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NASCAR top three series’ quarterly report: Who’s started on the right foot?

Written by Sean McKean, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri


Image Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

And just like that, we are officially a quarter of the way through the NASCAR season. There have been many races filled with chaos, strategic elements and everything else in between. Through all the storylines so far this season, who has come out above the rest in the three national series? 


Consistent frontrunners in Cup


Starting with the Cup side of things, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron (#24) has undoubtedly been one of the most consistent drivers. Having started the season off with a win in the Daytona 500, he added onto his win tally at COTA and Martinsville respectively. 


On top of that, he’s coming off a strong showing in a strategy-intense race in Texas, where he finished third despite coming into Ross Chastain late on. Now on a streak of four top ten finishes – three of them in the top five – there’s no reason for his momentum to be stopped, as he strives for his maiden title.


Another driver still in search for their maiden title is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (#11), though he’s had to wait a little longer than Byron. In his 19th full-time season, Hamlin looks just as competitive as ever, as he sits third in the standings with two victories to his name. 


Even though he only has one top ten finish to his name excluding his victories, it doesn’t tell the full story. In Texas, for instance, he crashed out while battling for the lead with Chase Elliott. The three-time Daytona 500 champion is starting strong as he embarks to make his record 1-18.


On the other side of the Joe Gibbs garage is his grandson Ty Gibbs (#54), who is doing a great job in avoiding the sophomore slump. As of Texas, Gibbs currently sits sixth in the overall standings with an average finish of 10.56. Though he’s still vying for his first victory, keep an eye on the young phenom as this season progresses.


The last of the cup drivers is 2021 champion and current points leader Kyle Larson (#5). Though he only has one victory to his name from Las Vegas in race three, he should have more to his tally: he led the most laps in Texas before his tyre came off, and was in the top three the whole race at Martinsville. With the pace he’s showing, nothing indicates that he will be slowing down.


Four Cup standouts so far: Kyle Larson (#5), Denny Hamlin (#11; pictured), William Byron (#24), Ty Gibbs (#54); Credit: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images

Parity in Xfinity


The NASCAR Xfinity Series – the second-tier support series – has had its fair share of notable moments so far, most recently coming off a thrilling photo-finish in Texas.


The winner of that photo-finish was JR Motorsports’ Sam Mayer (#1). Though he sits only 14th in the standings, Mayer had a poor start to the season by factors out of his control – such as crashes out of his control in Daytona, Las Vegas and Phoenix and vehicle issues in Richmond. 


However, when his car is running properly at the end, the results speak for themselves: three top tens – two of which top twos – and a victory. As Mayer and JRM Motorsports get the ball rolling, expect them to emerge as championship favourites.


A driver who has been on the pace every race so far though is RCR’s Austin Hill (#21). Hill has been stellar this season, winning the opening two races in Daytona and Atlanta and notching five top fives in only eight races. Of all drivers, he also currently has the second-best average finish with 7.5.


On the other side of the garage is a driver who’s been exceeding all expectations: Jesse Love (#2). After the announcement in late 2023 that he’d be taking the #2 car, few expected him to perform right away, as he was making the jump from the ARCA Menards Series – NASCAR’s fourth-tier support championship. 


However, getting a first stage win in his first start in Daytona, leading the most laps at Atlanta, and notching three pole positions, the 19-year-old has been the surprise of the season, and it’s only a matter of time until the 2023 ARCA champion gets his first career win.


Sitting atop the standings with an average finish of 4.5 is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Chandler Smith (#81). Having finished in the top ten in all but one race so far and winning dominantly at Phoenix and Richmond, Smith is Toyota’s shining light. 


Though his teammates Sheldon Creed and Aric Almirola have been impressive in their own rights, the Georgia-native’s sheer consistency makes him the favourite for the Xfinity Series title as of now.


Four Xfinity standouts so far: Sam Mayer (#1; pictured), Jesse Love (#2), Austin Hill (#21), Chandler Smith (#81); Credit: Patrick Vallely/NASCAR.com

Multiple contenders in Trucks


Though Kyle Busch won the Texas race, the driver just behind the two-time Cup Series champion that night was Tricon’s Corey Heim (#11). Heim is known for his sheer consistency, having finished in the top ten 26 times in the last 29 Craftsman Truck Series races. 


This impressive string of results gives him an average finish of 3.83 within the first seven races of the season. As the season progresses, Heim’s consistency will prove vital once the playoffs approach.


Another driver emerging as an unsurprising favourite is current points leader Christian Eckes (#19). To start the season, Eckes has been the class of the short tracks, winning dominantly in Bristol and Martinsville. 


As we take a one week break before Kansas – the track where Eckes won in the playoffs last year – the McAnally Racing driver makes a strong case for being a title favourite. 


On the other side of the Tricon garage, Taylor Gray (#17) has also been mightily consistent. Although he started the season flying through the air in Daytona, Gray has yet to finish outside of the top seven – an impressive feat so far in his first full-time season. With this consistency, it will only be a matter of time until he takes his first win.


Another driver in their sophomore full time season is Rev Racing’s Nick Sanchez (#2). Having taken his first career win in Daytona to start the year, he has backed up this result with front-running performances in Martinsville and Texas. Though consistency is still an issue for the developing Florida-native, look out for Sanchez as he vies to make a name for himself.


Four Truck standouts so far: Nick Sanchez (#2), Corey Heim (#11; pictured), Taylor Gray (#17), Christian Eckes (#19); Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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