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NASCAR: Multiple champions could retire after 2023 season

NASCAR could see multiple champions retire at the conclusion of the 2023 season. Who are these drivers and what are their situations?

Austin Konenski
NASCAR: South Point 400
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR saw its last notable retirement come in 2020 when seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson decided to step away from full-time racing. However, Johnson has now returned as an owner/driver for Petty GMS Motorsports.

The 2023 season could represent many finalities as a few notable drivers could hang up the steering wheel after Championship Weekend.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. lead the possible retirement group

NASCAR: Cup Championship
Nov 6, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick during the Cup Championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the NASCAR drivers that could retire after next season, Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. lead that list. The likelihood seems pretty elevated that both ride off after the 2023 season.

Harvick has reportedly told Stewart-Haas Racing that he intends to retire at the conclusion of the 2023 season but no official announcement has taken place yet. If so, it would be the biggest story of the entire season.

The 46-year-old driver has two championships and over 100 wins in his NASCAR career, including 60 victories in the NASCAR Cup Series. Harvick’s retirement would represent a massive blow to the sport after he replaced Dale Earnhardt Sr. due to his fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Meanwhile, Truex is also closer to retirement than ever after the 2022 season. It was a question of whether he would even return for the 2023 season; however, the decision was made that he would return to the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing.

The 42-year-old driver struggled by his standards after not winning a race in a season for the first time since 2014 and overall, it was his worst statistical season since that point too.

Both of these drivers have more than one championship in their entire NASCAR careers. The fact that both might leave full-time competition at the end of the 2023 season would be crazy to comprehend.

However, the two veterans might not be the only Hall-of-Fame caliber drivers to retire at the conclusion of the year.

Related: NASCAR considering significant change for the 2023 season

Other notable NASCAR drivers that could retire after the 2023 season

NASCAR: Cup Qualifying
Nov 5, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11) speaks with Kurt Busch during qualifying at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few more notable drivers that could retire after the 2023 season is over. One of those drivers is Denny Hamlin. This might be a surprising name but if Hamlin wins the NASCAR Cup Series championship, it would make sense for him to go out on top.

Hamlin does not have that elusive championship like Harvick and Truex but based on his previous comments, it would not be shocking to see him retire after if he were to ever win it. Plus, the 42-year-old driver does not want to find himself in a scenario where he can’t win every week.

Another name is ThorSport Racing driver Matt Crafton. It feels like Crafton is involved in this discussion every single year but that is due to him being 46 years old. The three-time NASCAR Truck Series champion is getting up there in age while the performances haven’t been as good lately.

Both of those factors combined make the retirement picture clearer to a driver. This is something that Truex and Crafton might see after a poor 2022 season. Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart all went through the same thing.

Finally, another name is Johnny Sauter. While the full-time competition aspect was not present last season, Sauter is still looking to make starts during the 2023 season. It could represent the final season for the 2016 Truck Series champion.

Harvick, Truex, Hamlin, Crafton, and Sauter have been staples for the sport of NASCAR for almost two decades. Any of them retiring would be major news and it appears very likely that we will see at least one of them hang it up.