What’s Happening?

As the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season approaches, the hype is building up for the Clash, teams are dropping their paint schemes, and it seems like this year will be anyone’s season. With that, it’s time to talk about which drivers are actually the best in the sport, the ones that seem like a sure thing to dominate.

Now, there are a lot of factors that go into this including how a driver has performed recently, performance throughout their career, and performance in the clutch. With that in mind, which drivers are the 5 best in the Cup Series?

  • For this list, all factors will be considered. However, recent performance will get a slight edge because it’s the closest sample size to what we will see in the Cup Series 2024, but, it’s not everything.
  • This list is NOT about who will ultimately have the most decorated career. Rather, which drivers are the best in the sport as of right now, not historically, and not in the future.
  • Fans love to debate who is the best driver in the sport. Do you include certain drivers for one reason or another, or vice versa?

5. Ryan Blaney

There was a healthy amount of debate amongst the Daily Downforce staff about whether or not to include Ryan Blaney on this list. Yes, he’s the Champion, but is he REALLY one of the sport’s 5 best drivers? Ultimately, I decided to include him because, in 2023, he ultimately outperformed the drivers who would be fighting for this spot with him.

Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. all have impressive overall career resumes, but they all finished outside of the top 10 in the standings. Chase Elliott was on a hot streak between 2020 and 2022, but, he failed to win a race in 2023. Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick had solid seasons with up-and-coming teams, but Blaney had more laps led, as many or more wins, and more top-10s than both.

However, Blaney never made a Championship 4 before 2023, so, that’s what keeps him at 5 on the list. He does not have the consistent overall performance throughout his career that some others on this list do.

4. Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell is setting himself up nicely to be the top driver at JGR in the coming years. He has made the Championship 4 two seasons in a row, but, he is still without a Championship. Even then, two seasons in a row of Championship 4 appearances puts him on this list.

Christopher Bell has a unique ability to overcome adversity. In 2022, he overcame a crash in the opening race of the Round of 8 with a win at Martinsville to make the Final 4. In 2023, he overcame a struggling pit crew early in the Playoffs to make it to the Round of 8 and get another clutch win at Homestead-Miami.

He is down at 4 primarily due to his youth. Bell is entering his fourth full-time season at JGR, and three years without a Championship is simply too small a sample size to put him any higher. Two consecutive Championship 4s without a Championship is a knock as well.

3. Denny Hamlin

Of the cagey veterans of the sport, Denny Hamlin is easily the one who performed the best in 2023, and he has a consistent recent resume to back it up. Then again, his lack of a Championship could be seen as a dealbreaker to some. However, his consistent results keep him on this list.

Since 2019, Denny Hamlin has won multiple races every season, and he has never finished outside of the top-5 in points. Despite never winning a Championship, he’s always in the running for one. On top of that, despite finishing behind teammate, Christopher Bell, in the points standings, Hamlin had more wins, top-5s, and laps led, which puts him ahead of Bell on this list.

What keeps him at 3 is the lack of a Championship. Some of them were due to factors out of his control, such as 2022 and 2023. However, 2020 and 2021 were both due to lackluster performance in the Championship race.

2. William Byron

William Byron had a career year in 2023. Many felt he should have won the Championship, but, he ultimately fell short in the final race. His impressive 2023 along with driving for one of the best teams in the sport puts him on this list.

Statistically, William Byron was the best driver of 2023 as he led the series in wins, top-5s, and top-10s. Many have been waiting for Byron to break out since he joined the Cup Series in 2018, and 2023 was finally his breakout season. The goal for him in 2024 is to win a Championship.

What keeps him at two is his performance in the clutch. Byron narrowly made the Championship 4 despite a lackluster performance at Martinsville. He finished a disappointing third amongst Championship contenders in the Championship 4 race as well.

1. Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson finds the top spot on this list because he has the most balanced resume of recent performance with historical success. He’s one of the most highly touted race car drivers in the world, and it is easy to see why

The 2023 season was his second Championship 4 appearance in three seasons. He even bested teammate William Byron in laps led and tied him in top-5s. Larson has also performed well in the clutch with a Championship in 2021 to go along with his appearances.

However, Larson can easily fall from the top spot because, while he is spectacular, he can be a bit inconsistent. He had 8 DNFs in 2023, and he did not make it out of the Round of 12 in 2022. While he is at number 1, this is not a firm grip.

Honorable Mentions: Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Chris Buescher, and Brad Keselowski

Which drivers do you think should be included on this list? Join in the social conversation below!