The 2023 NASCAR Season officially starts Sunday with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. Just for a little bit of fun, I'm going to make some fun predictions for this season that some people might think are absurd, but I believe will happen.
1. The Chicago Street Race Will Be A Success
Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I have a lot of confidence in NASCAR at the moment. They've pulled off some the most innovative events in the history of NASCAR the last couple years. Bristol Dirt has not been my favorite event, but the numbers don't lie - people are watching.
Whatever your feelings are, over 4 million people watched the 2022 dirt race and that's something NASCAR isn't going to take lightly. Same thing with the LA Clash - the event drew in 4.3 million viewers last year, up from 1.6 million at the Daytona RC in 2021.
NASCAR knows this type of innovation is the future, that's why events like the Chicago Street Course are going to keep popping up. Honestly, I'm okay with it. It keeps things interesting.
Maybe saying the event will be a "success" is ambiguous for bold predictions - so I'll clarify and say that I believe that the majority of drivers, officials, and fans will be happy with the event and the product on track. Even if the event flops, that's only strike one for NASCAR and these three new huge innovative events (Chicago, LA, Bristol Dirt). Considering NASCAR has delivered exactly what was intended with the past two new events, it's hard for me to believe that this event will be a complete failure.
2. JGR and HMS Both Have One Driver That Misses The Playoffs
Last season all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers made the playoffs, and so did three of four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. The exception being Martin Truex Jr. who easily could've made the playoffs with his speed, but he just didn't get that win.
The reason I feel pretty good about this prediction is because I don't think Ty Gibbs will make the playoffs. I just don't see him winning a race, and definitely don't see him pointing his way in - especially if we have a dozen or more winners in the regular season again.
On the HMS side of things, I could see a scenario where Alex Bowman or William Byron miss the playoffs. On the other hand, I could also see a scenario where either of them make it to the round of 8 in the playoffs. Bowman and Byron are both just so inconsistent to the point where either one of them could miss the playoffs if they don't get a regular season win. Let's not kid ourselves - if it wasn't for that Las Vegas win where Bowman had nowhere close to the fastest car, he would've missed the playoffs. If that race did not fall into his lap, he would have missed the 2022 playoffs.
3. Chase Briscoe Becomes SHR's Number 1 Driver
Chase Briscoe had a very respectable 2022 and I think he takes another step in 2023. He had only 3 less top-5s than current team leader Kevin Harvick, and made it deeper into the playoffs than Harvick. With this officially being Kevin's last year, this is Briscoe's shot to prove he is going to to be SHR's star moving forward. If Briscoe makes a legit championship push with a more consistent regular season, Gene Haas and Tony Stewart may be forced to move Chase up the food chain rather than trying to pickup a star from free agency.
This would be huge for Briscoe. A big year could lead to him getting Rodney Childers for 2024. That would be a great combination, and could net a championship some day. Regardless, I really rate Chase Briscoe highly as a driver and firmly believe he will have a solid three win season. Let's not forget his playoff push from last year with three top-5s in the final seven races. He's largely dismissed, but I think he shocks a lot of people this year.
4. Parity Takes a Backseat
This is a much less fun prediction, but I think that we see a return to old NASCAR ways. There is just no shot 19 different drivers win again. There are great drivers, exciting new teams, and fun storylines throughout the field, but not everyone can have a great year. (Read about what teams I think will have a great 2023 season).
The primary reason for this is that the big teams like JGR, HMS, and Penske obviously have a lot more resources than smaller teams. A whole offseason with unlimited data and resources could lead to more separation in the field. A lot of the little guys just won't have the same speed, like Legacy Motor Club. It's really hard to tell who the big losers will be, but at the moment there are just too many mouths to feed for only a 36 race season. I think Reddick may win a lot more races this season, like in the 5-6 races bracket. Larson and Elliott may combine for 9 - so that is nearly half the races between 3 drivers. Not to mention guys like Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain who easily could have had several more wins. Regardless, I would be shocked to see any more than 13 or 14 winners this year.