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NASCAR power rankings: Kyle Larson leads the way into busy off-season

Check out Sportsnaut's NASCAR power rankings which will be updated throughout the entire 2023 season after every Cup Series event.

It seems far away now but get past the holidays and the start of a new NASCAR Cup Series season is right around the figurative corner.

Teams are currently scheduled to leave from their shops in North Carolina on February 1 to make the long trek west to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the third edition of the preseason Busch Clash at the Coliseum.

With Ford Performance and Toyota Racing Development unveiling new body styles, the hierarchy of the 2024 season is still very much in doubt. However, this is what the off-season is for, educated speculation and whatnot, so we’ll give it a shot in our off-season NASCAR power rankings.

20. Ty Gibbs

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

The reigning Xfinity Series champion didn’t make the Cup Series playoffs but his presence was certainly felt over the final 10 races by contending nearly every week and posting top-10s at Bristol, Charlotte Roval and Homestead. Gibbs is likely to become a fixture in the top-10 moving forward.

19. Corey Lajoie

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

Corey Lajoie had an opportunity to join Stewart-Haas Racing but decided to stay at Spire Motorsports and it was the right move if the off-season is to be believed. Spire has invested millions of dollars in a third charter, a new shop and hiring one of the top executives of modern history. It’s going to be a prove-it season for Lajoie and crew chief Ryan Sparks.

Related: Rockingham Speedway spending millions to get NASCAR back

18. Chase Briscoe

  • Previously: Not ranked

Chase Briscoe is still the driver that made a deep run into the 2022 Cup Series playoffs and won nine Xfinity Series races back in 2020. This was a down year for everyone at Stewart-Haas and Briscoe should be better no matter what in 2024.  

17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

It was a career year for Ricky Stenhouse, and not just because the JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 opened the season by winning the Daytona 500. Their season long consistency before the playoffs started indicated this was a playoff team regardless of winning a race but it largely fell apart once the championship stretch began. Stenhouse and Mike Kelley did it for 26 races so it’s just a matter of doing it over 36.

16. Michael McDowell

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

The Front Row Motorsports No. 38 team are so fun to watch because Michael McDowell gets the most out of his equipment and crew chief Travis Peterson is one of the emerging leaders in his field. Front Row isn’t built to be a championship contender right now but it will be interesting to see how much more its leading team can get next season.

Related: Noah Gragson on the path back from his NASCAR,team suspension

15. Alex Bowman

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

Denny Hamlin once suffered an identical spinal injury as the one that cost Alex Bowman a handful of races this past season. He said he did not fully feel recovered until the final couple of races that season. It’s fair to believe Bowman was not 100 percent all year after returning. He should contend for wins in 2024.

14. Chase Elliott

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

Regardless of the injury that cost him six races or the suspension that cost him another, 2023 was a disappointing campaign for Chase Elliott purely from a performance standpoint. With that said, there were signs of improvement by the end of the year and there is little reason to not expect the No. 9 team to be exactly what they have been over the past half-decade.

13. Bubba Wallace

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

In a span of about 10 weeks late last season, Bubba Wallace went from a fringe playoff contender to a driver who looked capable of at least reaching the final four under the right circumstances. Wallace didn’t win last season but the consistency was there and 2024 will just be about tying everything together.

12. Brad Keselowski

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

Brad Keselowski is starting to cook with his RFK Racing No. 6 team now despite a second winless season in a row. The 2012 champion made the playoffs and contended for wins, often running second to teammate and employee Chris Buescher, meaning this is a car and driver capable of multiple wins if Ford takes a step forward.

Related: Stay up to date on the latest NASCAR Cup Series standings

NASCAR: Cup Practice & Qualifying
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

11. Chris Buescher

  • Previously: First edition of rankings

This was the breakout season everyone has expected and waited from Chris Buescher and it was just a matter of Roush Fenway Keselowski reaching a level of getting him there. Buescher had an outside shot of making the final four and this could be a signal of an entry poised to become a perennial threat at the highest levels.  

Related: Daytona 500 winners, results, and facts

10. Tyler Reddick

NASCAR: NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: First edition of rankings

It was a career best sixth in the playoff standings for Tyler Reddick, indicating a better navigation of the final 10 races but a slight step back in wins and laps led. But really, it was a largely consistent year-over-year campaign for Tyler Reddick, who stands to be a threat to make the final four each year.

9. Ross Chastain

Syndication: The Tennessean
Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY
  • Previously: First edition of rankings

It was kind of a weird season for Chastain, who led the standing a third of the way through the season and overall led the sixth most number of laps but just had a missing spark of some kind in the playoffs. And yet, they made history in becoming the first non-championship eligible driver to win the finale so they have a lot to build on.

8. Joey Logano

NASCAR: NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: First edition of rankings

It’s interesting to think about Joey Logano in the playoffs because he very well could have been in the same position as Ryan Blaney in the second half of the playoffs after his elimination. Ford Performance and Team Penske saved their best cars for last for the second year in a row and Blaney reaped the benefits. Sure, this was a down season for Logano but it was for Blaney too until it suddenly wasn’t.

Related: Christopher Bell says NASCAR has ‘gutless engines’ as drivers want more horsepower

7. Kyle Busch

NASCAR: NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: First edition of rankings

What a lopsided season for ‘Rowdy,’ who won three times early in the season and just didn’t have the same speed in the second half of the season. It’s hard to ever bet against Kyle Busch. If Richard Childress Racing and crew chief Randall Burnett give the No. 8 car their best results, Busch will get them the rest of the way there.

6. Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR: Cup Series Championship Qualifying
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: First edition of rankings

Martin Truex Jr. ended up on the wildest ride this championship format could possibly muster. He won three times en route to the regular season and then could only muster two top-10s over the playoffs. And yet, he continued to advance purely due to his regular season points buffer but failed to make the final four. Truex and the Gibbs No. 19 will be back for another season of contention.

5. Christopher Bell

NASCAR: NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Christopher Bell has five wins over the past two seasons and is the only driver since the debut of this new car to make the final four in each of those campaigns. For Bell and crew chief Adam Stevens, it’s just a matter of finding a greater degree of consistency and closing out in the finale.

  • Previously: No. 4 in NASCAR power rankings

Related: Almirola’s next NASCAR gig revealed during NFL game

4. Denny Hamlin

NASCAR: HighPoint.com 400
Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: First edition of rankings

Another season of that same old narrative surrounding Denny Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team. The driver continues to pile up wins and consistency, has arguably the smartest crew chief in the sport, is in the best shape of his career and just can’t break through in the big moments in the playoffs. This year, it was the power steering failure at Homestead. Hamlin will try again in 2024.

3. Ryan Blaney

Syndication: The Tennessean
Stephanie Amador / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: First edition of rankings

Blaney is following the Team Penske NextGen tradition of doing enough to make the playoffs and then catching fire in the playoffs to win the championship. Blaney hasn’t even reached his max potential yet.

Related: Martin Truex Jr. decides against retirement, returning to NASCAR in 2024

2. William Byron

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: First edition of rankings

William Byron had a career season with six wins, 21 top-10s, 15 top-5s and an average finish of 11.0. At his age, and chemistry with crew chief Rudy Fugle, there is no reason to expect this not to continue well into the future.

1. Kyle Larson

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Alex Gould/Special for The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kyle Larson continues to be the biggest newsmaker in American motorsports and his results across multiple disciplines is the reason why. He won the inaugural High Limit Sprint Car championship and will make his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2024. He has 17 wins since being paired with crew chief Cliff Daniels at Hendrick Motorsports in 2021. He had eight DNFs last year, but this format rewards those sort of ‘checkers or wreckers’ decisions on the track.

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.