Race Weekend Central

Up to Speed: How Chevrolet Is Stealing Cup Series Wins in 2024

Two races into the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, Chevrolet teams have earned victories in both full-field races. William Byron and Hendrick Motorsports captured the Daytona 500 one week ago. This past weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Daniel Suarez took his Trackhouse Racing Chevy to the winner’s circle. Suarez scored his second career victory in a three-wide photo finish, edging out Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch by the slimmest of margins. The Bowtie Brigade is off to a flying start.

It is a surprise to see the first two races of the year won by Chevy drivers. Most of the anticipation during the offseason was with the other two manufacturers, which released new bodies for their Cup Series cars. Ford debuted its Mustang Dark Horse this season, while Toyota unveiled an updated design based on the 2025 Camry.

See also
Thinkin' Out Loud: Is Atlanta the Best Drafting Track on the Circuit?

The Chevy teams, on the other hand, stuck with the Camaro ZL1 of the last several years. While Hendrick, Trackhouse and the other Chevy teams do have familiarity on their side, you have to wonder if there were some nerves in the Chevy camp about what the competition might unleash when the season began.

Things started well for Ford when Joey Logano captured the pole at Daytona International Speedway. He and Team Penske broke up a Chevy stranglehold on the Daytona 500 pole that stretched back to 2013. Then, the Toyotas took center stage when Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell won the two Bluegreen Vacations Duels. Most of the Toyotas were buried during single-car qualifying, but the new Camry proved to be strong at navigating the draft during race conditions. With Fords showing raw speed and Toyotas displaying superior handling, the Chevy teams suddenly looked like underdogs.

Once the rain finally cleared up and the race began, the Fords and Toyotas still appeared to hold the upper hand. Logano and Blaney were particularly strong for Penske, as were Bell and Denny Hamlin for Joe Gibbs Racing. But the complexion of the race changed dramatically on lap 192 when a massive wreck wiped out most of the frontrunners. The Fords got hit particularly hard with Logano, Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher and Todd Gilliland all caught up in the crash. Bell escaped serious damage, but his JGR teammates were not so lucky.

When the smoke cleared and final pit stops were complete, Chevrolet held eight of the top 10 spots, led by Ross Chastain, Byron and Alex Bowman. With the odds now firmly in Chevy’s favor, the race ended as Chastain and Austin Cindric spun out on the final lap, with Byron leading the pack.

Even with all his success over the past year, Byron was an unlikely winner of the Daytona 500. Although he scored his first win in Daytona’s 400-mile event, he had never finished better than 21st in his six previous starts in the Great American Race. Throw in the quiet leadup Chevy had for the race and it felt like Byron stole a victory out from under those noses of his Ford and Toyota rivals.

Nearly a week later, it was Suarez who made out like a bandit in Atlanta. Drafting tracks are not a traditional strength for Suarez, who has never scored a top-five finish at Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway. Yet he and the No. 99 team have been sneaky good at Atlanta, posting three finishes of sixth or better in the four previous events since Atlanta’s configuration. Perhaps the NASCAR world overlooked what Suarez might be able to do if he put himself in a good position at the end of the race. As it turned out, that is exactly what he and the No. 99 team did.

While Suarez laid in the weeds during Sunday’s (Feb. 25) race, most of the attention was once again on the Fords. The fastest cars were Penske’s Logano, Blaney and Cindric, plus the Front Row Motorsports duo of Gilliland and Michael McDowell. Gilliland in particular drove the best race of his career, leading a race-high 58 laps. The Penske and Front Row drivers combined to lead 175 of 260 total laps. Anyone who hoped to win the race would have to go through those teams’ drivers.

See also
Front Row Motorsports Comes Up a Few Rows Short

Yet as the race turned into a war of attrition, several of the fastest Ford drivers took themselves out of contention. Logano lost control of his car on the final lap of stage two and crashed while fighting for stage points. McDowell got tangled up with Byron getting onto pit road and spent the remainder of the race clawing his way back to the top 10. Gilliland lost his shot at the victory when he made an unscheduled green flag pit stop late in the race. Other fast Ford drivers like Keselowski and Chase Briscoe crashed while battling in the top 10 as the afternoon turned into evening. With each passing caution, the Blue Ovals were dropping like flies.

Suarez took the lead for the first time with 13 laps to go, only to lose it to Blaney when the race went green for the final time with five to go. Yet as Blaney dueled with Busch on the last lap, Suarez swept to the outside of both of them. All three drivers crossed the finish line in an apparent dead heat, but a review of photos, video, and electronic scoring sent the No. 99 to victory lane. For the second week in a row, Chevy spoiled Ford’s party.

Will this pattern hold up as the season continues? It is often dangerous to make too many conclusions from the first two races of any season, especially because this season begins with two drafting tracks. This weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will provide our first clues about who is strongest on the intermediate tracks. The Ford and Toyota teams may be armed with new bodies, but Chevy has won five of the last seven races at Las Vegas. If the Chevy drivers manage to go three for three in 2024, it would certainly be impressive for the manufacturer with the oldest car bodies on the track.  

About the author

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

3 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
kb

So far in this early season it has been a bank robbery from Ford Banks and the perps are Chevy’s. The Fords were dominant, until they were wrecked.

I suggest Joey Logano and the rest of the Ford brigade carry at all times, a stake, holy water, a cross and a necklace of garlic bulbs to every track for the remainder of the 2024 season.

Echo

There are NO unlikely winners at Daytona or Dega. Anyone can win those crap shoots. And I don’t think anyone “stole” either race.

Bill B

I know. Everyone admits they are basically crap shoots. Yet people/writers still try to draw conclusions based on the results of the crap shoot.

Share via