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The 7 Biggest Suprises of NASCAR Silly Season

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

For this article, let’s take a trip back in time to Daytona in February. If a time traveler came back and said that any of the Silly Season stories would happen, what would you say? Well, if they said any of these stories, fans would not believe them.

  • This is not necessarily a list of stories that were surprising when they came out. Rather, this is a list of stories that were not on anyone’s radar when the season began.
  • When the season begins, people think they have a grasp on how Silly Season will play out, but, oftentimes, no one does. These are stories that no one saw coming when the year started.
  • Fans always love to speculate about Silly Season. It is just as fun to look back and think about where the NASCAR fanbase was at heading into the season.

The Rise of Carson Hocevar

At the beginning of the year, Carson Hocevar was not on the minds of most NASCAR fans. He was a solid, but not spectacular Truck Series driver who has never won a race. He quickly turned heads as the summer wore on.

He won four races in the Truck Series, and he made 9 Cup Series starts. Every start he made, he continued to impress with his raw driving talent. He was so good that Spire Motorsports offered him a full-time ride in the Cup Series for 2024.

He did ruffle some feathers throughout the season, particularly at Phoenix, but, that should not take away from the season he had. He went from a random face in the Truck Series to a potential star over the course of just one season.

Spire Motorsports Expansion

Spire Motorsports made minor improvements heading into 2023. They signed Ty Dillon on to be their second full-time driver, which was a first for the team in its history. However, they took the NASCAR world by storm over the late summer and early fall.

First off, Corey LaJoie was having his best season yet, sitting in the top 20 in points in the summer. Second, Gainbridge came on as a sponsor to give Spire an influx of cash. They spent that money to buy out Kyle Busch Motorsports, buy a charter from Live Fast Motorsports, and sign Carson Hocevar, Corey LaJoie, and Zane Smith for 2024.

No one expected Spire Motorsports to go on that kind of spending spree. They went from a team that struggled to run in the top 30 to an up-and-coming race team.

Justin Haley to Rick Ware Racing

At the beginning of the year, many knew that Justin Haley’s contract was expiring. However, many felt that Haley and Kaulig Racing would reach an agreement for 2024.

In July, Haley shocked everyone by saying he signed a multi-year deal with…Rick Ware Racing? Yes, Justin Haley left a fun and potentially up-and-coming Kaulig team to race for a team that was in danger of losing a charter. Everyone was shocked and puzzled by this when it was announced, but, as time went on, it began to make sense.

Rick Ware Racing is aligned with RFK Racing, which showed great strides of improvement in 2023, and Rick Ware Racing showed improvement as well. Kaulig Racing also showed they were completely redoing their driver lineup in 2024 with A.J. Allmendinger leaving, primarily because of sponsorship. So, this seemed more sponsorship-related than anything else.

Legacy Motor Club to Toyota

Every year, fans speculated how Toyota could expand beyond a relatively thin 6-car lineup. While Legacy Motor Club underwent a complete rebrand when Jimmie Johnson bought into the team, Johnson had been loyal to Chevrolet since he started his racing career.

In May, Toyota and LMC surprised many by announcing they would partner up starting in 2024. It made sense for both sides as LMC was not a key partner Chevy team, but they would be with Toyota. Toyota also desperately needed more cars with only 6 on the grid in 2023.

When Johnson bought into Legacy Motor Club, people expected change, but not this big of a change. He moved on from the manufacturer that he won all of his Championships with.

Noah Gragson’s Whirlwind Trip to SHR

At the beginning of the year, Noah Gragson was in a Rookie of the Year battle with Ty Gibbs. Gragson also joined Legacy Motor Club, which won a race in 2022 and had a new owner in Jimmie Johnson. Gragson struggled alongside Legacy Motor Club throughout 2023 however.

Still, many felt that Gragson would get a second chance with LMC given his impressive Xfinity Series track record. Well, he was indefinitely suspended by both LMC and NASCAR, and he was eventually released by LMC after an incident on social media. After Gragson went through a period of reflection and was reinstated, he signed with Stewart-Haas Racing in the offseason.

It was a whirlwind of a season for Gragson, and this is a gravely oversimplified telling of the story. Still, it was nowhere near what people expected of him heading into 2023.

SVG to Full-Time Xfinity

At the beginning of the season, few NASCAR fans knew who SVG even was. Even when he was announced by Trackouse as the next driver for “Project 91”, few expected him to be the sensation he was.

Well, SVG won the Chicago Street Race in the rain, and everything developed from there. He originally said he would finish his Supercars contract, but, he was let out of that contract early. Now, he will race full-time in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig along with 7 Cup Series races in 2024.

From unknown amongst NASCAR fans to one of the most exciting prospects in the sport. SVG did that in 2023, and it all started with a big win in NASCAR’s newest race.

Josh Berry to SHR

At the beginning of the year, Kevin Harvick’s 4 car was the biggest ride available in NASCAR Silly Season. One driver who was not on many fans’ minds was Josh Berry. Many felt he had earned a Cup Series ride, but, maybe it was too late for him.

Well, Berry proved himself in a fill-in role for Hendrick Motorsports. With Chase Elliott injured, Berry filled in with a best finish of second at Richmond. Soon afterward, Berry had a contract with SHR for 2024.

An old-school racer who earned his opportunity on merit, Josh Berry was a great story for NASCAR fans in 2023. Will he be able to fill Kevin Harvick’s shoes in 2024?

What surprises await NASCAR in 2024? Plenty of interesting stories come out of nowhere, and there will certainly be more in 2024.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts