3 Young Playoff Drivers Face Contract Seasons in 2023

Alex Bowman

Getty Alex Bowman (front) races at Phoenix Raceway.

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is months away, but there is already a focus on the drivers that will enter contract seasons. This list includes veterans in Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Kevin Harvick, as well as three young playoff drivers.

The 2023 season will be the final year of existing deals for Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, and Ross Chastain. Bowman signed a two-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports midway through the 2021 season, which included the return of Ally as his primary partner.

Suarez, for comparison, signed an extension with Trackhouse Racing at the end of the 2022 regular season. This one-year deal ensured that he will be back in the No. 99 Chevrolet for the third consecutive season.

When Chastain agreed to join Trackhouse Racing in the summer of 2021, he signed a two-year deal that ran through the 2023 season. This ensured that he would run his first full season with the team in 2022 without having to stress about his future. He could focus solely on pursuing wins.

All 3 Drivers Delivered Wins During the 2022 Season

Ross Chastain

GettyRoss Chastain celebrates a win at Talladega Superspeedway.

There has not been any information provided by Hendrick Motorsports or Trackhouse Racing about whether the respective drivers will return after 2023. Though extensions seem more likely after the three delivered wins in 2022.

Bowman secured a spot in the playoffs once again by winning the spring race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This was his seventh career trip to Victory Lane and his fifth with Ally as his primary partner.

Bowman moved past the Round of 16, and he had plans of making it through the Round of 12. A concussion suffered at Texas Motor Speedway led to him missing five races and finishing 16th in the standings for the first time since 2018.

Suarez dealt with his own playoff issues amid a career year. He secured his spot in the playoffs by winning at Sonoma Raceway, his first trip to Victory Lane in the Cup Series. Suarez then set himself up with an opportunity to reach the Round of Eight with strong performances in the first two rounds.

However, a power steering issue in the elimination race at the Charlotte Roval resulted in a 36th-place finish and him falling just below the cutline. He missed out on the Round of Eight, but he still finished 10th in the standings.

Chastain had the best season out of the group, which will likely ensure his return to Trackhouse Racing after 2023. He won the first two races of his career, reached the championship four, and finished second in the championship standings behind Joey Logano. Now he will have another opportunity to potentially match or surpass these numbers.

1 Driver Will Have a Major Change

GettyAlex Bowman waves to fans at Darlington Raceway.

One factor that will potentially play a role in the contract talks is a major change at Hendrick Motorsports. Bowman will have a new crew chief for the first time since joining the championship-winning organization.

Bowman made 10 starts for HMS during the 2016 season while serving as a reserve driver. He helped replace a concussed Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88, and he worked with crew chief Greg Ives.

This relationship with Ives continued when Bowman took over as the full-time driver of the No. 88 in 2018. They remained paired together through the end of the 2022 season while winning seven races. However, the season finale was the end of Ives’ time as crew chief as he moved to a new role at HMS.

Bowman will now enter a contract year with a new man atop the pit box. Blake Harris will take over the No. 48 team after guiding Michael McDowell to a career season at Front Row Motorsports.

No one knows whether Harris and Bowman will have success together during the 2023 season. Though their output on the track will potentially play a role in determining Bowman’s future with HMS, as will Ally’s decision about returning for more races as a primary sponsor.

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