Ty Gibbs Headlines a Remarkably Short List of Potential First-Time NASCAR Cup Series Winners in 2023

One of the fascinating aspects of the parity-driven 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season was the record-tying five drivers who scored their first-ever victories at the sport’s highest level. But it would be perhaps even more shocking if it happened again in 2023.

The 2022 Cup Series season benefitted from a combination of factors to create a handful of new winners.

The Next Gen car helped produce record numbers of new and different Cup Series winners in 2022

The new Next Gen car model NASCAR introduced took away several advantages larger organizations had enjoyed. Teams now have to buy their parts from a single supplier rather than manufacture their own, and every team had to start the season with a blank notebook on optimizing the new car’s performance.

That led to a record-tying 19 different winners throughout the 36 points-paying events and significantly boosted the chances of drivers with smaller teams that otherwise would have struggled to compete for top-10 finishes, much less victories.

Austin Cindric kicked off the season with a Daytona 500 victory in his first race as a full-time driver. Chase Briscoe then won three weeks later at Phoenix Raceway for the second-year driver’s first Cup Series triumph.

Ross Chastain added his name to the Cup Series winner’s list two weeks after Briscoe when he barreled through A.J. Allmendinger and Alex Bowman to win at the Circuit of the Americas.

Tyler Reddick nearly joined the group of first-time winners three weeks later in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but Briscoe crashed into him in the final turn, which allowed Kyle Busch to sneak by for his 60th career win. Reddick would have to wait until July at Road America to score his first Cup Series win.

Daniel Suarez snuck in his first trip to Cup Series Victory Lane at Sonoma Raceway two weeks before Reddick. He dominated the second half of the event and accompanied teammate Chastain on the first-time winners’ list with Trackhouse Racing.

The list of non-winners in the Cup Series has been trimmed considerably

Ty Gibbs during qualifying for the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship
Ty Gibbs | Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Without those drivers as potential first-time Victory Lane visitors, the list of drivers left to celebrate their first Cup Series win is relatively short among drivers scheduled to run the entire 2023 season.

Ironically, the driver at the top of that list is also the most inexperienced.

Ty Gibbs won the 2022 Xfinity Series championship and compiled a remarkable 11 wins in just a year and a half in the series while driving his grandfather-owned car at Joe Gibbs Racing. He also won 18 of his 47 ARCA Menards Series starts from 2019-21.

Gibbs competed in 15 Cup Series starts last year as a replacement driver at 23XI Racing for Kurt Busch after Busch sustained a head injury during a qualifying crash in July at Pocono Raceway. Gibbs ran 10th at Michigan International Speedway in his third start but otherwise was not a factor and finished the season with eight straight finishes of 19th or worse.

Gibbs figures to be more competitive in his first full season in the Cup Series. He will drive for the No. 54 team for JGR, which used to be the No. 18 team for Kyle Busch before his move this offseason to Richard Childress Racing.

Gibbs might actually be the only Cup Series driver with a better-than-average chance of winning his first career race in 2023. He will be in top-tier equipment for one of the most prominent organizations in the sport, and the list of winless drivers has been cut down severely from the start of last season.

Few winless drivers beyond Ty Gibbs will be with teams capable of regularly competing for wins in 2023

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Fellow first-year Cup Series driver Noah Gragson will pilot the No. 42 car for Petty GMS Racing. Gragson was the runner-up to Gibbs in the Xfinity Series championship last season, but Petty GMS is about to embark on only its second year of Cup Series competition. Both Gragson and his team likely still have some growing to do before getting to Victory Lane.

Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland, two of the rookies from 2022, would likely need a fluke superspeedway or road-course race to capture their first victories. The only top-five run of their rookie campaigns was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course when Burton finished third and Gilliland followed in fourth.

The only other remaining full-time winless drivers are Ty Dillon, Corey LaJoie, and Cody Ware. Dillon and LaJoie will be teammates at Spire Motorsports as Dillon moves over from Petty GMS, and Ware will continue to drive for his family-owned team.

LaJoie had the only top-five of the 2022 season for that group when he finished fifth in March during the first superspeedway-style race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He also nearly won the July race at Atlanta before a late-race crash, but superspeedways are probably this group’s only chance to win in 2023.

If Gibbs doesn’t go to Victory Lane this coming season, the Cup Series might very well go from a record-tying number of new winners to none at all just a year later.