Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs have both been granted rookie status ahead of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, NASCAR announced Thursday.
Gragson, driver of the No. 42 LEGACY Motor Club Chevrolet, made 18 Cup Series starts last year, the majority of which came for Kaulig Racing in its No. 16 Chevrolet. Ty Gibbs, driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, made 15 starts for 23XI Racing as Kurt Busch recovered from a concussion.
The duo will battle each other for 2023 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors after heated battles the past two years in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Gibbs triumphed on Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway, taking home the 2022 Xfinity championship with his seventh win of the season and 11th of his career.
Gragson was victorious eight times last season and finished runner-up to Gibbs in the championship race by 0.397 seconds in his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. In total, Gragson has collected 13 Xfinity wins and two Craftsman Truck Series victories.
This could be seen as a controversial decision by NASCAR here. It can be hard to call either a “rookie” when Gragson raced literally half of a season last year and Gibbs nearly half himself.
In the past, the requirement was no more than 7 career Cup starts to be considered a rookie at the beginning of a full-time season. These two have more than doubled that. While that rule no longer exists and this is under NASCAR’s discretion, it’s hard to fathom either being considered “rookies” when they’re far from it.
On the flipside, why wouldn’t NASCAR want a rookie battle between these 2 in Cup though? This is a true rivalry and being apart of the same rookie class always pits them against one another.
The question though is, does NASCAR look foolish in allowing them eligibility?
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff will sport rookie stripes contending for the division’s Rookie of the Year honors. Smith, driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, made nine starts for JGR last season with a career-best finish of third. Retzlaff will pilot the No. 31 Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet in 2023 after making five starts for RSS Racing and four for Our Motorsports in 2022.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will have a hefty dose of rookie contenders in 2023. GMS Racing teammates Rajah Caruth and Daniel Dye will battle Rev Racing’s Nick Sanchez, Bill McAnally Racing’s Jake Garcia, and Bret Holmes Racing owner/driver Bret Holmes for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.