Everyone wants predictions. OK, perhaps not everyone, but many fans like to debate which drivers will flourish and which drivers won’t in the upcoming season.
In that spirit, here are my 2024 predictions. They are educated guesses. Some are most likely wrong. Maybe a few are right. Read and use the info at your own risk.
Daytona 500 winner: Denny Hamlin
The toughest prediction of them all. The first race of the year. The unpredictability of the race.
My heart says go with Brad Keselowski. He’s been in position to win. He enters the race with a 98-race winless streak. And Kyle Busch would also deliver a great story with his 0-for-18 in the event (he has qualified for 19 but didn’t race in 2015 after the crash in Xfinity).
But my feeling is the Toyotas are going to be in position to win this one. And since he’s on a roll, I’m going to go with Hamlin.
Regular-Season Title: Kyle Larson
The regular-season title will go to Kyle Larson. He led the most laps last year and didn’t finish the deal several times. There’s no way he can get in so many wrecks while up front this year, right?
These drivers will repeat as playoff participants from last year:
These drivers will get in this year:
These drivers got in last year but will miss out:
Kevin Harvick (retired)
I am not convinced that the Fords will be significantly better with their new body, while the Toyotas will improve on superspeedways. Chevrolet appeared as the best manufacturer last year and while they stay the same, I think they will have the edge. Elliott would have made the playoffs if he didn’t miss races, Gibbs appears primed for a great sophomore season and Suarez looks to prove himself. Obviously, the first one left off is Logano, and leaving him out while having McDowell in seems a little absurd. But McDowell will win a road-course race and I am not convinced that Logano will win during the regular season. So he’s the driver who will finish top-10 in points but miss out. The other snub? Alex Bowman. Sorry for the snub, but will just a new season reset be what he needs? That’s hard to tell.
These four drivers I expect to have the most wins throughout the year and see no reason why they would falter in the playoffs. I know Christopher Bell disagrees, but I just think the odds of making the Champ 4 three times in a row are slim, so I left him out. Busch, in his second year at RCR, should find the consistency he seeks.
Champion: William Byron
Byron has a little bit of that anger and cockiness about the way last season ended and the chatter that maybe he wasn’t as good as his six wins showed. He was that good, and it’s not just his improvement — it’s that of crew chief Rudy Fugle as he gets more and more accustomed to Cup racing.
Rookie of the Year: Zane Smith
Comeback Driver of the Year: Chase Elliott
Elliott will win races and make the playoffs this year after his disappointing 2023 in missing seven races, primarily because of injury. Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson are too good not to have a solid season. This isn’t predicting a return to the Champ 4, but there will be a return to victory lane.
Team of the Year: 23XI Racing
At first, it feels like this should be Hendrick Motorsports. It’s the organization’s 40th year. The biggest question is, after back-to-back titles in 2020 and 2021, can they knock Team Penske off the throne? But when talking about the team of the year, 23XI Racing put two drivers in the top-10 in points in just its third season in 2023. It has a new shop and truly appears ready for a breakout year.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.
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