NASCAR: Top 5 driver changes for the 2023 season

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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Ryan Preece, NASCAR
Ryan Preece, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Top NASCAR driver moves for 2023: No. 4 – Ryan Preece

It’s hard to argue that Ryan Preece has more upside than Ty Gibbs, but that’s not what this list is about. In terms of the move itself, Stewart-Haas Racing absolutely made the right call to move Preece behind the wheel of the No. 41 Ford for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, replacing Cole Custer.

Custer had not shown much sign of improvement during his first three seasons in the Cup Series. To this day, he hasn’t finished higher than eighth place since July 2020 (89 races). While Stewart-Haas Racing had far from their best seasons in 2021 and 2022, all three of his teammates won at least once during that span.

For Stewart-Haas Racing, a driver change now was an absolute must. They now know that they will be losing Kevin Harvick to retirement after the 2023 season, and there is a chance that Aric Almirola could hang it up as well, even though he changed his mind about retiring after the 2022 season and decided to come back on what was reported as a multi-year deal.

Custer obviously wasn’t somebody they were going to build their future around, and Preece appears to be quite highly regarded within the organization.

Interestingly, Preece had been considered a shoo-in candidate to replace Almirola when it was believed that Almirola would be retiring, since he had literally just signed on as the team’s official reserve driver when Almirola made his initial announcement in January 2022.

Had they kept Custer and he ended up showing little to no improvement in year number four, they could have been forced to overhaul 75% of their driver lineup for 2024. Adding Preece for 2023 should cap it at 50%, and that’s only if Almirola retires.