It’s the end of January, 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. Check back tomorrow (Jan. 31) for position Nos. 20-11, followed by the top 10 on Feb. 1.
30. Noah Gragson
After eight wins in his 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series campaign, 2023 was a year to forget for Noah Gragson. His rookie campaign with Legacy Motor Club was disastrous, as the Las Vegas native had just two top-20 finishes against 10 finishes of 30th or worse in 21 starts. He was on the sidelines at Sonoma Raceway after showing concussion-like symptoms from a crash a week prior, and his season was cut short after his suspension — and ultimate release — from Legacy in August.
After questions persisted about whether Gragson would be back in the Cup Series after his Legacy, he signed a contract in December to drive Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 car for the upcoming season.
But after several years of success, SHR appears to be an organization in decline. The team went winless in the Cup Series for the first time ever last year, and SHR looked like the fourth-best Ford team behind Team Penske, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports for much of the season. Only Kevin Harvick made it into the playoffs, while its three other cars finished outside the top 20 in points. The season was a far cry from 2018, when SHR won 12 races and put all four of its cars in the playoffs.
With limited sponsorship (only Rush Truck Centers has been announced as a sponsor for the No. 10 car so far), 2024 could be a make-or-break year for Gragson’s Cup career. Matching Aric Almirola’s 2023 performance — five top 10s and 20 top 20s — would be a success. But most importantly, Gragson needs to perform well enough to show that his poor 2023 season was simply an aberration. – Steve Leffew