NASCAR: 3 preseason predictions we got terribly wrong

Noah Gragson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Noah Gragson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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With the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season in the books, let’s look back on three preseason predictions we made that totally didn’t pan out.

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season wrapped up this past weekend at Phoenix Raceway, and in a bit of an upset, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney was crowned champion for the first time in his career.

Nine months ago, drivers and teams were preparing for the start of the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, and folks like us were busy writing predictions and previews for the 2023 campaign, many of which turned out to be nonsense.

Here are our three worst predictions for the 2023 season.

Terrible NASCAR predictions: No. 1 – Noah Gragson to show out

We ranked Noah Gragson’s move to Legacy Motor Club ahead of Ty Gibbs’ move to Joe Gibbs Racing, Tyler Reddick’s move to 23XI Racing, Kyle Busch’s move to Richard Childress Racing, among others. Heck, we didn’t even rank A.J. Allmendinger’s full-time move to Kaulig Racing in the top five list we shared.

Gibbs won Rookie of the Year and almost made the playoffs, Reddick won two races and got to the round of 8, Busch won three races and got to the round of 12, and Allmendinger won a race in his first year as a full-time driver since 2018.

Gragson scored two top 20 finishes in 21 starts and requested his release from the team after being suspended for liking an inappropriate The Little Mermaid-themed meme on Instagram.

Not what we had in mind.

In all fairness, it didn’t seem like too much of a stretch for Gragson, a star in the Xfinity Series, to be a major improvement over the driver he replaced, Ty Dillon. In 2022, Dillon finished well behind race-winning teammate Erik Jones in every major statistical category, so the addition of Gragson had the potential to give Legacy Motor Club two playoff-calibert drivers.

But even based on performance alone, Dillon’s 2022 season was somehow stronger than Gragson’s 2023 season. Additionally, Gragson replacement Carson Hocevar racked up five top 20 finishes in his eight starts.