By Adam Carabine & Logan Morris
This year, in preparation for the 2024 NASCAR season, we present our Team Previews Series. Each day until the end of January, a new Team Preview will be live on our website. Check back every day to see what we have to say about your favourite team!
Adam Carabine: Alright Logan, we’ve made it to the end of our Team Previews Series here at Racing Refresh. It’s actually been a lot of fun! The best team this year (and many other years, too) was Hendrick Motorsports, and that’s despite a tumultuous season of injuries for two of their drivers. First up, Logan, does Hendrick remain at the very top this upcoming season?
Logan Morris: This has been a lot of fun for sure! I don’t believe HMS remains the top dog this season. For the first time in a long time there seems to be a layer of uncertainty at the mothership that is Hendrick Motorsports. Chase Elliott remains the undisputed face of the sport, but is he still top dog within his own team? I’m not so sure. He went winless, in a year that featured an injury and a suspension. Alex Bowman’s position feels uncertain as well as we head into 2024.
AC: I agree with you, it does feel like a transitory time for Hendrick. I’m not sure I understand Chase Elliott as the face of the sport, though I don’t think you’re wrong. I think there are much more captivating characters out there. I do wonder, if Elliott’s winless streak continues, will the fanbase turn on him? He’s in some of the best equipment in the field. Each HMS driver should be banking on multi-win seasons. We don’t know how big of a factor his injury recovery was, so that could play a role, but it feels like an important year for Elliott to right the ship.
And yeah, what IS up with Alex Bowman? He’s been the quietest on HMS for a while now. Do they renew him when his contract is up in 2026?
LM: At this juncture, I would say no. To be fair to Bowman I’m sure the jury is still very much out on that, so much will change between now and 2026. However, as we get further away from the days of Dale Jr being around to “protect” Bowman for lack of a better term, Bowman’s future will come down to his results and in 2023 they simply weren’t there. Unlike Chase, he doesn’t have a devoted fan base to fall back on. I’m sure there are plenty of Bowman fans, don’t get me wrong, but I’d be surprised if they are loud enough to sustain mediocre results.
AC: You’re not wrong. Bowman will want to start getting that 48 back in victory lane. Quickly. On a brighter note, Kyle Larson appears to be making a case to be the most talented driver in the Cup Series, possibly passing Kyle Busch? He’s certainly the busiest. Do you think he’ll be the top performer of Hendrick Motorsports in ‘24?
LM: I don’t. I think Larson may be a little too busy, actually. I think his demanding schedule and outside interests will negatively impact him somewhat in 2024. I think the top driver for Hendrick this season will be the man in the big hats, William Byron. I think he wins at least three times this season, likely more.
AC: I definitely think it comes down to the two of them. My money is going to be on Larson, but you may be right. Heaven forbid he sustains some sort of injury in one of the million other racing series he partakes in. Byron proved to be a steady hand this past season and if he can keep that momentum going, he’ll be a shoe-in for the Championship 4.
One last question, do you think Chevrolet being the only manufacturer to not update their body for the upcoming season will be a disadvantage? Does that have Hendrick taking a step back with Chevy as a whole?
LM: I do. If you’re standing still in this sport, you’re falling behind. I think Toyota and Ford close the gap this season. The two wild cards to start the season are wide open for anyone, beyond that I expect Chevy to have a somewhat “cool” start to the season once we move to the traditional ovals.
AC: Interesting stuff indeed. Thanks Logan for a great run of Team Previews. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the microphone with you as our live podcast - Racing Refresh Happy Hour - returns soon!