Race Weekend Central

2024 Preseason Power Rankings: Nos. 10-1

It’s the start of February, which means that the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season is almost upon us. Cars will take to the track this weekend for the Busch Clash at L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 4, and the 66th running of the Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway is less than three weeks away.

With a wide array of driver and team changes from the offseason alongside more minor personnel tweaks — or even a few lineups that stayed exactly the same — there’s a lot to discuss as the Cup Series moves into the third season of the Next Gen era.

For 2024, the Frontstretch staff each voted on a top-30 ranking, taking into account each driver’s 2023 season as well as their outlook for 2024.

Below is where we landed. Positions No. 30-21 were posted on Jan. 30, while positions No. 20-11 were posted yesterday (Jan. 31).

See also
2024 Preseason Power Rankings: Nos. 30-21
See also
2024 Preseason Power Rankings: Nos. 20-11

10. Joey Logano

Joey Logano is a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, so he can put it all together to get into the postseason and peak when it counts. He drives for Team Penske, an organization that’s the two-time defending Cup Series champions. So, the team is obviously there for Logano to go for title number three. 

The trick, however, is making all of that come together at the right time. Logano managed a single win last year. He was solid behind the No. 22 car overall by putting together 11 top-five finishes, the same as his championship season the year before. But a sour opening round, marred by a crash at Bristol Motor Speedway, ended his hopes of repeating as champion in a postseason round with no finishes better than fifth.  

In the end, Logano was pretty good last year, good enough to make the playoffs. But he wasn’t great, and an elimination in the Round of 16 showed that.

Logano has a penchant for running a solid race and being in the position to win in the end. If he can do that multiple times this year, the No. 22 will be a contender in the latter part of the NASCAR Playoffs.  -Brad Harrison

9. Martin Truex Jr.

After a rough 2022 season saw Martin Truex Jr. go winless for the first time since 2014, he finally got the monkey off his back at Dover Motor Speedway last May to score his first points-paying win in the Next Gen car. He followed it up with dominant wins at Sonoma Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the summer, the latter of which saw him lead all but 47 of the 301 laps.

From the eighth race at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track to the 25th race at Watkins Glen International, Truex scored three wins, eight top fives and14 top 10s while leading 756 laps in a 17-race span that led to his second regular season championship.

If these power rankings were done at the end of the regular season in August, Truex. would’ve been a lock for the top five. He might’ve been top billing.

But all the wind was taken out of the No. 19 team’s sails come playoff time. Truex made it to the Round of 8 but scored just two top 10s and had seven finishes of 17th or worse in the last 10 races. He began to turn things around toward the end, however, as his two top 10s came in the final four races. In the other two, he had a blown engine while running top 10 and a speeding penalty while running top five.

As the page turns to 2024, which Truex will we see? The one that was the hottest driver all summer, or the one that struggled in the fall? -Stephen Stumpf

8. Ross Chastain

Ross Chastain did not experience as magical of a season in 2023, as the Trackhouse Racing driver accrued fewer top fives and top 10s in his second year piloting the No. 1 en route to a ninth-place points finish.

Nevertheless, Chastain has reasons beyond throwing watermelons to be excited about the 2024 NASCAR Cup season. He still won two races in 2023, including the season finale at Phoenix Raceway. He therefore left last season on a high note and welcomed a high-profile sponsor in Busch Beer during the offseason.

Moreover, he arguably improved as an all-around driver. He finished more races, including more on the lead lap, and completed one less lap in 2023 than he did in 2022. By running better across the board, expect him to be a contender at more racetracks.

Which racetracks will he contend for the win? Chastain dominated at Nashville Superspeedway in 2023, so look for him to be fast there. He boasts a win, notably his first in Cup, and two top fives in the three Cup events at Circuit of the Americas. Pencil Chastain in for two victories and a shot at making the Championship 4, though ultimately, he’ll wind up one spot higher than his 2023 result, in eighth. -Mark Kristl

7. Tyler Reddick

Tyler Reddick is on the rise. He is entering his fifth full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series and has improved his consistency and competitiveness each year. After switching from Richard Childress Racing to 23IX Racing, he saw little falloff from his career breakout performance in 2022. Remarkably, the 28-year-old has strung together almost identical results over the last two racing seasons, with the difference being one more win in 2022 (three vs two) and one more top 10 in 2023 (16 vs 15). He racked up 10 top-fives each year and led 973 laps across two seasons. In the playoffs last fall, a win at Kansas Speedway in the Round of 16 ensured he advanced for the first time in his career. The sixth-place finish in points was a career high for both him and 23XI.

If this is his foundation, then he has built a solid one to chase better results this year. His skills on road courses are among the best in the series, so he will have an edge at those five circuits on the calendar over his competition. The last two champions have earned eight and 11 top fives, respectively, so Reddick is in the ballpark to be a championship contender based on his stats over that same period. Stringing together these results at the end of the year will be critical for him to take that next step forward on his climb to the top. -Tom Blackburn

6. Chris Buescher

Chris Buescher had a breakout year in 2023, snagging three wins at three different racetracks. Though his season started out rough with just two top 10s in the first nine races, he started to string some good results through June. 

His breakout performance came at Richmond Raceway, the same event where he came home with a third-place finish a year prior. This time, Buescher started 26th and made his way up to first, leading 88 laps en route to the win.

The No. 17 driver’s run seemed to mirror that of Kevin Harvick in 2022, as Buescher went on to win back-to-back weekends after leading 52 laps at Michigan International Speedway.

Then, in the season finale, the RFK Racing pilot proved he could be a contender in the playoffs with his third win in five events. With some help from teammate Brad Keselowski, Buescher won at Daytona International Speedway, leading just the final two laps.

In total, Buescher had three wins, nine top fives and 17 top 10s. In the postseason, he claimed three top fives and five top-10 finishes, closing out the year with an eighth at Martinsville Speedway and a fifth at Phoenix Raceway.

Things continue to look up for Buescher this upcoming season, as veteran crew chief Scott Graves will remain with the Prosper, Texas, native. He already showed he could win at a variety of track types, though his specialties appear to be the road courses and ovals one mile or less in length. In 2023, he earned one top five and five top 10s at the road courses, as well as three top fives and five top 10s at the short tracks.

Plus, he placed fourth in the Daytona 500 last year and was third at Talladega Superspeedway in the spring. Expect Buescher to go one step further and make it to the Championship 4 this year. -Joy Tomlinson

5. Christopher Bell

In 2023, Christopher Bell joined the exclusive club of drivers who have reached the championship race in consecutive years. Just as he did in 2022, Bell scored a timely victory in the third round of the playoffs that vaulted him to the final battle for the championship at Phoenix Raceway. However, the season ended without Bell hoisting the championship trophy for the second year in a row.

Can Bell and the No. 20 team reach the championship round for a third time and win it all in 2024? He has all the makings of a rising star, along with a battle-tested team led by a championship-winning crew chief in Adam Stevens. It is also worth noting that Bell is the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver who has advanced all the way through the postseason in the past two years. If there is one area where this team can improve, it is in sustaining their speed over the course of an entire race. Bell had the hot hand at the start of races in 2023, as he won a series-high six poles, including three consecutive ones in the postseason. Yet there were too many times where either mistakes took the No. 20 out of contention or the team did not make the right adjustments. With better execution, Bell will contend for a championship again. -Bryan Gable

4. Ryan Blaney

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. That is the dilemma Ryan Blaney faces in 2024 as he seeks to become the first back-to-back Cup Series champion since Jimmie Johnson won his fifth consecutive title in 2010.

Many in the NASCAR fanbase are calling Blaney a fluke champion, merely a product of the playoff system. On the other hand, Blaney took home three checkered flags — tying his single-season high — and recorded 18 top 10s in 2023.

Now entering his ninth season of full-time Cup Series competition, Blaney is still only 30 years old, and he figures to have many prime years ahead of him. Almost everyone is returning to the No. 12 team for another title run, including crew chief Jonathan Hassler. The one notable change is atop the spotter stand, which is a position now filled by Tim Fedewa, the longtime spotter for the now retired Harvick. If Blaney can carry over the momentum from the end of 2023 and develop a quick rapport with Fedewa, then do not be surprised to see the No. 12 in title contention at Phoenix once again. -Andrew Stoddard

See also
Mavis Sponsoring Denny Hamlin in Multiple Cup Races

3. Denny Hamlin

Many, many, many times over the course of his illustrious career has Denny Hamlin been a preseason favorite to win his elusive first NASCAR Cup Series Championship. 2023 was no different, as Hamlin looked to be on pace to do just that entering Homestead-Miami Speedway last fall. Unfortunately for Hamlin, the track that has been the site of many near misses was once again where he found his championship dreams falling away, as a steering belt failure ended his day in South Florida. The next week, Hamlin was eliminated in the Round of 8 for the second straight season. 

But, that was last year. 

It’s a brand-new chance for Hamlin to finally get it done. A busy offseason saw him get engaged to his long-time partner Jordan Fish and move his fledgling race team into a new facility, which means we should get a fired up and locked in version of the pride of Chesterfield, Va. He still has one of the best crew chiefs in the garage area with Chris Gabehart. He is still on Toyota’s top team in Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s still one of the very best to ever sit behind the steering wheel, whether you love him or hate him.

There are plenty of the same old questions floating around. Pit stops have been a problem for the No. 11 team for a very long time, as both driver and crew have made a lot of pivotal mistakes over the years. Toyota is bringing in a new body style for the Camry this season which could be a challenge for Gabehart in the aerodynamics department. 

None of that really matters, though. 

It doesn’t matter because he’s still Denny Hamlin, and 2024 could truly, perhaps, be his year. -Garrett Cook

2. Kyle Larson

The 2023 season might be remembered as the one that got away for Kyle Larson and the No. 5 team for multiple reasons, although it was still a successful one in the end, as Larson picked up four points-paying wins on the season — two of which came in the playoffs — along with the $1 million All-Star win in the return of North Wilkesboro Speedway. Larson tied teammate William Byron for the most top fives on the season with 15, and he led all Cup Series drivers in laps led on the season with 1,127.

He came up one spot short of his second title, crossing the line second in the standings to Blaney. However, despite everything listed above, it still seems like this team lost more races than it won with the fastest car. Larson led inside 20 laps to go at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, Kansas Speedway and Darlington Raceway early in the season, with zero wins to show for it.

That, coupled with two self-inflicted crashes during the playoffs with the dominant cars at Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead, still left some to be desired from Larson and Co after a runner-up finish in the championship. It was a bizarre season nonetheless, but a good bounce-back season after the championship hangover that was 2022. There’s nothing that says a driver of Larson’s caliber shouldn’t be able to translate the speed from 2023 into wins in 2024, so watch for a big season from the 2021 champion. -Chase Folsom

1. William Byron

The motorsports world was waiting on a breakout year from William Byron, and we finally got it in 2023. Heading into the 2023 season, Byron had just four career wins in five seasons at Hendrick Motorsports. One year later, Byron has more than doubled his previous career win total. He found victory lane a series best six times on the season, including a playoff victory late in the season at Texas for Hendrick Motorsports’ 300th Cup win.

In addition to leading the series in wins, Byron also co-led the series in top fives with 15, led the series in top 10s with 21 and led the series with an average finish of 11.0, an entire position ahead of the next closest full-time driver in Buescher (12.1). Byron and the No. 24 team translated this breakout season to an uptick in postseason performance as well, as he made the Championship 4 for the first time in his six-year Cup career.

In the end, Byron crossed the line third in the standings, just two spots behind Blaney as the checkered flag flew at Phoenix. But in many ways, the driver of the No. 24 was the dominant car of the 2023 season. At just 26 years old, the sky’s the limit for Byron, so expect nothing short of a repeat performance as we bring on 2024. -Folsom

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991 and calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

Bryan began writing for Frontstretch in 2016. He has penned Up to Speed for the past seven years. A lifelong fan of racing, Bryan is a published author and automotive historian. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio and currently resides in Southern Kentucky.

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Garrett joined Frontstretch as a news writer in 2023, and became a fantasy racing and betting writer in 2024. Hailing from the heart of coal country in southern West Virginia,  he's a married father of three and currently enrolled in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at New River Community Technical College in Beaver, WV. He has been a racing fan since 1998, primarily watching NASCAR, but branching out to F1 and IndyCar as his love for motorsports has grown.

Follow on X @Cook_g9

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

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DoninAjax

Why anyone would put Hamlin ahead of Bell must not realize the trend of the last few yeas of their careers.

Echo

Kyle Larson said from day one, Christopher Bell beating me all the time forced me to become a better driver.

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