While the 2023 NASCAR season is just weeks away, there has been plenty of news during the offseason that marked major changes to the landscape of the racing world.
The DCN compiled some of that important information for NASCAR fans in Dawson County to digest heading into next season.
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There have been two major venue changes made to the NASCAR schedule for 2023.
For the first time since 1996, the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina will host a Cup Series race, albeit not for points.
Back in September, the venue announced that NASCAR, as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations, had chosen it to host the annual All-Star race.
After years of decline, North Wilkesboro has been revived in recent times by the work of locals and many people throughout the racing industry, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Just a week before the All-Star race announcement, Earnhardt Jr. participated in a Late Model race at North Wilkesboro, driving in the green No. 3 Sun Drop car he drove in the 1990s.
In addition to the Cup Series race, the Craftsman Truck Series will also be racing there that weekend.
The other venue change was one that went against current trends but is also an attempt at innovation by NASCAR.
After years of road courses being added to the Cup Series schedule, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, was replaced by the new Chicago Street Race.
Just added to the Cup Series schedule in 2021, Road America will still host an Xfinity Series Race next season on July 29.
The Chicago Street Race will be the first of its kind for NASCAR and run the weekend of July 1. Unlike the previous Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in suburban Joliet, the street circuit race will be run in downtown Chicago.
As of this writing, the length and official title sponsor of the race have not been announced, although a proposed map of the course is available.
Drivers and Teams
For those who look forward to seeing iconic number and paint scheme combinations during a NASCAR race, one longtime standard will be missing from next year’s group of cars.
After 15 years together, Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing ended their relationship, as officially announced in September.
The wheels were first put in motion in December 2021, when longtime Busch sponsor Mars Inc. stated that it would be leaving NASCAR after the 2022 season, signaling the final year for the yellow No. 18 M&M’s car.
In the following months, a contract extension or renewal between Busch and JGR failed to materialize, resulting in Busch’s subsequent move to Richard Childress Racing.
Busch will be taking over the No. 8 car at RCR, replacing Tyler Reddick, who moved on to the Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin-owned 23XI Racing.
Reddick had his own contractual situation in 2022, announcing his move to 23XI in mid-July just after his first career Cup Series win.
Initially, Reddick intended to join his new team in 2024, but 23XI bought out the remainder of his contract from RCR a few weeks after Busch joined the latter.
Reddick will drive the No. 45 car, replacing Kurt Busch, who stated he would step away from full-time competition in 2023.
During qualifying at last season’s Pocono race, Busch sustained a concussion following a crash. After not being medically cleared for the next five races, he withdrew his request for a medical waiver for the playoffs and would eventually miss the rest of the season.
Upon announcing his decision, the 2004 Cup Series Champion and 34-time race-winner was met with immense support from the racing community.
Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmy Johnson will be making his return to NASCAR as part-owner and driver.
Johnson struck an agreement with Richard Petty to gain partial ownership of Petty GMS, for whom he will drive in the upcoming Daytona 500.
With his current foray into the IndyCar world, Johnson is set to run a limited NASCAR schedule.
North Georgia native Chandler Smith, a five-time race winner in the Truck Series, earned himself a full-time ride in the 2023 Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing.
The 20-year-old from Pickens County will be running in the No. 16 car formerly of A.J. Allmendinger, who will be driving full time in the Cup Series next season.
As noted previously, Craftsman has returned as the title sponsor for the Truck Series, replacing Camping World.
Craftsman was previously the sponsor from 1996 to 2008 before Camping World took over from 2009 to 2018. The series was briefly sponsored by Gander Outdoors for two seasons before Camping World returned for 2021 and 2022.