With the conclusion of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series campaign, the TobyChristie.com team wanted to take a quick look back at some of the most memorable moments from NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary.
1. Quote of the Year
Toby Christie:Why Ryan Blaney Doesn’t Do Burnouts Often
Following his win at Talladega Superspeedway, which advanced him into the Round of 8 of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Ryan Blaney did not perform a celebratory burnout. It was a trend that has been a common theme throughout Blaney’s racing career.
Following the win on that afternoon, Blaney was asked why he doesn’t do burnouts in his post-race press conference, and he responded with the best answer ever.
“Oh, you don’t know? Dale Inman pulled me swap aside one day, and he said, Hey, you don’t see the winner of the Kentucky Derby get off his horse and start beating the shit out of it,” Blaney said to a chorus of laughs.
“So that’s why I don’t do burnouts. I didn’t do a burnout after one race, and he was like, I like how you don’t do burnouts, and then he told me that story. He might be mad at me for doing one and breaking our rule, but yeah, Inman quote, yeah.”
Joseph Srigley: Brad Keselowski On Fire Under Red at Daytona
While under the red flag in the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway, Brad Keselowski had something on his No. 6 King’s Hawaiian Ford Mustang catch fire, requiring him to drive in circles on the backstretch.
After seeing the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion driving in circles down the backstretch, several spotters drivers chimed in poking fun at Keselowski from inside the car.
- “His buns got too hot” — Kyle Busch
- “Donuts without the cool factor” — Joey Logano
- “The No. 6 looks like my dog when he has the zoomies” — Ross Chastain
- “Looks like when someone falls off a jet ski, it just kinda goes on its own” — Erik Jones
- “Got his own little race going on.”
- “Out here cutting laps on the ol’ short track.” – Alex Bowman
- “This is why we need cell phones in our cars. This would make a great Instagram story post. People would love it.
Ben Branscum: Greg Van Alst’s Daytona Race-Winning Speech
Taylor Kitchen: Having Fun and Being a Menace
There are two great quotes that stick out to me. One comes from Christopher Bell to kick off the year at the L.A. Coliseum. Like any short track, tempers are bound to flare, and The Clash was no exception. At one point during the race, Ryan Blaney had pushed the No. 38 into Bell’s Toyota Camry TRD. Famously, the driver said, “This is fun. We’re having fun.”
This quote embodies a whole mood and made me chuckle once I heard it. I will admit, I have started to use Bell’s quote in my everyday life because of how comical, relatable and sarcastic those words were.
Possibly the most iconic quote of the season though goes to Denny Hamlin after his victory at Bristol. He climbed to his car to a booing crowd, but Denny doesn’t flinch. When Marty Snider interviews Hamlin on the front stretch he comments about the possibility of the fan’s negativity acting as motivation to which Hamlin says, “Hey, I beat your favorite driver.”
When asked who that driver would be, Hamlin gave one of the most iconic, savage, ‘I don’t give a crap’ responses.
“All of ’em.”
2. Race of the Year
Toby Christie: AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway
The Next Gen car has suited mile-and-a-half race tracks quite well in the NASCAR Cup Series, and it suits Kansas Speedway perhaps better than just about any other track on the circuit.
The AdventHealth 400 at Kansas, which was the 12th race of the season, was an incredible show. The race featured 11 cautions, 37 lead changes, and a thrilling late-race duel between Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin for the race win.
The action was wild from the very start as Larson was spun from the lead on Lap 5 by Tyler Reddick. Larson spent the race fighting back to the race lead, but on the final lap, Hamlin had caught the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Hamlin got Larson loose in Turns 1 and 2, and as the duo reached the backstretch, there was contact, which sent Larson into the outside wall. Hamlin went on to score the win controversially.
Joseph Srigley: Grant Park 220 at Chicago Street Course
Despite the record-breaking levels of precipitation, the inaugural Chicago Street Race for the NASCAR Cup Series still ended up a major success and left the entire industry buzzing for several weeks afterward.
Things did get off to a difficult start with all the rain, but when the event actually got underway it featured some of the best storylines of the season, including a debut victory for Shane van Gisbergen – which may have tipped him in the direction of coming to the United States for a shot at a NASCAR career.
Alongside those storylines, came some fantastic racing in the event’s closing laps, too. As drivers were pushing the limits of the track to run the fastest laps possible, they had to watch Shane van Gisbergen slice through the pack, ultimately passing Justin Haley for the lead.
It was a captivating race, which ended with some incredible storylines, allowing a new faction of NASCAR fans to tune into the action and see a New Zealander climbing from his car in Victory Lane.
Ben Branscum: Grant Park 220 at Chicago Street Course
For me, this has to be the Chicago Street Course Race. It was truly a feat that no one really knew how it would play out. Well, it worked damn well too. Even with all the adversity and even external circumstances, NASCAR really made it work and work well. It shows the diversity of these cars and also shows that NASCAR can do such cool things on a brand-new platform. Plus watching SVG do the funny was worth it.
Taylor Kitchen: Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
2023 presented a season of consistent solid races. Unfortunately, several of those races were impacted by rain. Fortunately, the threat of rain did create a product so incredible during the Quaker State 400, that it has to be my favorite race of the year.
The threat of weather made the jobs of the crew chiefs and drivers insanely difficult. These drivers made moves that a normal situation at Atlanta Motor Speedway would not produce. I truly believe the danger of rain plus the great product the newly configured Atlanta produces made this event spectacular. The only thing that still left something to be desired, was to get the full race in but in terms of excitement and hard racing, ATL was the best.
3. Rivalry of the Year
Toby Christie: Ross Chastain VS Hendrick Motorsports
Early in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Ross Chastain had collided with several Hendrick Motorsports drivers. The frustrations came to a head when Kyle Larson was crashed from the lead late in the race by Chastain in the Throwback Race at Darlington Raceway.
In the post-race press conference, Rick Hendrick didn’t hold back and vowed that his drivers would exact revenge if Chastain didn’t clean up his act.
“I don’t care if he’s driving a Chevrolet if he wrecks our cars. I don’t care, and I told Chevrolet that. If you wreck us, you’re going to get it back,” Hendrick pointed sharply. “And if you don’t do it, they’ll run all over you. I’m loyal to Chevrolet, but when somebody runs over us, then I expect our guys to hold their ground. I don’t expect them to yield because of Chevrolet.”
Hendrick’s criticisms led Trackhouse team owner Justin Marks to have a conversation with Chastain, which led to a more reserved Chastain on the track for the majority of the 2023 season.
Chastain did end up winning two races (Nashville and Phoenix), and he made it into the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. But for a major part of the early portion of the season, Chastain was the weekly storyline. Following the Hendrick comments at Darlington, that was no longer the case.
Joseph Srigley: Sheldon Creed VS Austin Hill (and Richard Childress)
Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed have had run-ins as teammates at Richard Childress Racing over the last two years, but there wasn’t one of them as explosive as the one at Martinsville in October.
Creed and Hill were at the front of the pack with a shot at the victory – which means automatic advancement – in NASCAR Overtime, when the two drivers got to full-contact racing, which resulted in neither driver winning or advancing to the ‘Championship 4’.
Andy Petree, an executive at Richard Childress Racing, was PISSED about the situation and confronted him on pit road after the race. That was nothing, though, compared to the comments that Richard Childress had after the race, calling him the stupidest driver to run for RCR.
Creed, who had previously announced he was leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season, then had his news spoiled by his disgruntled teammate, who said he couldn’t wait for the Alpine, California native to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing next year.
Ben Branscum: Denny Hamlin vs. The Fans
For me, this was a season-long one. Denny Hamlin vs The Fans. It’s such a bad-blood relationship that brings me so much joy. Just how Hamlin lives rent-free in the minds of so many fans and knows how to get under their skin, but somehow the fans ‘win’ since Hamiln once again can’t win a title. This one has been brewing for years, and it just makes the sport better.
Taylor: NASCAR vs. Mother Nature
This seems to be a battle we have every season, however, this season seemed to be worse than the rest. Inclement weather impacted 20 of the first 27 racing events this season which is incredibly bad luck. Due to the threat of rain, race times were moved up, pushed back, or delayed. The worst weather delay of the season had to be the Coca-Cola 600 weekend where the completion of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the entirety of the NASCAR Cup Series races were pushed to Monday. When I predicted the 600 would be rained out back in January, this was not what I intended.
4. Biggest Disappointment of the Year
Toby Christie: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship Race
Talk about a bad look. The final race of the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season was as bad as it gets. Multiple times throughout the event drivers intentionally retaliated on their competitors, and the race went into quadruple overtime.
Overall, the race was a showcase of bad sportsmanship, and it came on the biggest of stages — Championship weekend. It’s never a good thing when a race serves as the, “What not to do,” tutorial during the driver’s meetings for the remainder of the weekend. Fortunately, the remainder of the events at Phoenix Raceway were top-notch from a respect standpoint.
Joseph Srigley: Stewart-Haas Racing
For the first time since the team’s inception in 2009, Stewart-Haas Racing ended the NASCAR Cup Series season without a victory, failing to bring the now-retired Kevin Harvick back to victory lane in his final season of competition.
Despite the team’s major struggles, Harvick and Rodney Childers were able to assemble a decent season that included six top-five and 14 top-10 results, as well as a post-season berth and final points finish of 13th.
On the other hand, the organization’s other three entries – piloted by Aric Almirola, Ryan Preece, and Chase Briscoe – could only put together a combined seven top-five and 15 top-10 finishes, and final points finishes of 22nd, 23rd, and 30th.
Safe to say, that’s not what the former championship-caliber team was hoping for.
Ben Branscum: Kaulig Racing
The season for Kaulig Racing was such a bummer. A team that had so much hype in the past has now become as disappointing as being eight months into a new job. This team as a whole is close to being in shambles honestly. You have their longest tenure driver in Justin Haley leaving for Rick Ware Racing, rumors of Ty Dillion joining, and not really much else. The only big news and thing that excites me for 2024 is the signing of Josh Williams in the Xfinity Series. Other than that, this is a team that has lost all hype and identity…It’s a shell of its old self.
Taylor Kitchen: Hailie Deegan and Chase Elliott
Though I believe NASCAR’s 75th year had more positives than negatives, several disappointments come to mind. In terms of driver performance this season, I think of Hailie Deegan and Chase Elliott.
With Deegan in some of the best equipment the truck series has to offer at Thorsport Racing, I expected her to turn her stats around. Unfortunately, her performance this season left much to be desired. She struggled to compete for top-10 results and somehow always got caught up in other people’s messes. Though her averages slightly improved this season from last, I truly did hope she would capture a win this year or at least have a chance to claim several top-10 finishes.
As for Chase Elliott, this was not the season anyone expected from him. After spending six weeks out of the car due to an injury earlier in the year, we knew it would be an uphill battle for the team to race their way into the playoffs. With this in mind, I was stunned when Elliott intentionally wrecked Denny Hamlin during the Coca-Cola 600, resulting in suspension and making their already difficult points situation much more impossible.
As the road course races dwindled and the No. 9 out of victory lane, it became apparent the impossible was about to happen, the sport’s most popular driver was going to miss the playoffs.
5. Best Paint Schemes of the Year
Toby Christie: William Byron Axalta Chromalusion Jeff Gordon Throwback
As a kid who grew up watching NASCAR in the 1990s, it was a great bit of nostalgia to see the old Jeff Gordon Chromalusion paint scheme back on track in 2023, and I have to say, Hendrick Motorsports knocked the scheme out of the park.
Knowing that the car had to be wrapped, instead of painted, had me thinking the car was going to come up short of the original, but somehow, that wrap was out there changing colors, and in the South Carolina sun, it was truly an eye-popping car. Not to mention, the car went to victory lane, so that gives it a few extra coolness points.
Joseph Srigley: 23XI Racing Star Wars Cars at Phoenix
I am not a Star Wars fan by any stretch of the imagination (haven’t seen any of the movies) but the paint schemes that 23XI Racing drivers Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick had in the season-finale at Phoenix Raceway were pretty cool.
Not just from a design perspective, either. The interaction and additional video content that surrounded the paint scheme unveil, as well as the content leading up to the event was pretty cool, and gave fans something else to look at other than coverage of the title fight.
Unfortunately, because neither driver advanced to the ‘Championship 4’, we didn’t see much of the paint schemes on the broadcast, though.
Ben Branscum: Justin Allgaier Reeses Ice Cream Scheme
OK, there were some certified bangers here. Big drip, and I’m also gonna break the rules here a bit, so, not sorry. The best goes to the Justin Allgaier Reeses Ice Cream Scheme in the Xfinity Series. However, the Best Scheme in Racing for 2023 goes to the Macauley Jones in the Australian V8 SuperCar Series where they ran a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles scheme. Big Drip.
Taylor Kitchen: Justin Haley’s Mountain Dew Chevrolet at the Bristol Night Race
Teams like RFK Racing and 23XI Racing hit it out of the park with their paint schemes this year. Because of this, it is easy to overlook other fantastic designs in the field. When Justin Haley’s paint scheme dropped for the Bristol Night Race, my jaw was on the floor. Shout out to Tanner Whitt on the fantastic design! If you are curious how I would rank the rest of the best 2023 schemes, watch my two-part tier list video on the TobyChristie.com YouTube channel!
6. Moment of the Year
Toby Christie: Dave Blaney Basking in Son’s Championship in Phoenix Post-Race Press Conference
NASCAR, and racing in general, is a family sport. For the Blaney family, the championship-winning in the family’s history had always taken place in dirt racing.
That all changed when Ryan Blaney finished runner-up in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race to collect the 2023 Bill France Cup. Following his championship win, Blaney conducted his Champion’s Press Conference in the Media Center. At the back of the room was Blaney’s dad Dave Blaney, who took in every moment of the championship-winning performance.
Here is a photo, taken by Jeff Gluck, of the elder Blaney sitting at the back of the Media Center watching his son field questions.
Dave Blaney listens to his NASCAR champion son do the postrace news conference. pic.twitter.com/xbLh0AwZqJ
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) November 6, 2023
It was a real feel-good moment.
Joseph Srigley: William Byron Advances to ‘Championship 4’ at Martinsville
Entering the penultimate event of 2023, William Byron was in a great position to advance into the ‘Championship 4’, with a points advantage that looked to be impenetrable barring a perfect storm of different outcomes.
Sure enough, that ‘perfect storm’ was brewing during the middle portion of the event at Martinsville Speedway, as an ill-handling vehicle placed Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet at the back of the top-20.
That would have been okay, though, had it not been for Blaney, who surged to the front of the pack in his No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang, which left the Hendrick Motorsports driver in a tight points battle with Denny Hamlin, who ran at the front of the field.
It was an extremely difficult battle, with record-breaking ambient temperatures and a faulty helmet hose, but when it came down to it, Byron ended up advancing by eight points over Hamlin, in what was one of the toughest races of his career.
In that moment, Byron proved – more than he already had previously – that he is a championship-caliber driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, and has the grit and determination to make that prophecy a reality.
Ben Branscum: The Return of North Wilkesboro
When you strip down the 2023 season as a whole, there is one moment in the 75th season that holds so much weight. The return to North Wilkesboro. That weekend will be such a key moment for the sport. No matter what. It was right to go back in the 75th year and just the excitement around returning to a track that was ‘too far gone’ was really special.
Taylor Kitchen: AJ Allmendinger and Kaulig Racing’s Emotional ROVAL Win
There are so many incredible moments from 2023. I reflect on a NASCAR first, racing on a street course. I also look back to the revival of North Wilkesboro, a dominant playoff run for Ryan Blaney, and so many more great moments.
It is well known that AJ Allmendinger knows his way around road course tracks. However, with how much Kaulig Racing struggled this season, I was not expecting a win from their Cup program. Boy, am I glad I was wrong.
My favorite moment of 2023 had to be when AJ Allmendinger won the ROVAL race during the playoffs. Whenever Kaulig Racing wins a race, the emotions are big. Seeing the raw reactions from Allmendinger, Chris Rice, Matt Kaulig and the entire organization was incredible.
I appreciate the driver going into the stands to celebrate his victory with the fans like Ryan Blaney and Justin Allgaier had done after their wins during the 600 weekend.
7. Rising Star
Toby Christie: Sam Mayer
Sam Mayer was regarded as a top prospect as he rolled two back-to-back ARCA Menards Series East championships in 2019 and 2020, and then the expectations soared as he scored a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win at the age of 17.
Then, things cooled off, dramatically as he moved to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports. Sure, he showed raw speed, but he tore up A LOT of equipment. Then, in 2023, things started to click for Mayer after advice from team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and veteran racer Justin Allgaier pointed him in the right direction.
Mayer snagged his first-career Xfinity Series win at Road America — the 20th race of the 2023 season. He then went on a tear and racked up a total of four wins on the year, and he advanced to the Championship 4. While he ultimately came up shy of a championship, Mayer impressed and definitely looks to be back as a rising star in the sport.
Joseph Srigley: Carson Hocevar
At times, Carson Hocevar can be a little bit rough around the edges, but after a strong range of performances this season, he’s proven himself to be capable of running in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Originally, the plan for this year was to have Hocevar compete for a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title, while also dipping his toes into the NASCAR Xfinity Series on a part-time basis for Spire Motorsports.
After three Xfinity starts, Hocevar was thrown into an interim driver role in the Cup Series for Spire Motorsports, where he was running inside the top-15 at WWT Raceway before a brake rotor exploded, ending his afternoon.
Things went back to normal for Hocevar until the playoffs, when LEGACY MOTOR CLUB tapped him to drive the No. 42 Chevrolet in several Cup Series events, which brought with it some strong results.
The highlight of his tenure with LEGACY MC came at Bristol in September, when Hocevar drove into the top five on pace, before fading back to 11th in the race’s final run due to a loose wheel.
In 2024, he’ll join Corey LaJoie and Zane Smith as a driver for Spire Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Ben Branscum: Luke Fenhaus and William Sawalich
Since I cover the ARCA Menards Series for the site, I really focus on the younger end of the talent pool. Luke Fenhaus is the guy who is dominating that pool. Two wins in the ARCA Menards Series East last year. He went toe to toe with William Sawalich and Joe Gibbs Racing for the East Title and nearly took them down. Keep an eye out for this guy. He’s gonna be something soon.
Taylor Kitchen: Chris Buescher
It is hard to argue against Chris Buescher as this years ‘rising star’.
To start the season, RFK Racing essentially carried the Fords as they struggled to find speed. Once the 31-year-old broke through to get his first win of the year at Richmond Raceway, he would follow that with a victory at Michigan International Speedway the week after.
Amazingly, this would be the first time the organization has seen back-to-back wins since 2010 when Carl Edwards captured the last two wins of that season.
8. Driver of the Year
Toby Christie: Kyle Larson
I know, Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron won a series-high six races in 2023, but hear me out. Larson had the second-highest win total (four), tied for the most top-five finishes (15), and was near the top in top-10 finishes this season with 18. Larson also led the most laps on the season with 1,127. All of these stats came despite Larson amassing EIGHT DNFs (second most) over the course of the season.
Had luck fallen a little more on Larson’s side throughout the year, there’s a real chance that he would have been the statistical leader in just about every driving category in 2023.
Joseph Srigley: Chris Buescher
He didn’t quite make the ‘Championship 4’ this season, but after the last half-decade that RFK Racing has suffered through, for him to even be in that discussion means that he significantly punched above his weight.
In this new era of Roush Fenway Racing, Brad Keselowski is the one pulling the strings as team co-owner, but it’s Chris Buescher, his teammate in the No. 17 Ford Mustang, who is the driving force behind the wheel, for the time being.
Buescher wasn’t even in the discussion for title contention throughout the year, until his victory at Richmond launched an onslaught of RFK Racing strength, which saw the Prosper, Texas-native pick up victories at Michigan and Daytona to cap off the regular-season.
Suddenly, all the questions surrounding if Buescher would make the post-season turned into questions of how far he would go in the Playoffs, and even at times whether or not he would have a legitimate shot at earning the title in Phoenix.
That speed in the second half of the season left Buescher with the ability to finish seventh place in NASCAR Cup Series points, nine positions higher than his previous career-best from his rookie season in 2016 with Front Row Motorsports.
With the progression demonstrated by RFK Racing in 2023, don’t be surprised if Buescher returns to victory lane in 2024, and don’t be surprised if somebody has him listed as ‘Driver of the Year’ again next time around.
Ben Branscum: Grant Enfinger
This one was interesting to me because there was only one guy I really thought of after getting this prompt. For me, this was a slam dunk. Grant Enfinger was the best driver for 2023 in all of NASCAR. His best year in the Truck Series since 2020 (arguably ever). Average Start and Finish Below 10th (9.9 and 9.0) Highest Points Finish since 2020 and highest ever, and no DNFs of the Championship 4 contenders. Week in and week out, the No. 23 was a threat and Enfinger earned all the praise he can get in my opinion.
Taylor Kitchen: William Byron
The driver of the year in the Cup Series has to be William Byron. Not only was he the winningest driver of the season, but he was also the most consistent. He led the series in most top-10s, most stage wins, and best average finish of 10.97.
It was great to see the No. 24 back in championship contention! It was equally awesome to see Byron becoming the champion we know he can be. Unfortunately, this year was not his year but I guarantee if he can put another season together like this one, he is bound to win multiple championships during his Cup Series career.
This story was a collaboration between Toby Christie (Editor-in-Chief), Joseph Srigley (Managing Editor), Taylor Kitchen (Contributor), and Ben Branscum (Contributor).