NASCAR 2023: Driver free agency
Written by Gabriel Tsui, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
As the season ends, it is time to examine the driver market, and the available drives for 2023. There are several unconfirmed seats all over the field, and today we will look at the teams having open seats for 2023, and predict who could possibly fill those open seats.
Let’s start with the seat that is most likely to belong to the same driver in 2023. Wood Brothers Racing’s driver Harrison Burton signed only a one year deal at the start of the 2022 season, and Burton is up for free agency after a relatively successful 2022 rookie season. However, Burton is most likely to stay at WBR in 2023, with both sides having no intention to move on for now. The Virginia native on a Virginia based team, that would be a perfect story to continue.
I wrote this driver off multiple times, and he never wrote back. Chase Briscoe squeezed his way to the Round of Eight. One of the most surprising and impactful performers from the playoff stage in 2022, Chase Briscoe definitely has the highest chance in re-signing with Stewart-Haas for a drive in the 14 car. However, in case Chase Briscoe does not sign a new contract, which is unlikely, Xfinity drivers will have a shot at the hot seat.
Now, the number 15 team is a huge question mark, as there are rumors of its sale, or being loaned out to another team. In 2022, there wasn’t a main driver for the team, with David Ragan, Garrett Smithley, J.J Yeley and co. splitting driving duties. Unless Rick Ware believes a new driver is able to hit the ground running and fight for a spot in the playoffs, it is most likely that the charter will be loaned out to a better team, possibly to Petty GMS for Jimmie Johnson’s return, or sold to Penske so they could get a big time free agent signing.
Staying with Rick Ware Racing, RWR’s other seat, the 51 car, is most likely to be driven by Rick Ware’s son, Cody Ware. However, there is news that Cody Ware could be in a part time schedule, where other drivers such as Cole Custer, and J.J Yeley could fill in for the select races. However, it comes down to Cody Ware’s decision, so we might have to wait till 2023 for an announcement.
As usual, Front Row Motorsport will be leaving out their decision for both cars until the start of 2023. However, with Michael McDowell having his career year, one that saw 12 top-ten finishes in 2022, seven more than 2021, it is highly unlikely for FRM to let McDowell walk. With an improving team and an improving car, there is potential that McDowell produces an amazing season in 2023.
On the other hand, a question mark lingers over Todd Gilliland. While he was one of the best performers in the truck series back in 2021, Gilliland couldn’t transform his talents coming into the Cup Series, only two top-ten finishes is not what you would expect. It is generally agreed around the community that FRM will give Gilliland another chance before choosing another top talent in 2024.
Another seat open is the 78 car of Live Fast Motorsport. Even though they haven’t officially announced their driver for 2023, it is very likely that co-owner BJ McLeod will be back in that seat for 2023, unless a driver with playoff potential is available on the market.
This definitely isn’t the most stacked free agency, and big time drivers are on the market. While most of them are expected to be re-signed, don’t write off the potential of a driver moving to another team.