NASCAR Draft Kit: What's New for 2023

NASCAR Draft Kit: What's New for 2023

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

Before we can fill out our cheat sheets or prepare our draft strategies for the upcoming 2023 NASCAR season, there are many changes that we need to take into account in order to be prepared for any fantasy racing league. We're going to take an in-depth look at some of these changes that we'll see and some that aren't so apparent when the engines fire up at Daytona in February.

Driver Changes

Thanks to the usual silly season movement and free agent driver signings, we have several different drivers that have moved to new teams in 2023. There are a handful of teams that are shutting down and some that are starting new. There are a few teams that have merged or contracted in order to stay competitive. Also, a handful of driver/team swaps have taken place along with a few rookie driver promotions.

DriverNew TeamOld Team
Ryan Preece#41 Stewart Haas Racing#17 Truck Series
Noah Gragson#42 Petty GMS Motorsports#9 Xfinity Series
Ty Gibbs#54 Joe Gibbs Racing#54 Xfinity Series
Ty Dillon#77 Spire Motorsports#42 Petty GMS Motorsports
Jimmie Johnson #49 Petty GMS MotorsportsIndyCar Series
Austin Hill#62 Beard Oil Racing#21 Xfinity Series

2023 Schedule Changes

The schedule has a few changes over last season's slate. We welcome back the pre-season exhibition Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum for a second year. We also welcome back the spring Bristol Dirt Race for a third consecutive season. New to the

Before we can fill out our cheat sheets or prepare our draft strategies for the upcoming 2023 NASCAR season, there are many changes that we need to take into account in order to be prepared for any fantasy racing league. We're going to take an in-depth look at some of these changes that we'll see and some that aren't so apparent when the engines fire up at Daytona in February.

Driver Changes

Thanks to the usual silly season movement and free agent driver signings, we have several different drivers that have moved to new teams in 2023. There are a handful of teams that are shutting down and some that are starting new. There are a few teams that have merged or contracted in order to stay competitive. Also, a handful of driver/team swaps have taken place along with a few rookie driver promotions.

DriverNew TeamOld Team
Ryan Preece#41 Stewart Haas Racing#17 Truck Series
Noah Gragson#42 Petty GMS Motorsports#9 Xfinity Series
Ty Gibbs#54 Joe Gibbs Racing#54 Xfinity Series
Ty Dillon#77 Spire Motorsports#42 Petty GMS Motorsports
Jimmie Johnson #49 Petty GMS MotorsportsIndyCar Series
Austin Hill#62 Beard Oil Racing#21 Xfinity Series

2023 Schedule Changes

The schedule has a few changes over last season's slate. We welcome back the pre-season exhibition Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum for a second year. We also welcome back the spring Bristol Dirt Race for a third consecutive season. New to the schedule will be a new venue for the All-Star Race. NASCAR has worked with the old North Wilkesboro Speedway to get them back into the schedule of tracks. The formerly retired oval in North Carolina has undergone large scale restoration and will host this season's All-Star weekend. Also new to the schedule is the Chicago Street Course race in July. The 2.2-mile circuit will host the first-ever NASCAR street course race during July 4 weekend. The sanctioning body dropped the Road America event to make way for this new event. Other than these few changes, much of the schedule remains unchanged except for a couple weekend swaps. The 10-race Chase for the Cup playoffs remains completely unchanged with the same 10-track lineup, in the same order and with the championship-crowing race again being at Phoenix.

As NASCAR continues to change and evolve, so does the Cup Series schedule. The upcoming season offers some new events and some returning old events in a jam-packed 36-event calendar, plus exhibition races. Just like 2022, there will be only one off-weekend (Father's Day) in the upcoming calendar, so don't blink or you'll miss some action. The ironman-type schedule will prove to be very grueling for the competitors as they race nearly uninterrupted from February to November. 

Street Course Race in Chicago

NASCAR announced in July of last year they've officially come to terms with the city of Chicago to host the first-ever NASCAR street course event in the Windy City. The race will take place in the first week of July, 2023 and be held on Sunday, July 2. It's part of a double-header weekend with IMSA, which will race on the same course that Saturday. The circuit is laid out along the shore of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago and incorporates iconic downtown scenes such as Michigan Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, Grant Park and the Buckingham Fountain. There are a total of 12 turns to the 2.2-mile circuit and a number of straightaways to promote what is hoped to be ample passing for a street course. The race length in terms of laps and stage breaks have yet to be announced, but this new race should be a thrilling installment in the ever-changing NASCAR schedule.

NASCAR has been adding more road course racing to the schedule over the recent few years, so it's no surprise to see a street course finally added to the schedule. The newness of this course will certainly present some challenges to both the drivers and the sanctioning body. With the event being held July 4 weekend its sure to attract a lot of viewership and attention. In terms of racing and performance, it will be a bit of a wildcard weekend of racing where the top road course performers should have a bit of an upper hand on the field.

Wet Weather Package for Short Tracks

NASCAR has been looking at solutions to mitigate rain delays at races. According to multiple sources in the NASCAR garage, the series is planning to debut a wet weather package with rain tires for some short ovals next year. Like the package used on road courses, it will include a windshield wiper, flaps behind the wheels, rain lights on the back of the car, and Goodyear rain tires, of course. Rain tires could be used at shorter oval tracks, such as the LA Coliseum, Martinsville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond. Of all 38 races, including two exhibitions, rain tires could be viable in 15 races.

At the time of this writing, NASCAR has not formally announced a wet weather package for 2023, but it has been widely rumored and speculated over the past year due to multiple recent races being affected by rain and adverse weather. It appears the sanctioning body is willing to give this a trial run in the upcoming season and with a focus on the series' short tracks. Those would be the most manageable with rain tires due to the lower top speeds. If employed, this could produce another wrinkle of strategy to what is already a strategy filled racing series. We've similar strategy shakeups in other global racing series like Formula 1 and IndyCar who employ the use of rain tires and wet weather packages.

New All-Star Race Location

While it won't have any impact on the regular season schedule, NASCAR has decided to change locations for this season's All-Star Race. This exhibition event has been held at Texas Motor Speedway the last two years, but will now move back to North Carolina in the upcoming season. The exciting news is that with the recent renovation and rehabilitation of the legendary North Wilkesboro Speedway, NASCAR has decided to hold the All-Star Race at that historic short track. With NASCAR celebrating their 75th anniversary in 2023, it seems a very fitting move to place this exciting exhibition race at such a historic venue.

The return to one of NASCAR's original tracks will be celebrated with five days of racing. Smaller racing series such CRA Super Late Models and CARS Late Model Stock Tour will open the racing action for the week. They will be followed by NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series and Cup Series later in the weekend. In addition, fans will be treated to Friday night and Saturday night concerts to add to the All-Star experience. NASCAR hasn't raced at North Wilkesboro since 1996, so it will be a triumphant return during the diamond anniversary for the sport.

Possible Rule Changes

The following topics have not been ruled on by NASCAR at the point of this writing, but they each have been hot topics over the last year and could be implemented by the sanctioning body in January. The topics covered, if implemented, could enhance the racing action, improve competition and make for a better spectator experience.

  • Eliminate caution flags at stage breaks – Stage racing has been a hot button topic for several seasons now. It appears there is a growing push to, if not eliminate the stage racing all together, at least eliminate the caution flags associated with them. NASCAR would still recognize the stage milestones during the race and award the stage points to the specific drivers earning points per usual, the sanctioning body would just keep the racing action continuous and eliminate the caution laps. Fans have argued that the caution flags kill the flow, momentum and excitement of the race, and it could be on the chopping block in 2023.
  • Revamp the structure of the typical race weekend – NASCAR has been employing limited practice and shorter qualifying sessions in the recent seasons. If NASCAR shortens their races through the elimination of unnecessary caution flags (see bullet point above) it could be that the sanctioning body would welcome back more practice laps and separate, if not expanded, qualifying formats. Shortening race distances have been a non-starter for years, but the elimination of stage cautions could allow NASCAR to return to a more historical weekend schedule that includes longer format practice and qualifying. It's something to keep an eye on as the rule changes evolve going forward.
  • More oval track racing, and less road course / street course racing – NASCAR used to include two road course events in the 36-race calendar. Those were historically Sonoma and Watkins Glen. In recent years NASCAR has expanded the road racing to a 6-to-7 event schedule and taken some of the oval track racing out. The critics have now claimed that the road racing is "oversaturated" and doesn't hold the special feel of the past with just two events. In addition, the Cup Series has sacrificed ovals like Indianapolis, the second Charlotte race, Chicago, Kentucky and the second Michigan race to make way for the expanded road racing calendar. With the 2023 calendar locked in at this point, we won't see any changes this season. However, we wouldn't rule out any announcements in the coming year that could affect the 2024 calendar and beyond.
  • Possible new track for the championship race – NASCAR is locked in with Phoenix Raceway as the host venue for the upcoming season's championship event. However, the 2024 schedule and beyond is still up in the air. In order to keep the racing fresh and with the idea of mixing things up, NASCAR may opt to move the championship race in 2024. Some ideas that have been floated include: Bristol Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway or Homestead-Miami Speedway. With short track racing and the new Next-Gen car being a hot button topic over the last year (lack of passing), NASCAR would need to consider an overhaul to the short track package on the Next-Gen car before entertaining a move to a short track for the championship race. That could produce yet another possible rules change in the future.  

New Title Sponsor for the Truck Series

Last August, NASCAR announced it had entered a new contract / partnership with Stanley Black & Decker to return as the title sponsor for the NASCAR Truck Series. Camping World had held this position for the past several seasons, and now the Craftsman Tools brand will replace them as the title sponsor for this racing series in 2023. The move marks a return for Craftsman, who had the naming rights as the inaugural partner with the Truck Series when it began way back in 1995. With this season being the 75th anniversary for NASCAR, its seems very fitting that they're returning to the original title sponsor for this division of the sport.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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