NASCAR 2024: Team Review and Season Predictions

Welcome back to our beginner’s guide to NASCAR! Last time, we had a general primer on the sport, and this time, we’re here to discuss the 36 full-time cars that make up the Cup Series field. Every time you tune in to watch a race, keep an eye out for these cars, see what storylines you can spot and pick a favorite!

Team Penske – Ford

The cars: Austin Cindric No. 2, Ryan Blaney No. 12, Joey Logano No. 22

The story: Penske is a team at the top of their game, with Logano winning the 2022 championship and Blaney winning the 2023 championship. Blaney has continued his form into 2024, while Logano has had a terrible start but is typically strong in the summer stretch. Cindric, meanwhile, looks to rebound in his third full-time season after a sophomore slump last year. Can the Penske crew make it three titles in a row?

The predictions: Blaney and Logano will both be title contenders as usual despite Logano’s slow start. Cindric will probably still be behind his teammates, but I expect him to improve over last year in nearly every metric and possibly get his second career win.

Wood Brothers Racing – Ford

The cars: Harrison Burton No. 21

The story: Wood Brothers is a team with a long history, having run the No. 21 car with the same paint scheme since the 1960s. Historical success does not translate to consistent results, however, and the No. 21 car has been quite slow with Burton behind the wheel. Even a close technical alliance with Penske hasn’t done much to help their speed.

The predictions: WBR has been terrible since Burton took over driving duties in 2022, and I don’t expect them to do much better in 2024. Burton needs to have a good year or else his time in the Cup Series might be over.

RFK Racing – Ford

The cars: Brad Keselowski No. 6, Chris Buescher No. 17

The story: After Buesher won three races in 2023 and both RFK cars finished top 8 in points, expectations for this team are high going into 2024. After a decade-long slump that saw the team downsize from five cars to two and lose multiple championship-tier drivers, RFK’s future is finally looking bright with a solid start to 2024.

The predictions: Keselowski is the last remaining competitive owner-driver, and I expect him to break his two-year winless drought this season. Buescher’s three wins should give him the confidence to continue his streak. A championship push may well be realistic for both RFK cars.

Stewart-Haas Racing – Ford

The cars: Josh Berry No. 4, Noah Gragson No. 10, Chase Briscoe No. 14, Ryan Preece No. 41

The story: Once a championship-tier organization, SHR is shedding relevance with each passing year. 2014 champion Kevin Harvick and longtime veteran Aric Almirola retired after 2023 with their roles filled by rookie Berry and second-year driver Gragson. Last year, Harvick dragged his team to relevance, but he’s not here to repeat those glories in 2024.

The predictions: With Harvick’s retirement, SHR lost its best driver by far. I would be shocked if any of their four cars were in the top 20 in points since Briscoe and the talented rookie Berry are their only realistic chances at relevance.

Front Row Motorsports – Ford

The cars: Michael McDowell No. 34, Todd Gilliland No. 38

The story: McDowell has been the underdog story of the 2020s, winning races in both 2021 and 2023  and bringing long-time backmarkers FRM to relevance. The No. 34 has made the most out of FRM’s resources and become a fan favorite through consistency and persistence which have brought the rewards of increased funding and support from Ford going into 2024.

The predictions: FRM’s increased manufacturer support has already paid dividends with McDowell and Gilliland showing lots of speed early in 2024. Front Row won’t make a championship run yet, but I would expect McDowell to compete for a win or two.

Michael McDowell’s No. 34 in Daytona Speedweeks, 2017. (Zach Catanzareti Photo/Flickr)

Rick Ware Racing – Ford

The cars: (Multiple Drivers) No. 15, Justin Haley No. 51

The story: Rick Ware has always been a backmarker team with quite slow cars, but they’ve been improving over the past few seasons. Adding Haley, a proven competitor capable of getting good runs out of weak cars, is a significant upgrade for this team, and we’ve seen RWR show more speed than usual early in 2024.

The predictions: RWR isn’t great, and they won’t be winning races anytime soon. What RWR is looking for is consistency and improvement, which I believe Haley can bring in the No. 51 while the No. 15 hosts a few drivers looking for a full-time ride.

Hendrick Motorsports – Chevy

The cars: Kyle Larson No. 5, Chase Elliott No. 9, William Byron No. 24, Alex Bowman No. 48

The story: This team oozes talent. Byron is coming off a breakout six-win year, Bowman is a dependable performer and 2020 champ Elliott is looking for revenge after a winless 2023. Add Larson, the 2021 champ and arguably the best race car driver in the world, and you have a terrifying juggernaut. They’ve already won three of the first six races: Byron won at Daytona and Circuit of the Americas, while Larson took Las Vegas.

The predictions: Hendrick is consistently the championship favorite. I expect Elliott and Bowman to have fantastic comeback seasons, Byron to keep winning races and Larson to at least be a championship contender right at the end.

Trackhouse Racing – Chevy

The cars: Ross Chastain No. 1, Daniel Suárez No. 99

The story: The young Trackhouse team is already a top-tier organization going into their fourth year of competition. Chastain is a championship threat with a flair for aggressive driving, Suárez got his second career win at the start of the year and the team co-owned by Pitbull (yes, that Pitbull) remains the most interesting team in the sport.

The predictions: Trackhouse has six wins over the past two seasons, and I think they’ll come back strong this year with both full time cars getting a win and Chastain making another deep championship run.

Richard Childress Racing – Chevy

The cars: Austin Dillon No. 3, Kyle Busch No. 8

The story: Adding two-time champion Busch for the 2023 season was a great decision as he brought the team legitimacy and three wins to boot. Dillon, on the other hand, had his worst statistical year since 2019 and his worst points finish ever. RCR has promise, but if they want to shake the “Richer Children’s Racing” moniker, they’re going to need to prove that both cars are legitimate contenders.

The predictions: In his second season at RCR, Busch will be searching for consistency to match his speed, which I think he’ll find despite a rough start. Dillon will likely rebound, but I still anticipate him to be a non-factor for wins or the championship.

Spire Motorsports – Chevy

The cars: Corey Lajoie No. 7, Zane Smith No. 71, Carson Hocevar No. 77

The story: A long-time backmarker, Spire has quietly been improving in recent years. Lajoie has established himself as a dependable and competent driver, and he’s paired with two talented rookies in Hocevar and Smith for 2024. If the team is going to make a big stride forward, this year would be a great time to see Spire move up the charts.

The predictions: Spire won’t be a title contender, but Lajoie is quite talented and will get a few good finishes. Hocevar and Smith will have some learning to do, but once they settle in, this team has potential to shake up the midfield.

Corey Lajoie’s No. 7 in Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 2024. (TaurusEmerald/Wikipedia)

Kaulig Racing – Chevy

The cars: (Multiple Drivers) No. 16, Daniel Hemric No. 31

The story: Kaulig brings a brand new driver lineup with Justin Haley moving on from the No. 31 and A.J. Allmendinger moving back to the lower-tier series from the No. 16. Hemric, a consistent performer in the lower series, takes over the No. 31 full-time, while the No. 16 has a rotating cast of part-time drivers. This will be an adjustment year; can Kaulig set up for the future?

The predictions: Kaulig has struggled through its first few seasons, and losing two talented, full-time drivers in Haley and Allmendinger is a tough blow. One Kaulig car in the top 20 in points would be a good season for this team.

JTG Daugherty Racing – Chevy

The cars: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. No. 47

The story: JTG Daugherty isn’t a flashy team, but in recent seasons Stenhouse has been a consistent and reliable driver, bringing this small team good results and the occasional win. They don’t have the speed or the resources of the big-name teams, but the JTG Daughtery crew has steadily found ways to finish races well and get themselves unexpected results.

The predictions: The No. 47 car won’t be in contention for a championship, but Stenhouse has shown good form recently, including a win in 2023. Don’t be surprised when this team randomly appears in the top ten or even top five several times this year.

Joe Gibbs Racing – Toyota

The cars: Denny Hamlin No. 11, Martin Truex Jr. No. 19, Christopher Bell No. 20, Ty Gibbs No. 54

The story: Coach Gibbs has built an empire headlined by 2017 champ Truex and 3-time Daytona 500 winner Hamlin. The up-and-coming Bell and Ty Gibbs (grandson of Joe) give them staying power. Despite losing two-time champ Kyle Busch after 2022, JGR has not missed a beat, racking up wins and remaining a title threat. With Bell and Hamlin winning early this year at Phoenix and Bristol, respectively, JGR is setting up for another great season.

The predictions: Truex, Hamlin and Bell have all been title contenders in the past few years, and I expect that to continue. Gibbs showed great promise in his rookie year and his 2024 is off to a fast start. He has a great chance to get his first Cup win later this year.

Christopher Bell’s No. 20 Toyota at Sonoma Raceway, 2021. (TaurusEmerald/Wikipedia)

23XI Racing – Toyota

The cars: Bubba Wallace No. 23, Tyler Reddick No. 45

The story: This team, co-owned by JGR driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan, is coming off its best season yet with Reddick winning twice and both cars finishing top 10 in points. The future appears bright for the organization with two young talents behind the wheel and an ownership group invested in the team’s long-term growth.

The predictions: 23XI has steadily improved with each passing year, and I expect this trend to continue. Reddick will continue to contend for wins and might be a dark horse for the title, while Wallace has a great shot at his third career win.

Legacy Motor Club – Toyota

The cars: John Hunter Nemechek No. 42, Erik Jones No. 43

The story: LMC switched from Chevy to Toyota for the 2024 season after a disappointing 2023. Jones managed to have a few strong runs towards the end of last year. Nemechek joined LMC after two fantastic seasons in the lower series. After a terrible 2023, can LMC rebound into competitive form with a new manufacturer?

The predictions: This team is hard to predict. Despite finishing 27th and 32nd in points last year, there’s a surprising optimism about this team. I don’t expect title contention, but a win for one or even both LMC cars wouldn’t shock me.

Every weekend from now until November, these 36 cars will be in action with their drivers and teams traveling across the nation to compete at all manner of tracks. It is these tracks that we will turn to next, from the high banks of Daytona to the winding esses of Sonoma. I hope to see you there!

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