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What Happened In NASCAR In 2023?

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season was one filled with upset winners, emerging teams and another first-time champion. Thanks to a dominant stretch late in the playoffs, 29-year-old Ryan Blaney won his first championship, besting the like of Kyle Larson, William Byron and Christopher Bell. Hopefully you were like us and had him in your NASCAR betting picks to win at Talladega, Martinsville and the championship.

Season of Surprises

Despite scoring a win in 2022, no one expected Chris Buescher to be a staple on your NASCAR betting card. RFK Racing, as a unit, had a scorching summer, winning three-of-five races, including a one-two finish with teammate/owner Brad Keselowski at Daytona. Both drivers made the playoffs and Buescher reached the Round of Eight.

What Happened In NASCAR In 2023? Favorites Failed to Achieve Checkered Flags
Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet | James Gilbert/Getty Images/AFP

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. returned to victory lane for the first time since 2017 at the Daytona 500. Michael McDowell earned Front Row Motorsports a spot in the playoffs for the second year in a row, thanks to a dominant win at the Indianapolis Road Course. And AJ Allmendinger spoiled the playoffs when he took the checkered flag at the Charlotte Roval in what was perhaps his final full-time Cup season.

But the biggest surprise of all was New Zealand native and three-time SuperCars champion Shane van Gisbergen, who opened with 100-1 NASCAR betting odds, becoming the seventh-driver (and first since 1963) to win a points-paying race in their first career start, doing so at the inaugural Chicago Street Course race.

Not all surprises were good, though, as 2020 champ Chase Elliott endured one of the worst seasons of his career, failing to win a race after winning at least two in each of the last five seasons. He also missed five races after fracturing his leg in a snowboarding accident and was suspended for another one after intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin at the Coke 600. The sport’s most popular driver scored seven top-fives, but failed to secure the elusive win to earn a playoff spot.

Roller Coaster Ride for the Veterans

For the umpteenth time in his career, 2023 appeared to finally be the year where Denny Hamlin would break through and win his first championship. The 2021 champ, Kyle Larson, who won five races on the season, and Hamlin were going blow-for-blow to start the playoffs.

But a disappointing round of 12 and 8 left Hamlin on the outside looking in of the championship race. Meanwhile, Larson fell short of capturing his second Cup.

Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. also appeared to be the favorite to win the championship, winning the regular season championship and scoring three wins, following a winless 2022.

The 18-year Cup veteran endured a brutal stretch to start the playoffs that he couldn’t bounce back from, failing to escape the Round of 12. But the success led to Truex signing on for at least one more season in 2024.

While Truex will be staying, the sport bid adieu to the retiring Kevin Harvick. He struggled in 2023 and missed the playoffs, but the 2014 champ notched 60 wins in his career while facing the impossible task of replacing Dale Earnhardt in the aftermath of his death. Harvick’s departure means there are now zero full-time drivers that ran in the Winston Cup era.

Next week, we will look at what to expect for the Cup Series in 2024 and how it will affect the NASCAR betting landscape.


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