The NASCAR Cup Series is experiencing a generational switch. The 2023 season featured the youngest Championship 4 field since its inception in 2014.
On top of that, drivers who are 30 years old or younger have won the most races in each of the last three NASCAR Cup Series seasons. Three of the last four championships were also won by drivers under the age of 30, with Joey Logano’s 2022 title at the age of 32 being only the exception.
Aside from the ever-improving on-track results from the new generation of drivers, the older generation is also fading away. With Kevin Harvick’s retirement at the end of 2023, there are no longer any full-time drivers in the field who raced in the famed Winston Cup era.
In a swift turn, the four most experienced full-time drivers in the field are now Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Logano. It seems like these drivers made their debuts yesterday, yet here they are.
Not only is the field featuring younger competitors and winners each year, but the fans are also gravitating toward them. Ever since Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired in 2017, Chase Elliott has been the most popular driver, and in 2023, more fans than ever were seen walking around the track wearing gear from Elliott, William Byron, and Ryan Blaney merchandise haulers.
Drivers such as Elliott, Byron, Blaney, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell have already had plenty of success in the Cup Series, and they often steal the spotlight whenever the conversation of young drivers comes about. But there are plenty of other drivers of similar age, experience, and skill who haven’t quite had their moments yet.
Here are three young drivers next in line for their first Championship 4 appearance, perhaps as early as 2024.
First-time NASCAR Championship 4 drivers: No. 1 – Tyler Reddick
Tyler Reddick had arguably his best and most consistent season in 2023. Despite scoring one less victory than he did in 2022 by only visiting victory lane twice, he still put up tied his career-highs in top five and top 10 finishes with 10 and 16, respectively. He also secured a career-high two pole positions and finished in a career-high sixth place in the standings.
He pulled all of this off in his first season at 23XI Racing and Toyota after spending three seasons with Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet. He outran an older and more experienced teammate in Bubba Wallace, who has been with the team two years longer, and at times, he went toe-to-toe with and beat team co-owner Denny Hamlin.
Looking back at the season, there were also plenty of other races which Reddick could have won. The No. 45 team committed a multitude of pit road errors and mistakes, with the most notable one coming at Michigan International Speedway and causing Reddick to sound off in frustration.
He also lost out several times when fighting for the win, such as when he missed pit road while leading the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and made contact with the lapped car of Ryan Newman.
The 2023 season was just his fourth full-time season in NASCAR’s top series. The two-time Xfinity Series champion’s skills behind the wheel are undeniable, and they have been on display quite often over the last two or three years in particular.
With a full season at 23XI Racing now in the books and yet more experience gained for the soon-to-be 28-year-old, Reddick is an easy bet for a true breakout season in 2024, making him a serious first-time Championship 4 contender.