It’s draft season in professional sports. With the NBA Draft this week and the MLB and NHL Drafts to follow, it got us thinking about NASCAR. What if NASCAR were to have a driver draft? Now, I am well aware that the scenario I am proposing is never going to happen, but, it’s still a fun “what if?”
How Does it Work?
There will be two rounds with the first round being either current Cup Series rookies and potential rookies for next season and the second round being veteran Cup Series drivers. Every chartered team owner gets one pick in each, except for the the single-car teams, and they will only get one second round pick.
The order is determined by owners points from last season. The team with the lowest average position in owners points amongst chartered entries will pick first, the second lowest will pick second, and so on. How would a draft of this type play out?
Round 1 (Rookies)
(1) Rick Ware Racing: Ty Gibbs
Rick Ware Racing picks the hottest young rookie on the circuit with Ty Gibbs. Gibbs has already shown he can get it done at the Cup Series level, and he is only going to get better and better as time goes on.
(2) Spire Motorsports: Carson Hocever
Hocevar already has a relationship with Spire Motorsports, and his one Cup Series effort with them was impressive. He is a safe option with the number-2 pick.
(3) Front Row Motorsports: Zane Smith
Again, this is a pick based on relationships. Zane Smith already has a relationship with Front Row Motorsports, and he has shown the ability to driver a race car too.
(4) Legacy Motor Club: John Hunter Nemechek
John Hunter Nemechek is one of the top Xfinity Series drivers currently, and he has Cup Series experience. That is a rare combination, and it is hard to ignore with the fourth overall pick.
(5) Kaulig Racing: Josh Berry
This may seem like a surprise pick to some, but it is also a safer pick. Josh Berry is a veteran driver, and Kaulig Racing is a team that definitely values experience.
(6) RFK Racing: Noah Gragson
Gragson could easily be higher on this draft board, but his early season performance scares team away in this fantasy scenario. He still is a legitimate talent, and, given the right equipment, he can win.
(7) Stewart-Haas Racing: Chandler Smith
At this point in the draft, youth becomes very valuable. When drivers are more equal in terms of talent, the younger one usually wins out. Chandler Smith is youthful, and he continues to impress in Xfinity.
(8) 23XI Racing: Sammy Smith
Sammy Smith is talented, albeit a bit raw. This is not a terrible combination working with a relatively new team and having veteran Denny Hamlin in your ear. Sammy Smith is a solid pick.
(9) Richard Childress Racing: Sam Mayer
Sam Mayer has yet to win in the Xfinity Series, but he is still 19 years old. That youth will cause someone later in the first round to take a chance on him.
(10) Joe Gibbs Racing: Cole Custer
Late in the first round, why not give a guy a second chance? Cole Custer is clicking currently in the Xfinity Series, and, in this fantasy scenario, Gibbs value bringing in a guy with experience like Custer.
(11) Hendrick Motorsports: Austin Hill
A driver with experience and a good pedigree on superspeedways. Rick Hendrick has arguably the best engines on the grid, and the means Austin Hill would be put in the best position to succeed where he is best.
(12) Team Penske: Corey Heim
Another example of youth taking precedence. Heim would need a while to develop in the Cup Series, but Penske’s second round pick will make this one make much more sense.
(13) Team Trackhouse: Daniel Hemric
It’s hard to keep an Xfinity Series champion undrafted. Yes, Hemric has only won one race, but he is a consistent driver, and that is the best you can ask for in the late-first round in this scenario.
Round 2 (Veterans)
(1) Live Fast Motorsports: Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson is widely considered to be the best driving talent in the sport today. That explains this pick fully.
(2) Rick Ware Racing: William Byron
Rick Ware Racing is set for the foreseeable future with this draft pick. A young Ty Gibbs partnered with William Byron means this team can be set in terms of driver talent for over a decade to come.
(3) Spire Motorsports: Joey Logano
When bringing in a rookie like Carson Hocevar, the best person to compliment that race team is a veteran. Why not partner a Champion to show Hocevar the ropes as he develops slowly?
(4) Wood Brothers: Chase Elliott
It’s hard to believe that Chase Elliott is only 27 years old. He is still young with the ability to win a Championship year-in and year-out. He is the guy to lead The Wood Brothers into the future.
(5) JTG Daugherty Racing: Tyler Reddick
If Elliott is off the board, the next best driver available for a single seat team is Tyler Reddick. He is young, so JTG Daugherty could truly build around him, and that would be important in this fantasy scenario.
(6) Front Row Motorsports: Kyle Busch
With Front Row Motorsports bringing in a young gun in Zane Smith, it’s a good idea to bring in a veteran. Kyle Busch is a veteran who can win a Championship, and he also has some years left. He is a perfect pick for Front Row Motorsports in this spot.
(7) Legacy Motor Club: Christopher Bell
Christopher Bell is a driver who is truly coming into their own, and he would likely be in a good spot to start leading a team. A team like Legacy Motor Club, which is rebuilding, needs a guy to build around, and Christopher Bell could be that guy.
(8) Kaulig Racing: Alex Bowman
Kaulig Racing is going for an older driver in the first round in this scenario, so a safe pick would be Alex Bowman. Maybe not the most flashy driver lineup, but it’s a driver lineup that can produce results.
(9) RFK Racing: Denny Hamlin
What better partner for Noah Gragson, an outspoken young driver, than to partner him with maybe NASCAR’s most outspoken older driver. Denny Hamlin would be a great partnership with Gragson, and Hamlin would be a man on a mission after falling to ninth in the second round.
(10) Stewart-Haas Racing: Ross Chastain
Is there a better team owner for Ross Chastain than Tony Stewart? Stewart would understand Chastain’s aggressive nature, and Stewart could also help Chastain reign in some of that excess aggression.
(11) 23XI Racing: Brad Keselowski
When bringing in an exceptionally young driver like Sammy Smith, a veteran would be a good option on the other side. Brad Keselowski likely still has race-winning talent in good equipment, and imagine how he could help out someone like Sammy Smith.
(12) Richard Childress Racing: Bubba Wallace
Partnering Bubba Wallace with Sam Mayer would interesting for sure. Wallace has had to face a lot of adversity throughout his career, so he could show Mayer a lot about dealing with adversity as a driver. Wallace has been through his Xfinity Series ride being cut due to lack of funding, and, today, he is a Cup Series winner.
(13) Joe Gibbs Racing: Chris Buescher
Chris Buescher has shown his potential this year with RFK Racing. With that in mind, what could Buescher do with top-level equipment?
(14) Hendrick Motorsports: Daniel Suarez
The driver talent gets somewhat limited later on in the draft, but Suarez is a solid driver in the right situation. He is the best driver available that is not close to retirement at this spot.
(15) Team Penske: Martin Truex Jr.
Truex Jr. falls solely because of his uncertain future, but he is still a consistent threat to win week-in and week-out. Bringing in a very young driver like Corey Heim means that Truex could be a good option to help bring Heim into Cup in this scenario.
(16) Team Trackhouse: Corey LaJoie
Trackhouse is a unique organization, and Corey LaJoie is a driver with a unique story. It just seems like him and Justin Marks could work well together in this scenario
Notable Undrafted Free Agents
With 29 drivers drafted, that leaves seven chartered spots open for NASCAR’s undrafted free agents. Which of these would be the most likely to sign with a team to fill one of those chartered spots?
- Michael McDowell
- AJ Allmendinger
- Austin Cindric
- Justin Haley
- Ryan Preece
- Austin Dillon
- Harrison Burton
- Erik Jones
- Chase Briscoe
- Aric Almirola
Again, this is a completely fake scenario, but it is a fun thought experiment. If money and previous commitments were not an object, who would team owners pick to drive their race cars?