TRACK TIME | A Look Back at 2023

Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford, celebrates after winning the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship, finishing first of the Championship 4 drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 5, 2023, in Avondale, Arizona.

An incredible start was followed by a year of surprises.

Here’s how it all unfolded, from Ricky Stenhouse’s marathon win to Ryan Blaney’s stellar finish. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. began NASCAR’s 2024 Cup Series by winning the longest-ever Daytona 500 in history, beating Joey Logano in the second overtime period. NASCAR also made a stop at the remodeled North Wilkesboro Speedway for the first time since 1996. Kyle Larson took the lead during lap 18 of the All-Star race and never let it go.

The Coca-Cola 600 suffered several weather delays before producing a series of the year’s most action-packed moments. There were an incredible 16 cautions before Ryan Blaney bested the field. The win gave team owner Roger Penske his first same-year championships in top NASCAR and IndyCar races. Martin Truex Jr. decided to stick with Joe Gibbs Racing at the last moment, then won three times to capture 2023’s regular-season title. He’d missed the playoffs entirely the year before. NASCAR also took to the streets of Chicago in a historic first for racing. Shane van Gisbergen won in his Cup Series debut, joining Johnny Rutherford as the only other driver to have done so.

Kyle Busch rebounded nicely after winning just three races over the previous three seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing. Now with Richard Childress, he claimed three wins in 2023 alone — including his second ever after switching teams. Denny Hamlin closed out the Round of 16 with a dominating performance at Bristol Motor Speedway, leading the final 135 laps. AJ Allmendinger scored his first Cup Series win since 2021 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course, while eventual champ Ryan Blaney continued his sterling late-season run.

As the final six races unfolded, Blaney ended up winning at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway while finishing runner-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix Raceway. He then began the playoffs with backto-back 9th and 12th-place finishes at Darlington Raceway and Kansas Speedway. Perhaps his most impressive win was at Martinsville: Blaney led 145 of the 500 laps in the playoff race, assuring his spot in the Championship 4 round at Phoenix the following week. Blaney would go on to claim the NASCAR Cup Series crown just one year after failing to win even one race. He was also winless back in 2016.