What’s Happening?

The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series full-time grid will feature 7 past Cup Series Champions. Each of them should continue to be a threat to win week in and week out, but, how good will they be? Here is a look at expectations for past Champions in 2024.

  • To make this list, drivers need to be past NASCAR Cup Series Champions who will compete full-time in 2024. Drivers who have won Championships in lower series and drivers who will run part-time are ineligible.
  • Drivers who are past Champions always have expectations raised because of what a Championship does to their pedigree. From then on out, anything less than a Championship may feel like a failure to some drivers.
  • Fans are always excited to see how past Champions perform. With heightened expectations, past Champions are often watched closely by fans.

#5 Kyle Larson (2021)

Kyle Larson came oh so close to his second Cup Series Championship in 2023, finishing just behind Ryan Blaney. Larson returns to Hendrick Motorsports in the #5 car with Cliff Daniels as crew chief. There is no reason to believe Larson shouldn’t be a Championship contender in 2024.

The one thing that could hold Larson up is his over-aggressiveness. He had 8 DNFs in 2023, which was the second most in the series behind Austin Dillon. If Larson is not winning races, he is doing whatever he can to get up front, and that often leads to aggressiveness and mistakes. Last year, an aver-aggressive entry into pit road cost him a potential race win at Homestead-Miami, and, without that win the previous week, he may have been left out of the Championship 4.

#6 Brad Keselowski (2012)

Brad Keselowski experienced a successful 2023. He improved from 24th to 8th in the points standings, and it highlighted RFK Racing’s resurgence. He proved that the Championship-level talent that helped him beat arguably the greatest race car driver of all time in 2012 is still there. With the support from Ford, Keselowski should do at least as good in 2024, but, he is looking to get his first win since 2021.

The question with Keselowski is can RFK Racing continue its’ resurgence? They got to the doorstep of the Championship 4 in 2023, but, taking that next step to a Championship contender is a big jump.

#8 Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019)

Kyle Busch enters 2024 in his 2nd season with Richard Childress Racing. 2023 was a tale of two halves for Busch as he won 3 of the first 15 races, but, he faltered to finish 14th in the standings. However, it seemed at least early in the season that he gained back some of the mojo that won him 2 Cup Series Championships.

Of all the drivers on this list, he is the most uncertain. His equipment is good, but, is it as good as teams like Hendrick, Gibbs, and Penske? Add to that a struggling 2nd half, and Busch could be surprisingly low in the 2024 standings if things do not turn around.

#9 Chase Elliott (2020)

Chase Elliott had a 2023 to forget with an injury and a suspension causing him to miss 7 races. Despite that, he had 15 top-10s, so, when he was on track, he was fast. Given his equipment and coming back with his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, there is no reason to believe that Elliott should not make the Playoffs in 2023.

The question with Elliott will likely be his health. A full offseason has likely helped his leg heal up, and he had shoulder surgery done as well. He seems like he should be healthy, but, if things go south again, he could struggle.

#12 Ryan Blaney (2023)

Ryan Blaney came out of nowhere to become the 2023 Cup Series Champion. He went from the 11th seed to becoming a Champion. He returns with Jonathan Hassler as his crew chief at Team Penske with the new Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

The major question with Blaney is the regular season. He won one race in the 2023 regular season, but, he was pretty pedestrian otherwise. Making a magical Playoff run like that is difficult to do, so, if he wants to repeat, he likely wants to see a better regular season.

#19 Martin Truex Jr. (2017)

Martin Truex Jr. will be dodging retirement questions all throughout the 2024 season. No one knows if this will be his last year, but, he seems poised to be a Championship contender once again. While he struggled in the Playoffs, he did win the Regular Season Championship and 3 races.

The question with Truex is how long the momentum of a struggling end to 2023 will stick with him. Remember that he missed the Playoffs altogether in 2022, which was very out of character for him. He is showing some signs of slowing down, but he is also showing flashes of how good he still can be.

#22 Joey Logano (2018 and 2022)

Joey Logano was the surprise exit of the first round in 2023, and he also only one one race. His teammate, Ryan Blaney, won the 2023 Championship, so, Logano is out to prove himself in 2024. Remember that he followed up 1 win season in 2017 and 2021 with Championships in 2018 and 2022.

The question with Logano will be competition within his team. For the first time in a few years, there is true competition for the number 1 driver spot at Team Penske. A spot Logano has held since at least 2022.

Which past Champion is poised to win another in 2024? We will find out, and the 2024 season is right around the corner.