NASCAR already has a new championship favorite for 2023

Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Just two races into the season, a new driver is already favored to win the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship, and it’s not a huge surprise.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott led the NASCAR Cup Series in wins, laps led, total points, and average finish last year, but he came up shy of what would have been a second championship in three years.

Still, his success throughout year one of the Gen 7 car era resulted in him being the betting favorite to open up the 2023 season.

Considering the struggles of the No. 9 team down the stretch last year, even though they managed to get to the Championship 4 for the third straight season, Elliott has had a strong start to the 2023 season.

As many usually are, he was taken out in someone else’s mess during the Daytona 500. But he responded with a second place finish at Auto Club Speedway, his best finish ever at the track.

But Chase Elliott now has company at the top of the list of odds to win the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship.

At FanDuel Sportsbook, Elliott’s odds have shifted slightly from +550 to +650, and he is now tied with Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch at the top.

Busch has been the story of the year so far, coming close to winning his first Daytona 500 before earning his first win behind the wheel of the No. 8 car in just his second start with Chevrolet since 2007 this past Sunday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway.

The win made the 2023 season his 19th straight winning season, breaking Richard Petty’s all-time record.

Many viewed Busch’s offseason move from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing as a backwards move. Others felt that after 15 years at Joe Gibbs Racing, he simply needed a change of scenery to get back to his winning ways. Those in the latter camp appear to be far more accurate, at least so far.

It is rare that there is a new championship favorite this early in the season. Not only is two races, including a superspeedway race, a very small sample size, but the nature of NASCAR’s playoff format makes individual regular season race wins mean less when it comes to crowning a champion.

Busch wasn’t really all that close to being the preseason favorite either, yet here he is already.

To start the season, Busch was listed in a sixth place tie with three other drivers with odds at +1200. He was tied with reigning champion Joey Logano of Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, and Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron.

In addition to Elliott, he trailed Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, and Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain.

His surge to the top after just two weeks of action provides us all with a good reminder that the two-time champion, who ranks ninth on the sport’s all-time wins list, is still one of the best drivers to ever compete at the Cup level, despite the fact that his last three seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing were quite lackluster and relatively forgettable.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

The 2023 season’s third race, the Pennzoil 400, is scheduled to take place this Sunday, March 5. Fox is set to broadcast the race live from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch’s home track, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and be sure not to miss it!