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NASCAR Cup Series 2023 Season Preview: Driver Changes and Rookies

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is nearly upon us! The full complement of Speedweeks events and racing will begin early next week at Daytona International Speedway. Of course, NASCAR’s opening week will be capped off with the 65th running of the Daytona 500. As always, there are several NASCAR driver changes that have transpired. From a former champion switching teams to the dynamic rookie duo joining the fray, the landscape looks a bit different than it did just one year ago.

Let’s take a look at the driver changes and new full-time drivers who will be competing as NASCAR Cup Series rookies in 2023.

Kyle Busch 2023 NASCAR Cup Series preview driver changes rookies free agents
Credit: HHP/Jim Fluharty

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Changes for 2023

The following sections will highlight the Cup Series drivers who have changed teams and/or rides on a full-time basis ahead of the 2023 NASCAR season.

Kyle Busch, No. 8, Richard Childress Racing

By far the most noteworthy of the NASCAR driver changes this season is former Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch switching teams. Busch has been driving the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing for as long as many can remember. The two sides failed to agree on a new contract and Busch ultimately made the move to Richard Childress Racing. “Rowdy” has struggled by his standards the past couple of years and will look to get back to delivering results behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger, No. 16, Kaulig Racing

After running a NASCAR Cup Series schedule for Kaulig Racing last year, A.J. Allmendinger is set to drive the No. 16 car on a full-time basis in 2023. Although Allmendinger has been running in the Xfinity Series for the past few years, he will hardly be a Cup Series rookie. The road course ace has had his career rejuvenated since joining Kaulig Racing and will aim to help the organization take the next step in just its second year fielding a full-time Cup Series operation.

Ryan Preece, No. 41, Stewart-Haas Racing

To the surprise of many, Stewart-Haas Racing elected to remove Cole Custer from the No. 41 car. This move paved the way for Ryan Preece will return to the NASCAR Cup Series on a full-time basis sooner than expected. Last year, Preece served as the fill-in driver for SHR while also running several races in the Xfinity and Truck Series. He was a victim of circumstances at JTG Daugherty Racing where he lost his ride due to the team downsizing. Preece will be an intriguing driver to watch in 2023.

Tyler Reddick, No. 45, 23XI Racing

Initially, Tyler Reddick was not supposed to join 23XI Racing until the 2024 season. However, with RCR signing Kyle Busch, this freed him up to get out of his contract a year early. Reddick had the best season of his young NASCAR Cup Series career in 2022, winning three races and emerging as a top contender on the road courses. He now joins the team co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin where he will take over the No. 45 Toyota that was vacated following Kurt Busch’s retirement.

Ty Dillon, No. 77, Spire Motorsports

After a disappointing one-and-done stint with Legacy Motor Club, Ty Dillon was able to land another full-time ride in the NASCAR Cup Series. For the past few years, Spire Motorsports has elected to have multiple drivers pilot the No. 77 car. This year, the ride will belong solely to Dillon. Perhaps this continuity will prove to be beneficial for both him and the team. With the Next Gen Car creating increased parity in the sport, even a low-budget team like Spire belives it has a shot to win.

Ty Gibbs 2023 NASCAR Cup Series rookies driver changes preview
Credit: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

NASCAR Cup Series Rookies for 2023

Below, we look at the drivers who will be racing their full-time seasons at NASCAR’s top level and thus qualify as Cup Series rookies in 2023.

Ty Gibbs, No. 54, Joe Gibbs Racing

Fresh off of winning the Xfinity Series Championship, 20-year-old Ty Gibbs will be transitioning to the Cup Series on a full-time basis in 2023. Gibbs is the grandson of JGR team owner, Joe Gibbs, and has been turning heads ever since debuting in the sport. Of course, he rubbed many people the wrong way with how he went about winning the series championship last fall. Things will be tougher as a NASCAR Cup Series rookie, but the experience he gained filling in for Kurt Busch late last year should help.

Noah Gragson, No. 42, Legacy Motor Club

In many ways, it’s only fitting that Noah Gragson makes up the other half of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series rookie duo. After all, it was he and Gibbs who were the two best drivers in last year’s Xfinity Series Playoffs. Gragson also gained plenty of seat time in a Cup car last season running part-time for Kaulig Racing and Beard Motorsports as well as Hendrick Motorsports on a fill-in basis. He is just one of many reasons why optimism surrounding the rebranded Legacy Motor Club is high heading into 2023.

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