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NASCAR Cup Series 2022 mid-season review and projections

NASCAR has officially hit the midpoint of the 2022 season and it's time to take a look at each driver and what they are projected to accomplish this year.

Austin Konenski
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Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR has officially hit the midpoint of the 2022 season and it’s time to take a look at each driver’s season and what they are projected to accomplish this year. Let’s take a look at each organization and the performance of its drivers thus far, as well as make some projections for the rest of the season.

Rick Ware Racing

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Projected statistics:

  • No. 51 Cody Ware: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and a 28.5 average finish

Cody Ware was not expected to be in contention for basic statistics like top-5 finishes and top-10 finishes, but there has been an improvement on his end with the NextGen car.

Ware’s average finish is 2.6 positions better than last season and has seen himself higher in the running order more often. While there should be little expectations for massive improvement it’s still good to see.

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Rick Ware Racing isn’t a high-profile team but a top-10 finish from Ware at one of the superspeedway tracks would be great for him. The 26-year-old driver is still seeking his first career top-10 finish. Ware will look to build on his improvements and finish more consistently in better positions while keeping the car out of trouble.

Spire Motorsports

Corey LaJoie
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Projected statistics:

  • No. 7 Corey LaJoie: Zero wins, two top-5 finishes, two top-10 finishes, and a 25.6 average finish

Corey LaJoie and Spire Motorsports must have expected better results in the first year of NASCAR’s NextGen car. LaJoie sits 31st in the point standings as the second-lowest full-time driver.

LaJoie did earn his first career top-5 finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this season which is also the first track on the second half of the schedule this weekend. The 30-year-old driver is on pace for the same average finish as the 2020 season and that’s not what they expected as it is down from the 2021 season.

LaJoie will look to turn that around in the second half of the year and further cement his case on coming back to the No. 7 car for the 2023 NASCAR season.

Wood Brothers Racing

Projected statistics:

  • No. 21 Harrison Burton: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and a 23.7 average finish

Harrison Burton wasn’t expected to do much in the No. 21 car for Wood Brothers Racing during the NASCAR 2022 season but it has to be disappointing to not have the results. Burton is on pace to become the first full-time driver for the organization to not register a top-10 finish over the course of the season. It has obviously not been up to the standards of Wood Brothers Racing.

The 21-year-old driver might be having the most disappointing season of anyone in NASCAR’s top level but there is time to turn it around this season. Improvement doesn’t happen overnight. Burton will look to learn more and apply that to his racing for better finishes in the second half of the season. One top-10 finish should be the goal at the bare minimum.

JTG Daugherty Racing

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Projected statistics:

  • No. 47 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.: Zero wins, two top-5 finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, and a 21.4 average finish

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. struggled at the beginning of the season but he turned it around with four straight top-10 finishes starting at Dover Motor Speedway in May. Stenhouse is on pace for the most top-10 finishes of his NASCAR career with his previous high sitting at nine during the 2017 season when he also won two events.

The 34-year-old driver’s impressive month of May resulted in a multi-year contract that keeps him in the No. 47 car for JTG Daugherty Racing for the foreseeable future. Stenhouse will look to push himself to the 10 top-10 finishes mark and try to win a superspeedway event that locks himself into the NASCAR playoffs.

Kaulig Racing

Projected statistics:

  • No. 31 Justin Haley: Zero wins, two top-5 finishes, two top-10 finishes, and an 18.9 average finish

Justin Haley is attempting his first full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series and it has been a decent first half of the year. Granted, Haley has much more Cup Series experience than other first-year drivers. There have been flashes of success for Haley, such as the Darlington event when he finished in third place. It has been impressive as he sits as the top full-time single driver in the point standings.

While he does have another full-time car in the Kaulig Racing stable, it is used as a car to help build the Cup Series program with A.J. Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, and Daniel Hemric.

Haley will look to continue his consistent success and earn another top-10 finish in the second half of the 2022 NASCAR season.

Petty GMS Motorsports

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Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 42 Ty Dillon: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, two top-10 finishes, and a 21.1 average finish
  • No. 43 Erik Jones: Zero wins, two top-5 finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, and 18.0 average finish

Ty Dillon re-entered the NASCAR Cup Series and has done a great job at keeping the car in one piece. Dillon hasn’t put up the statistics like his teammate Erik Jones, but at least he’s not destroying cars.

The 30-year-old driver has seen better seasons with more top-10 finishes and a better average finish, so there needs to be an improvement on his end since he’s being outrun by Jones. Dillon looks to secure another top-10 finish and consistently run better while keeping the car in one piece. Meanwhile, his teammate has higher expectations for the second half.

Jones is a Cup Series winner but that success came with Joe Gibbs Racing. The way Jones is performing with Petty GMS Motorsports has been nothing short of impressive this season. The 26-year-old driver already has five top-5 finishes and only has six top-10 finishes last season. Jones also has improved his average finish by 1.7 positions from the 2021 season.

Jones will look to continue his consistently fast runs and possibly contend for a win in the No. 43 car. A late regular-season victory is not out of the picture for Jones.

RFK Racing

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Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 6 Brad Keselowski: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, four top-10 finishes, and a 20.6 average finish.
  • No. 17 Chris Buescher: Zero wins, two top-5 finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, and a 17.9 average finish.

Brad Keselowski made the move to RFK Racing this season after spending numerous years with Team Penske. Admittedly, this has been a very disappointing season for Keselowski.

The 38-year-old driver’s playoff chances were completely derailed when he was penalized 100 points earlier in the year and he has been struggling to finish well. However, the road courses have been massive for him. Keselowski will look to consistently improve his finishes and grab more top-10 finishes. There also remains the possibility that Keselowski grabs a superspeedway victory this summer.

Meanwhile, Chris Buescher has been on pace for his best NASCAR Cup Series season to date. Buescher is on pace for 10 top-10 finishes with a previous high of eight in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The 29-year-old driver has been seeing the success of RFK Racing’s good road course package and almost took the victory at Sonoma Raceway when he finished in second place to Daniel Suarez.

Buescher will look to continue his success and hit the double-digit top-10 finish mark while attempting to win the second race of his NASCAR career, realistically at a road course.

Front Row Motorsports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 34 Michael McDowell: Zero wins, two top-5 finishes, 14 top-10 finishes, and a 16.6 average finish
  • No. 38 Todd Gilliland: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and a 23.1 average finish

Michael McDowell has one of the most impressive drivers in the sport this season. McDowell has already surpassed his previous career-high of five top-10 finishes with seven top-10 finishes through 18 races.

The 37-year-old driver is on pace for 14 top-10 finishes and an improvement of nearly four positions to his average finish from the 2021 NASCAR season. McDowell will look to continue his consistent success in a hands-down career season. There should be no question that NASCAR’s NextGen car has propelled McDowell into new territory.

McDowell’s teammate Todd Gilliland has not been on his level, but it is expected as Gilliland went straight from the NASCAR Truck Series to the Cup Series this year. Gilliland sits as the third-lowest full-time driver in collective points, not including Keselowski’s 100-point penalty. The 22-year-old driver is the lowest full-time rookie in the standings.

Gilliland will look to improve as he grows as a driver in the second half of the year. Maybe, it’s reasonable to set a top-10 finish as the goal for Gilliland in the next 18 events.

23XI Racing

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Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 23 Bubba Wallace: Zero wins, two top-5 finishes, four top-10 finishes, and a 22.0 average finish
  • No. 45 Kurt Busch: Two wins, 10 top-5 finishes, 14 top-10 finishes, and a 17.0 average finish

Bubba Wallace’s on-paper statistics are very disappointing compared to previous years, but the speed has been there for him lately. Wallace is on pace to have his worst average finish since the 2019 season, which was his second full-time year in the NASCAR Cup Series. However, he has seen awful luck and poor pit crew work.

The 28-year-old driver will look to consistently finish races well in the second half of the NASCAR season and earn more top-10 finishes. A victory is definitely not out of the equation either for Wallace.

Wallace’s teammate Kurt Busch has been steadily better this season and after his win at Kansas Speedway, expectations are now set that 23XI Racing can win non-superspeedway events. Busch is on pace for the most top-5 finishes since the 2015 season when he won two events. There has been serious speed from all of the Toyotas this year and Busch is benefiting.

The 43-year-old driver will look to run up front even more and secure another victory. The speed is there and Busch is proving that he can still get it done.

Richard Childress Racing

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Projected statistics:

  • No. 3 Austin Dillon: Zero wins, six top-5 finishes, 12 top-10 finishes, and a 16.0 average finish
  • No. 8 Tyler Reddick: Two wins, 10 top-5 finishes, 14 top-10 finishes, and a 17.3 average finish

Austin Dillon has been having a quiet 2022 NASCAR season but still remains on pace for the most top-5 finishes in his career and the most top-10 finishes since the 2016 season. Dillon has not been on the same level as his teammate Tyler Reddick when it comes to speed and running up front, so his successful season has been overshadowed.

The 32-year-old driver will look to build on his success and perhaps fight for a victory at some point. There are definitely reasons to believe that it can happen.

Speaking of Reddick, it has been a pretty good start to the year for him. While Reddick is not on pace to eclipse his top-10 mark from last season, the speed and wins will be there for him. The 26-year-old driver has struggled to finish races due to multiple issues and it has cost him many great finishes and possibly wins, such as the unlucky incident at Auto Club Speedway.

Reddick will look to finish races well and continue his continuous success of having fast cars. There are more wins on the horizon for Reddick, but it needs to come with no mistakes.

Trackhouse Racing

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Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 1 Ross Chastain: Four wins, 18 top-5 finishes, 24 top-10 finishes, and an 11.9 average finish
  • No. 99 Daniel Suarez: Two wins, eight top-5 finishes, 12 top-10 finishes, and a 17.2 average finish

Ross Chastain is this year’s top breakout driver across all three NASCAR levels and it might not even be close. Chastain is on pace for an eye-popping four wins and 18 top-5 finishes. The 29-year-old driver won his first Cup Series event at Circuit of the Americas and did it again at Talladega Superspeedway. Chastain’s previous career-high of top-10 finishes sat at eight before easily being passed.

Chastain has higher aspirations than top-10 finishes as he looks to win more races and try to cement himself as the championship favorite in 2022.

Meanwhile, Daniel Suarez has been putting up impressive numbers too. However, Suarez has been under Chastain’s shadow due to the distinct differences between them. Suarez earned his first NASCAR Cup Series victory at Sonoma Raceway and remains on pace for the most top-10 finishes in his career since 2017. Suarez has also matched his career-high of four top-5 finishes.

The 30-year-old driver will look to improve his consistency to be on pace with Chastain. There also could be more wins on the table as Trackhouse Racing seems to be run well everywhere.

Team Penske

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Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 2 Austin Cindric: Two wins, four top-5 finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, and a 16.3 average finish
  • No. 12 Ryan Blaney: Zero wins, 12 top-5 finishes, 18 top-10 finishes, and a 12.2 average finish
  • No. 22 Joey Logano: Four wins, 10 top-5 finishes, 16 top-10 finishes, and a 14.6 average finish

Austin Cindric is having a decent rookie season after his victory at the Daytona 500. While the overall numbers might not be eye-popping, the consistency has been there with a 16.3 average finish. Cindric also sits 14th in the point standings which is not too shabby for a rookie driver. The 23-year-old driver has not been on the same level as his teammates but that’s to be expected.

Cindric will look to improve on his consistency and translate it into more top-10 finishes as he gears up for his first career playoffs at NASCAR’s top level.

Meanwhile, Ryan Blaney is having one of his typical seasons despite sitting second in the point standings. Blaney is on pace for the most top-5 finishes of his career but still lacks a victory. It is notable since Blaney is in his seventh full-time season but this might be his most successful in terms of overall points gained during the regular season.

The 28-year-old driver will look to improve upon his current pace as it is on average. If Blaney can take that next step, wins and a possible championship bid are on the horizon.

Joey Logano has the most wins out of the Team Penske trio but has left more to be desired in terms of overall consistency. Logano is on pace for his least amount of top-10 finishes since the 2012 season. The 32-year-old driver is also on pace for his worst average finish since the 2017 season. However, when Logano flashes speed during a weekend, it can easily translate into major success.

Logano will look to continue his success with fast cars but the overall consistency needs to be improved. If not, it will be hard for Logano to make his way through the playoffs.

Stewart-Haas Racing

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Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 4 Kevin Harvick: Zero wins, eight top-5 finishes, 20 top-10 finishes, and a 13.1 average finish
  • No. 10 Aric Almirola: Zero wins, four top-5 finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, and a 15.1 average finish
  • No. 14 Chase Briscoe: Two wins, six top-5 finishes, eight top-10 finishes, and an 18.1 average finish
  • No. 41 Cole Custer: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and a 22.1 average finish

Kevin Harvick’s performances are continuing to dip as the career of one of NASCAR’s best drivers of the last decade seems to be coming to a close soon. Harvick is on pace to have another winless season, the least amount of top-5 finishes since the 2012 season, the least amount of top-10 finishes since the 2014 season, and the worst average finish since the 2009 season.

Despite these statistics, Harvick has been the most consistent driver at Stewart-Haas Racing and will look to continue this pace of consistency while looking for a victory.

Aric Almirola is in his final full-time season as a NASCAR Cup Series driver and it has definitely gone better than 2021. Almirola has already matched his top-5 finishes and top-10 finishes from last season. The 38-year-old driver sits 12th in the point standings but it is not enough as many drivers behind the cut-line have won races. It might take a victory for Almirola to make the playoffs.

Almirola will look to develop more consistency as he vies for a playoff spot and try to come home with a victory in what might be the final 18 races of his career.

Chase Briscoe has made a noticeable jump compared to the 2021 NASCAR season and even won the first race of his Cup Series career at Phoenix Raceway earlier this season. Briscoe has shown to be really fast when he shows speed but much like the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing, speed has not been that great on a consistent basis and his pace of eight top-10 finishes shows that.

The 27-year-old driver will look to flash even more speed while becoming more consistent like Harvick to round out his season. There could be more wins for Briscoe if things fall correctly.

Cole Custer is having a disastrous season and it has been noticeable. Custer sits 27th in the point standings and remains the highest driver in points without a top-10 finish. The 24-year-old driver is on pace to have the worst season of his Cup Series career and it needs to change fast if he doesn’t want to be on the outside looking in eventually.

Custer will look to earn his first top-10 finish of the 2022 NASCAR season and develop way more consistency on a weekly basis to get on par with his teammates.

Joe Gibbs Racing

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Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Four wins, six top-5 finishes, eight top-10 finishes, and a 20.1 average finish
  • No. 18 Kyle Busch: Two wins, 12 top-5 finishes, 22 top-10 finishes, and a 13.3 average finish
  • No. 19 Martin Truex Jr.: Zero wins, four top-5 finishes, 14 top-10 finishes, and a 14.3 average finish
  • No. 20 Christopher Bell: Zero wins, eight top-5 finishes, 20 top-10 finishes, and a 14.9 average finish

Denny Hamlin might be on pace for four wins but it has not been a good season for him. Hamlin has seen so much bad luck but it’s also on him with a reported 26 pit-road penalties this season. The 41-year-old driver is on pace for the least amount of top-5 finishes and top-10 finishes, plus the worst average finish since the 2013 season when he missed four events.

Hamlin will look to continue his winning ways but also develop consistency so he can make a deep run into the playoffs as he chases his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Kyle Busch has been the best Joe Gibbs Racing driver during the 2022 season and his consistency is a big factor. While it might not be on the level as his previous years, it’s still the best for the organization. Busch is on pace for his least amount of top-5 finishes since the 2015 season when he missed 11 events en route to the championship, but he easily could be labeled among the championship favorites.

The 37-year-old driver will look to develop even more consistent performances while closing out victories more often since he could easily have more than one this season.

Martin Truex Jr. is having a down year in the No. 19 car but he still sits in the playoff picture. Truex also announced his intentions to return next season after pondering retirement. The 42-year-old driver is on pace for the least amount of top-5 and top-10 finishes, plus the worst average finish since the 2014 season. It has been hard for Truex to acclimate to NASCAR’s NextGen car.

Truex will look to win a race and finish in the top-5 positions more often in the second half of the year. A victory for Truex might be necessary as he sits 15th in the playoff picture.

Christopher Bell still sits without a victory but it’s the only major glaring weakness on his stat line. Bell sits on the bubble of the playoff picture but it’s a good spot to be in after a disastrous start of the year. The 27-year-old driver is on pace for 20 top-10 finishes which are on the level of a Round of 8 driver in previous seasons. It has been a good year for Bell but pit crew struggles have held him back, like Bubba Wallace.

Bell will look to be the next winner of the 2022 NASCAR season as he continues to build success in his second season with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Hendrick Motorsports

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Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Projected statistics:

  • No. 5 Kyle Larson: Two wins, 16 top-5 finishes, 20 top-10 finishes, and a 13.7 average finish
  • No. 9 Chase Elliott: Four wins, 10 top-5 finishes, 24 top-10 finishes, and an 11.4 average finish
  • No. 24 William Byron: Four wins, eight top-5 finishes, 10 top-10 finishes, and a 17.1 average finish
  • No. 48 Alex Bowman: Two wins, six top-5 finishes, 18 top-10 finishes, and a 13.4 average finish

Kyle Larson’s season might seem like a down year compared to what he accomplished last year, but it still has been in the ballpark compared to his teammate Chase Elliott. Larson is still on pace to have a successful season and has seen some victories fall from his fingers, such as the Coca-Cola 600. There are still plenty of wins coming for the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion.

The 29-year-old driver will look to earn more race wins and playoff points ahead of what’s going to be his first playoffs in title defense mode.

Speaking of Elliott, it has been a great season as he is on pace for four wins and 24 top-10 finishes. While Elliott doesn’t have the high-end finishing consistency that you would imagine, he still sits first in the point standings. The 26-year-old driver is one of the championship favorites despite being on pace to have the least amount of top-5 finishes since his rookie season in 2016.

Elliott will look to continue building on his successful year by winning races and earning points while working on the ability to finish races in even better positions as he looks for his second Cup Series championship.

William Byron had a good start to the year but it has been a downward spiral since his second victory at Martinsville Speedway. Byron only has three top-15 finishes since his last victory in early April. The 24-year-old driver is on pace to have the least amount of top-10 finishes and the worst average finish since his second season in 2019. However, this is Byron’s first multi-win season of his Cup Series career.

Byron will look to drastically turn things around and start having consistent runs again. It’s hard to take Byron seriously as a potential Championship 4 driver until this happens.

Alex Bowman is not on pace for four wins like the 2021 season but this has been the most consistent year of his career thus far. That is shown by Bowman’s second-best average finish on Hendrick Motorsports. The 29-year-old driver is on pace to have the most top-10 finishes and the best average finish of his career. While it might not be showing up with top-5 finishes, it’s a nice start for him.

Bowman will look to develop more consistency in the top-5 positions while building on his success with more victories to take it to the next level.