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The Biggest Heartbreaks of the 2023 NASCAR Season (So Far)

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Like any form of racing, NASCAR drivers are susceptible to heartbreak. Any driver can have a perfect weekend, only for an issue to derail an opportunity to win. The 2023 NASCAR season has already had a fair share of heartbreak for many star drivers. What driver has had the biggest heartbreak of the season so far?

5. Ryan Preece – Martinsville

Growing up racing on short tracks, Ryan Preece seemed poised to make a big splash when the Cup Series visited The Paperclip at Martinsville in April. Preece’s #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford unloaded with lots of speed, alongside his SHR teammates, winning the pole position and earning his first stage victory of his Cup career.

Despite leading a race-high 135 laps, an untimely pit road speeding penalty forced Preece to come from the tail of the field as a result of the penalty. At a track where track position is so important since the introduction of the Next Gen car, Preece only recovered to finish 15th at the checkered flag.

4. Christopher Bell – Chicago Street Course

In the first season with the Next Gen car, Joe Gibbs Racing’s fleet of drivers struggled to find any consistency on the road courses. Racing on a brand new course with a car that is only a year old, drivers are still thrown different scenarios.

The first running of the Chicago Street Course saw so many unpredictable moments as the weather dampened the publicity surrounding one of the most hyped race weekends. JGR’s Christopher Bell found his way to the front of the field and seemed to have the winning strategy, until NASCAR made a call to shorten the race from 100 laps to 75.

Bell pitted along with other front-runners at Lap 47 and couldn’t recover finishing in the 18th position after having one of the fastest cars that day.

3. William Byron – Richmond

Becoming the first driver this season to score multiple wins, William Byron’s #24 Hendrick Motorsports team seemed poised to score a third at Richmond Raceway. After leading a race-high 117 laps and at the time a series best 5th stage win, Byron was setup nicely to battle teammate Kyle Larson for the win, as they’d done earlier in the year at Phoenix Raceway.

It all came undone on a restart with 20 laps remaining in the 400 lap race, as Christopher Bell made a bold move into Turn 1, sending Byron spinning and into the Turn 1 wall. He never recovered and ultimately finished in the 24th position. Had the Lap 380 restart worked out in his favor, Byron would have 5 wins at this point in the season.

2. Kyle Busch – Daytona

One of the biggest races in NASCAR’s history is the Daytona 500. Whether driving for Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs during his Cup Series career, Kyle Busch has come close to scoring a win in one of NASCAR’s Crown Jewel events.

Making his first start driving for Hall of Fame car owner Richard Childress, Busch and teammate Austin Dillon worked with each other in the draft as the laps wound down. A caution flew late, sending the race into overtime with Busch the race leader.

After two overtime restarts and an accident on the final lap, Busch was scored 19th at the checkered flag. With a chance to win derailed by a late yellow, Busch lamented that 1998 rules be in place, where he would’ve been declared the winner after the scheduled 200 laps in a post race-interview with Frontstretch.

1. Kyle Larson – Kansas

Perhaps no moment this season has had more heartbreak than Kyle Larson’s near miss at Kansas Speedway in May. Larson overcame an early race spin and was in the right place at the right time to score another Kansas win. However, Denny Hamlin had other plans.

As the two forged a ferocious battle in the closing laps, Hamlin made slight contact with the left rear of Larson’s Chevy, sending it hard right into the backstretch wall. Despite being able to finish second, Larson will love to have a do-over when the Cup Series returns to the 1.5 mile track in September for the NASCAR playoffs.

There have been many heartbreaks across the 75 year history of NASCAR where championships have been lost in heartbreaking fashion or star drivers have down seasons. Which driver will experience the agony of defeat next?

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Chris Hansen

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