AVONDALE, AZ — We’re now in the dawn of the NASCAR season. One chapter closed on Sunday in Phoenix and in 90 days, we’ll be back in action in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the 2nd Busch Light Clash in So Cal. NASCAR has not only the longest season in all of sports, but as a result of that, the shortest offseason as well. With that said, here are five things to watch over the next few months.
Next Gen Updates
While this year’s offseason will be nothing like last with teams having to quickly assemble the parts and bodies of the new Next Gen race car as well as having some testing opportunities, there’s still some things to watch out of this new car between November and February.
The cars will be a fresh update in regards to safety with NASCAR trying to figure out a way to make these drivers more secure in the cockpits and hope to eliminate the rash of head injuries that we witnessed this past season. As a result of that, there will be some modified test sessions to get it right.
Also, each manufacturer submitted some fresh designs to the new car in areas of the hood and rear end deck lid areas. That too will be updated.
Most of the silly season has been wrapped up. The only few items left to button up are Ty Gibbs and Joe Gibbs Racing’s announcement that the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs will move up to replace the departing Kyle Busch. Outside of that, there’s not much else to announce outside of the smaller budgeted teams shoring up their plans.
Toyota is set.
Ford is pretty much set too.
Penske signed Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano to multi-year extensions and has Austin Cindric on a rookie deal. Harrison Burton is back with the Wood Brothers while SHR has the same 4 car lineup with Aric Almirola announcing that he’ll forego retirement and come back on a new multi-year deal.
For Chevy, HMS is set with their current 4 car lineup with signing Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and William Byron to extensions already. Trackhouse has both drivers back with Daniel Suarez on a one-year contract extension. Kaulig has Justin Haley back and now AJ Allmendinger full-time in the 2nd car. RCR has Reddick and Busch. JTG has Ricky Stenhouse Jr. back. Petty GMS signed Erik Jones to an extension as well as bringing Noah Gragson up to drive the 42.
The only other rides for 2023 open are with smaller teams like Front Row Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing and Live Fast Motorsports.
- Hendrick Motorsports (4) – Larson, Elliott, Byron and Bowman. Each are back in 2023.
- Trackhouse Racing (2) – Ross Chastain is back while Daniel Suarez signed a one-year extension.
- Richard Childress Racing (2) – Austin Dillon is back in the 3 while Kyle Busch moves over to replace Tyler Reddick in the 8.
- Petty GMS Racing (2) – Erik Jones is back while Noah Gragson moves up from the Xfinity Series to run the 42.
- Kaulig Racing (2) – Justin Haley is back in 2023 with AJ Allmendinger taking the 2nd car on a full time ride next season too.
- Spire Motorsports (2) – Corey LaJoie is back in the 7 while Ty Dillon drives the 77 now.
- JTG Daugherty Racing (1) – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is back for 2023
- Stewart-Haas Racing (4) – All 4 drivers are back in 2023 but 3 of them are free agents for the season after.
- Team Penske (3) – All 3 drivers are back in 2023 with 2 of them signing extensions this season.
- RFK Racing (2) – Both drivers are back in 2023.
- Rick Ware Racing (2) – 2 seats are open as of now for 2023.
- Front Row Motorsports (2) – Both rides are open for 2023.
- Live Fast Motorsports (1) – Their seat is open for now in 2023.
- Wood Brothers (1) – Harrison Burton is back in 2023.
- Joe Gibbs Racing (4) – Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. are each back in 2023. Truex just signed a one-year extension this past June. Rumor is Ty Gibbs will graduate up to the 18.
- 23XI Racing (2) – Bubba Wallace signed a new extension this past August while Tyler Reddick moves over a year early to replace Kurt Busch in the 45.
The focus is now pretty much on 2024 though. Suarez, Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Alex Bowman are each free agents at the end of next season. Suarez is betting on himself while Truex and Harvick could step out the door in a swan song season leaving rides with JGR and SHR open.
By all accounts, SHR is bracing themselves for life after Harvick starting in 2024. There’s even a possibility that Almiorla walks after next season too leaving them with both Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer. Ryan Preece will play into the mix and it will be interesting if Hailie Deegan will too.
The future of drivers and their respective teams is one thing, but what about the teams in this sport in general? Last month it was revealed that the owners are pissed. The RTA stepped in because for 2025, a new contract has to be in place for not only charters, but for the piece of the pie for the next TV contract.
The owners submitted a 7 point plan months ago. NASCAR said they’d counter and give feedback. Weeks turned to months with no direction from NASCAR on what they were going to do. Finally, they sat down in Charlotte and the meeting didn’t go well.
The teams are worried about the future because NASCAR’s plan is for them to cut more cost via employment. There’s not many other areas to cut back. The teams are already operating on the slimmest budgets in decades and now NASCAR is asking for them to make more concessions.
That’s not going to fly.
The team expected a bump in revenue from this next TV deal and it sounds like NASCAR’s version is a slim increase for the teams.
This is a massive story to watch next season to see how this evolves.
For me, Custer will always stay due to his dad and the same goes with Chase Briscoe in the No.14. But I’d like to see Preece at RWR full-time with Stewart-Haas support for 2023 & maybe 2024 before he takes over Harvick’s 4 seat in 2024 or 2025. And for Almirola, I’d say he will keep on driving a bit longer since he changed his mind about his retirement plans until Stewart-Haas can find someone suitable to step up into his shoes at some point once Almriola chooses again to retire.