Thursday, March 30 2023

Of the 33 full-time drivers in the Cup Series this season, only seven have won championships.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Brad Kesleowski, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano have hoisted the Cup trophy in their careers.

That leaves 26 drivers seeking their first championship.

Who are the five most likely drivers to win their first title in 2023?  Here’s a look at my list ahead of a season that kicks off Feb. 19 with the Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX).


1. Denny Hamlin

He, of course, has to top this list. Hamlin has done just about everything there is to do in a Cup car. He has 48 Cup wins. He has won the Daytona 500 three times. He has won at 19 current tracks (the most notable track he hasn’t won at is Indianapolis). Will this be the year? Every year there would be reasons to say this will be the year. His 17 seasons without a Cup title is the reason to say it won’t.

2. Christopher Bell

Sticking with the Joe Gibbs Racing theme here, Bell has shown the ability to perform under pressure as he won two must-win races to advance in the playoffs last year and finished third overall. He has a two-time championship crew chief in Adam Stevens. And he’s just entering his fourth year as a Cup driver.

Bell on upcoming season

Christopher Bell explains what worked well for him in 2022 what he would want to duplicate this season.

3. Ross Chastain

Chastain finished second in the standings last year and showed more aggressiveness and more speed than he had previously in his career. If he can make it to Phoenix, as he did last year, he’ll be a threat. The problem is getting there. The Trackhouse driver did it last year despite not winning over the final 26 races. That might not be good enough this year.

4. Ryan Blaney

Blaney has more experience (270 Cup starts) than three other drivers on this list (only Hamlin has more). He didn’t win a points race last year and a couple of mistakes in the semifinal round kept him from having a shot at Phoenix. He earned nine stage wins last year, showing he was fast and could lead laps. It would surprise no one if he ends up being a threat and maybe one of the biggest challenges to Penske teammate Joey Logano for the title.

Blaney on dissapoiting 2022

Ryan Blaney says he has to put the disappointment from last year behind him.

5. Chase Briscoe

Briscoe ran well in the playoffs last year but had a disappointing summer. Going into his third full year, he has the potential of seeing this season be his breakout campaign. He needs to be more consistent. At least he knows he isn’t racing for his job — he just signed a contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing to remain there at least through 2025 and likely longer.

Can Briscoe be next SHR superstar?

Chase Briscoe on trying to fill the void when Kevin Harvick leaves after this season as well as what he needs to do to be more consistent in 2023.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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