First-Time NASCAR Winners Headline Reasons We Are Thankful

Ross Chastain

Getty Ross Chastain celebrates a win at Circuit of the Americas.

Thanksgiving is here, and people around the United States are listing things for which they are grateful. For NASCAR fans and industry members alike, the rise of first-time winners is high up the list.

The 2022 Cup Series season featured the debut of the Next Gen car, which was supposed to help level the playing field in NASCAR. There were obvious concerns about the overall safety of the new car, but it helped many drivers and smaller teams contend for wins.

The 36-race schedule began with a first-time winner. Austin Cindric captured the Daytona 500 and punched his ticket to the playoffs. Three weeks later, second-year driver Chase Briscoe won his first career race during a trip to Phoenix.

The list of first-time winners continued with Ross Chastain (Circuit of the Americas), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma Raceway), and Tyler Reddick (Road America). Reddick, in particular, joined Rusty Wallace and Alan Kulwicki on the sizable list of drivers that finally broke through during their third career season.

A Historic Win Created Celebrations in Multiple Countries

Daniel Suarez

GettyDaniel Suarez does a burnout at Sonoma Raceway.

All of the first-time winners created excitement in their respective organizations and fanbases. Though there was one, in particular, that created celebrations in multiple countries and snapped a long winless streak.

Daniel Suarez entered the Cup Series in 2017 as a hot prospect. He was the reigning Xfinity Series champion, and he was joining a top-tier organization in Joe Gibbs Racing.

Suarez’s move to the Cup Series did not play out as expected. He racked up numerous top-10 finishes and top-fives, but he was unable to capture any wins. He lost his seat at Joe Gibbs Racing after two years and his seat at Stewart-Haas Racing after only one.

There were questions about Suarez’s future after SHR cut ties with him and put Cole Custer in the No. 41. He spent the 2020 season driving for the underfunded Gaunt Brothers Racing, but he parted ways with the team as it dialed back to a part-time schedule for 2021.

Suarez agreed to join the newly-founded Trackhouse Racing, and he spent 2021 as the team’s lone driver. He showed speed at times, but he remained winless entering 2022. However, the situation changed one June afternoon at Sonoma Raceway.

Suarez drove the race of his life on June 12, 2022. He led 47 of the 110 laps at the California road course, and he held off both Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell during the final run to the checkered flag. He finally won his first career race, and he punched his ticket to the playoffs while Daniel’s Amigos celebrated.

More Drivers Can Pursue This Celebratory Feeling

Chase Briscoe

GettyChase Briscoe celebrates a win at Phoenix Raceway.

Five drivers captured their first career win during the 2022 season, and they all reached the Cup Series playoffs. They will now approach 2023 with more confidence while another group of drivers will pursue this same achievement.

There are multiple winless full-time drivers that will have 36 more opportunities in 2023. The list includes veterans in Corey LaJoie, Ty Dillon, Ryan Preece, and Cody Ware. Second-year drivers Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton will join them after taking off their rookie stripes.

The final additions to the list are Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs. The two drivers made their Cup Series debuts in 2022 with part-time schedules, but now they will take on their true rookie seasons for Petty GMS and Joe Gibbs Racing, respectively.

Both Gragson and Gibbs joined organizations that have celebrated wins in the Next Gen era, but joining the list of first-time winners will not be a simple task. They will have to continue to adjust to the steep level of competition while continuing to make their own strides behind the wheel.

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