but the Charlotte race is always one of those crown jewels of the racing season.
After all, there’s some barbecue and a whole lot of racing. This often follows the Indianapolis 500, which makes for quite an afternoon and evening.
Again, prestige and glory reign with the race and a little nostalgia. With this being the 75th year of NASCAR, expect a little more pomp and circumstance than usual.
Five of the last eight winners have come from Toyota, but anyone from Chevy or Ford can win this race with four 100-lap stages. This is the highest-scoring race of the 2023 season.
Verizon 200 At The Brickyard
The NASCAR drivers do not race around the oval at the Brickyard anymore. Instead, they race on a hybrid road course that features portions of the oval and the road course.
The 82-lap jaunt has tested the patience of many drivers in its first two years of existence. One thing to keep an eye on is the Chevrolet which has won both races. A.J. Allmendinger won the inaugural in 2021, and Tyler Reddick triumphed last year.
This race features a few of its fireworks in August and highlights back-to-back road races (Watkins Glen). Passing is difficult on the course, but most drivers still take considerable risks. This leads to some wild finishes which fans and experts enjoy.
More Gambling.com NASCAR Season Previews
NASCAR Championship Betting: Best Bets to Make
NASCAR Driver Rankings: Who Tops the List for the 2023 Season?
Cook-Out Southern 500
The traditional Labor Day weekend race begins “The Chase,” a 10-race dash to determine the NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Sixteen drivers enter a gauntlet of sorts. Darlington is often called the track “too tough to tame” for a good reason. It may only be 1.386 miles, but the egg-shaped track features nasty pavement and turns that test the drivers' souls.
A driver must have a steely resolve here and a little luck. This South Carolina race holds a special place in the hearts of many and is often one of the most competitive races of the season. The three big manufacturers have all won here recently. Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones have won twice in the past six seasons.
NASCAR Cup Championship At Phoenix
Whether one agrees with the season's final race being at Phoenix, the format is fun, with the last four drivers getting top billing for this 312-lap ride on a primarily flat one-mile track.
The first weekend of November is when the race is held. Chevy and Toyota have mostly dominated this finale, but Joey Logano has won twice. Those represent the only Ford wins in the last decade.
The last three seasons have seen the winner also take home the NASCAR Championship. Will this year make that 4-for-4? It's possible, given the way the race is run.
NASCAR Drivers to Watch
The drivers make NASCAR complete with feuds and all sorts of what can be considered crazy.
With all the paint traded over a 36-race season, there are many ups and downs. Here are just a few of the notables heading into this season.
Chase Elliott won the 2020 NASCAR Championship and has been a fixture since, contending for more titles. The Hendrick Motorsports Racing driver evolved over the past several years specializing less on road courses and more on all NASCAR courses. Elliott is rightfully a series favorite at +550 to take his second crown. It will take a lot of work.
The 27-year-old wants to win the Daytona 500 desperately but, again, will be a driving force in how the 2023 championship plays out more importantly.
What did Kyle Larson learn in 2022? After blazing through 2021 and winning 10 races, 2022 presented a different reality. Larson and his No. 5 car only saw victory lane three times. He finished outside of the final four in “The Chase,” too. Larson always has one of the fastest cars, and his driving style lends to some incredible finishes.
Now, can he bounce back? He is slotted right behind Elliott at around +600 because most believe Larson can especially thrive during the final races.
Denny Hamlin has had some insane rides over the past few seasons. He nearly wound up in his fourth consecutive “Final Four” before Ross Chastain pulled off the “Hail Melon” last year. That said, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has done everything but win a NASCAR Championship. He has won Daytona 500s and just about every possible NASCAR race.
Will 2023 be any different? Hamlin ended well in 2022, considering how poorly things began. Hamlin will be up there and stands at +1000 for a good reason.
Again and again, Ryan Blaney’s 2022 season could be best described as the racer who almost won. It repeatedly happened, time and time again. After three triumphs in 2021, many considered the Team Penske driver a contender to win the whole thing last year. That didn't go according to plan. The No. 12 driver arguably needs to be a bit more selfish.
What does 2023 entail? No one honestly knows. It all comes down to the crucial moments for Blaney. How does he handle them this time around?
William Byron has been called the racer of consistency. Last year was slightly different from the 2021 script, where Byron kept pulling Top 10 results. Some of those were attributed to bad luck. Hendrick Motorsports Driver and his No. 24 car will be a force to be reckoned with in 2023.
It is hard to believe Byron is only 25. Hendrick carries three of the best drivers in NASCAR, and the third, arguably, might be the most dangerous.
After being with Joe Gibbs Racing for 15 years, Kyle Busch returned to Chevrolet under the Richard Childress Racing umbrella. The car in the No. 8 showed how fast he could be at the Busch Light Clash. However, he played team politics. That was unexpected. Busch figures to be a wild card in 2023. No one knows how he will contend. It is known that he will.
With older brother Kurt retiring, the only Busch left figures to mix it up as the season progresses. It is too much not to do so.
This is it for Kevin Harvick. At the end of 2023, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said he would retire. He won twice last season, albeit somewhat unexpectedly. The No. 4 car always seems to be in the middle of something. It will hardly be a swan song for Harvick as he expects to contend more often than not.
Martin Truex Jr.
Then, there is Martin Truex Jr. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has been on some run. For all that, he has won the NASCAR Championship only once (like Harvick). There were several second-place results, then the thud last year where Truex failed to win once despite 15 Top 10 results. Truex Jr. missed the chase as a result.
With renewed focus, the No. 19 driver looks ready to atone for 2022. Will his Busch Light Clash win be a springboard? Stay tuned.
How Do the Manufacturers Factor?
At Gambling.com, we will pace you through every step of the 36-race schedule. Keeping up with the Fords, Chevys, and Totoyas is no easy feat. All three manufacturers have engines and cars that work better on some tracks than others.
No one expects the Toyota car to have quite the issues it had early last year. As the season went along, there were fewer problems, but it put a massive dent in that 2022 campaign despite a few triumphs.
Chevy is the crown wearer of the three manufacturers (42 overall titles). It dominated from 2003-15. Since then, it was a bumpy ride, but Chevrolet did win the past two years. Toyota has three crowns, and even Ford has won twice (Joey Logano). This year feels wider open than even last season.
Chevy may be an early favorite but don't count out either Toyota or Ford. Thanks for reading, and let’s rev up those engines!
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