Racermetrics race-database.com

2024 Stock Car Model Update

by Sean Wrona

As I did last year, I updated my stock car model to reflect all races through the end of 2023. This model update does not include any races from 2024 (I'm writing this during the middle of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series opener at Daytona but I wanted to make sure I had the article finished before the Daytona 500). As with my open wheel update in January, I will here display my overall stock car ratings including all NASCAR races for any driver who made a Cup start at least once in their career who also had ten or more teammate comparisons in 2023 against drivers who also made Cup starts at some point. As in the previous article, I next compare my model's predictions for each teammate comparison in 2023 to how each pair of teammates fared in reality. Finally, I provide a complete update of my model for all drivers in my model who made at least one NASCAR start in 2023 or are expected to in 2024. However, I only include drivers who had ten or more teammate comparisons in their career on this final table with one exception. Shane van Gisbergen, who I published a RotoBaller column about this week, is one of the most intriguing drivers of the year when considering he became the first driver to win a NASCAR Cup race on his debut since future Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford in 1963 and also the first road course winner to win in Cup since fellow Indy 500 winner Mark Donohue in 1973. Even though he only has five teammate comparisons to date, he is too important a driver to not include on my list despite his small sample size, especially considering he is running the full Xfinity schedule and has Cup starts scheduled as well. However, I left off all the other active drivers with extremely few teammate comparisons (who were mostly road course ringers last year).

In the past, I have updated my models multiple times throughout the year even though I usually haven't written multiple columns reflecting each update in previous years. This year, I won't be doing that as I probably will update my models at most twice, once after the end of the season to prepare my top 200 list and possibly once at the beginning of 2025 to add any new Cup drivers who will be making debuts in that season. I am hoping to move this year and my mom and I are looking to sell our house, but she hoarded a lot of possessions, I don't know how to drive and we don't have a functional car, we live in the suburbs, and I have no close real life friends. I need to primarily focus on that this year, but I will still be writing preview and recap columns for RotoBaller and I have begun collecting teammate comparisons for a rally drivers model. I've almost finished the drivers with last names starting with A, but it looks like I'm going to have to go through a larger number of drivers for this model than any of the previous three; this model could totally take me a year or longer. The rally model will likely be my final teammate model and I likely won't make any new teammate models ever again after I complete that one, if I ever complete that one.

I am also quickly going through pretty much all the drivers who have done anything in motorsports history. I have a 2.5 MB Notepad text file consisting of over 97,000 rows of data for 15,850 drivers throughout motorsports history. In this file, I have included a year-by-year rundown for each driver. In each driver's entry, I include their nationality, birth and death dates, and their current ratings in all three of my models (open wheel, stock car, and touring car). For each driver, I have an entry for any season when that driver won in a major league or top tier minor league series, finished in the top ten in points in a major league championship, and/or received a significant title (like a Rookie of the Year, etc...) I'm fairly certain I have entered all data through 2023 for any series that could be even remotely considered a major league, and I've entered most of the prominent minor leagues too. There are still a few gaps I need to fill to complete research for my book (mainly national GT series like British GT, which is probably the most prestigious series I haven't included yet) and national rally championships, but I do feel I am nearing completion and I'm pretty certain any driver who is remotely deserving of consideration for my top 1,000 list is already on my master list. So this past month, I've been trying to pare this down and I'm building a Google sheet where I group the drivers on my master list into five main categories:

Each day, I've been going through between 1,000 and 2,000 rows of data to go through a set of drivers until I finish this spreadsheet. After completing this, my next move will be to rate each of these drivers' seasons. I have already explained my methodology, but I will reiterate it here. For the top five drivers globally of each year, I will award 100, 70, 50, 30, and 20 points. For the 6th-25th best drivers (the elite/E tier), I will award 10 points. For the 26th-50th best drivers (E-), 5 points. For the 51st-100th best drivers (Competitive +/C+ tier), 3. For the 101st-150th best drivers (C tier), 2. For the 151st-200th best drivers (C-). I do plan on using my master list to build such a list of 200 as I have been doing the last three years for all years starting in 1948. That year is the year that Grand Prix racing returned in Europe after World War II, the 24 Hours of Le Mans returned after a 10-year absence, and NASCAR was formed, so you can essentially consider that the start of what we would now consider the overall racing scene. For the years prior to 1948 (especially the pre-World War II years) there is simply a lot less racing out there and a lot less competition, so I'm going to have to adjust my scale and rank fewer drivers and award fewer points for those years. The top 1,000 drivers who score the most points according to this metric will be the drivers who make my list. I will then re-rank them according to a different method as I described in that post from 2020. I can't get too gung-ho about this, I know. I'm definitely neglecting too many of the more important aspects of my life right now and aside from my small RotoBaller gig I am essentially unemployed, but my goal is to finish at least the ranking by the end of this year, but my guess is I won't finish the book. Although it is unhealthy to admit it, my research for this book is about the only thing I'm living for right now.

If you'd like to see what my master file looks like, here is the entry for A.J. Foyt:

I'm thinking about starting a Patreon primarily for video content in the near future. Almost all the videos on my YouTube channel are about typing so far, as I am primarily known for my various typing championships in the 2010s, while my racing analysis work has gone relatively overlooked. I have been slowly working on a 50-minute video about my life in the last year and have already recorded all the audio for it, but I still haven't filled it completely with video clips yet, and I may end up not finishing this. I have been thinking about possibly pivoting to making racing videos at some point since I have more traction there, and I know I could do a better job than some YouTubers like Black Flag Matter who are under fire for plagiarism. But the flip side of that is that I could never grind out content as quickly as he does to build an audience even while unemployed/underemployed, and I certainly could never match his graphic design either. Even though my YouTube channel has a small following, I haven't uploaded in a year and it's basically dead and I don't think my current viewers would have any interest in racing content. But I do think there might be interest in a Patreon since I did get a solid amount of income from my previous Patreon for my book Nerds per Minute a few years ago and I need another income stream badly right now. If I did this, I might upload my entire master file to the Patreon but I don't think I'd want to give that away for free. Anyway, onward to the 2023 stock car data.

2023 Stock Car Ratings

My single-season driver ratings are frequently pretty weird since I don't think a single NASCAR season is usually long enough for luck to even out, but I would still always say these ratings are somewhat meaningful and 2023 was no exception. For only the second time in history, a driver from outside the Cup Series led my stock car model in 2023. In a year when there was still strong parity in the Cup Series, Carson Hocevar was actually the highest-rated driver among all stock car drivers in 2023 despite the fact that he was only a 20-year-old Craftsman Truck Series driver. Hocevar was ineligible for my model prior to 2023 when he made his first Cup start at Gateway while substituting for regular Spire driver Corey LaJoie when LaJoie got called to drive the #9 Cup car when Chase Elliott was suspended. But despite coming up short in the truck playoff chase, Hocevar ended up leading my model overall and it arguably was not even that spurious. He beat Ross Chastain 3-1 in their shared finishes, swept Bayley Currey 8-0, and utterly dominated Shane van Gisbergen on the latter's oval debut after SVG had already won his Cup race. I certainly don't think Hocevar was the best NASCAR driver by any means (although I would say he was clearly the best among minor league drivers), but he did deliver a mind-boggling seasonn for a 20-year-old that is probably second place all-time among all drivers in that age group behind only Kyle Busch's 2005. Could that be an indication of what Hocevar might become? Hocevar was admittedly significantly worse in his Cup starts than his truck starts as in truck starts only, Hocevar had a rating of .365 while in his Cup starts, he only had a rating of -.122 as Erik Jones did outperform him, although even Hocevar's Cup rating was pretty much equivalent to Ty Gibbs's, and Gibbs has historically gotten a lot more hype.

Obviously because this model reflects merely head-to-head comparisons in races where both drivers finished, there are occasionally hilarious results when drivers post finishing records that are not exactly commensurate with their overall performance. Despite Chase Elliott having what was almost certainly the worst season of his NASCAR Cup career, he actually led all Cup drivers in my model by a solid bit, including beating his teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson who obviously had substantially better seasons. Elliott is one of my model's favorite drivers as he has ranked in the top ten in my model overall every year since 2017, including leading overall in both 2017 and 2018 and leading in 2019 as well when considering Cup starts only (although Kevin Harvick overtakes Elliott in 2019 when including other series). Despite being less of a factor for wins than in any other seasons (even when you include the years earlier in his career when the Hendrick cars were much slower), Elliott had the best average finish in the Cup Series for a while, which does say something about the limitations of that as a metric over a single season (although I do think it has a lot more meaning over an entire career). It seemed like Elliott and the #9 team were trying to play it very safe because they assumed they could point themselves into the playoffs and were intentionally avoiding risks to do that. For quite some time, I was pretty sure they would point themselves into the playoffs too but it didn't happen, and it did seem like the #9 team was considerably slower than the other Hendrick cars in general. LaJoie in the #9 car was actually outrun by Hocevar on his debut at Gateway in the #7 car. Josh Berry was faster in the #48 car than he was in the #9. Even Jordan Taylor's Cup debut despite a good qualifying run was fairly disappointing to me. In a way, it's impressive that Elliott did still manage that much consistency in a year he was injured and in a year when the #9 car seemed pretty slow regardless of who was in it. But don't get it wrong. This is still a heavily consistency-driven metric that has much less meaning when evaluating a single season than it does when evaluating an entire career. Elliott still had the worst season of his career, particularly when you look at any statistical categories having to do with speed or dominance. As for this metric, the main reason he actually beat William Byron and Kyle Larson really comes down to all of their individual head-to-heads against Alex Bowman. Elliott beat Bowman 18-2 while Byron beat him 18-9 and Larson beat him 14-7. Elliott arguably benefited here because he was injured so early in the season and he missed most of Bowman's best races early in the year when he was actually leading the points, while Bowman was extremely mediocre after his comeback in most of the races that he and Elliott both started.

Chris Buescher is another one of my model's favorite drivers as he has ranked in the top ten overall in my stock car model every year since 2019, long before his breakout. I do like that my model successfully predicted his future success. When he actually led my model by a large margin in 2021 because of his blowout of a declining Ryan Newman and I used that as an argument to place him in the bottom tier of my top 200 list for that year, I got some pushback on the Discord server where I post, but that aged nicely. Having said that, I'll be the first to admit that my model consistently overrates him every single year while consistently underrating especially the Penske drivers, Tyler Reddick, and Ross Chastain. But it makes sense: Buescher is at this point one of the most consistent drivers on the circuit but he does not have and probably will never have electrifying speed. He's like a next generation version of the similarly-initialed Clint Bowyer and probably not on a legend or Hall of Fame track. It is getting silly that he has 4 wins to Brad Keselowski's 0 at this point when I would say Buescher has only barely run better and you can debate that. As with Alex Bowman's 2021, I don't really see Buescher ever winning that many races in a season again, but it makes sense that a consistency-based model such as this would rate him very highly because consistency remains his best attribute. For him to get much beyond that, he needs to start putting entire races together rather than continuing to rely on chaotic chris ex machina situations to end up in the lead out of nowhere. (To be fair, he still has to keep the lead when he gets it and he has done an excellent job of that; his series best lead change percentage was good too.) Don't get me wrong: I'm still generally a Buescher booster, but I do think he's starting to get just a smidge overrated, particularly by the kinds of fans who rate consistency over dominance.

Who was actually the most underrated driver of 2023 if it wasn't Buescher? It was easily Jones Boi. Erik Jones is generally an analyst's favorite as he essentially always looks better in advanced analytics than he does in baseline stats, no matter what you look at. When David Smith was calculating surplus passing value, which attempted to compare each driver's passing to how many passes they should have made given their running position in the field, Jones always ranked very highly. He has always performed better than his general points positions in Ryan McCafferty's models too. I was more resistant than they were for a while, but I finally gave in in 2022 when he led the Cup Series in passes made and gave the #43 car its first win in decades. Although I rated him lower on my top 200 list in 2023, this was by far his highest-rated year in my model to date. As you will see below, he was only barely projected to beat Noah Gragson in my model at the start of 2023 but he crushed him before Gragson was fired. He also generally outperformed all of his teammates for the rest of the year including being the only driver to beat Hocevar in a head-to-head teammate comparison last year (something Chastain failed to do in the Truck Series). Jones only finished 27th in points both because Chevy had defunded the Legacy Motor Club operation upon their switch to Toyota and because he had a 60-point penalty on top of that, but his performance was secretly quite good. Now that the team has full backing of Toyota and he has an experienced teammate in John Hunter Nemechek, who will probably be better able to give good setup knowledge as well, Jones is definitely the likeliest driver to achieve a Buescher-esque breakout in 2024 and he's my pick for the Daytona 500 as well.

You just have to ignore everything my model says about Penske drivers all the time. I think that continues to be a legacy of the fact that Keselowski was badly outperformed by the Hendrick drivers and Kurt Busch early in his career while Joey Logano was badly outperformed by the Joe Gibbs drivers, and then they had few teammates other than each other after that, which means their early seasons ended up carrying too much weight since Keselowski and Logano improved at the same time while they were teammates and unlike the Gen-X era drivers, they made substantially fewer starts in the minor league NASCAR series because NASCAR was trying to legislate out Cup participation in Nationwide and trucks by the time they came of age, which also meant they had a smaller sample size of teammate comparisons outside of each other, which also tended to underrate them. I was honestly hoping for my model's sake that Keselowski would significantly outrun Buescher just so all the Penske drivers would rise in my model. When that didn't happen, I kind of have to throw my hands up in the air and completely ignore anything related to modern Penske NASCAR drivers in my model. So, no, I do not think Ryan Blaney was only the 14th best driver of 2023. You can probably add about .1 points to all Penske drivers' ratings. Something similar can be said in regards to Chastain and Reddick to a lesser degree. Chastain and Reddick admittedly are genuinely not very good at consistency because they can be very mistake-prone. Their highs are as high as any other driver for sure but their lows are a lot lower because they do tend to race with a high-risk, high-reward strategy that costs them good results and probably costs them in this model (to be fair, Reddick has also been super unlucky in each of the last two years for the most part). It doesn't help either of them that their teammates Daniel Suárez and Bubba Wallace are also likely underrated by my model. When two teammates are both underrated, it is likely that one will gain at the other's expense. But in Chastain and Reddick's case, I think they are just adapting their style to the modern playoff format. Consistency is no longer needed a win-and-in format. As long as you win, little else matters and they have both been effective at doing that. It seems like most of the drivers who put up good numbers in my consistency-driven model are drivers whose careers generally started before the win-and-in playoff format, at least in the NASCAR minor leagues. These drivers trained themselves for consistency because that is what mattered in the years they were coming of age. In the time period that drivers like Reddick and Chastain were emerging though (and especially the years around 2018 and 2019 when they were starting to become relevant), consistency no longer really mattered and I think they were two of the first to adjust their styles to compensate for that. Now that we've seen Elliott's attempt at going all in on consistency relatively flop, I bet we're going to see a more high-risk, high-reward strategy from Elliott and he will probably perform better but do worse in my consistency model.

Besides Carson Hocevar, there were a handful of minor-league drivers who were worth noting as they posted better ratings than you might expect. Ben Rhodes didn't deserve the championship, but he actually had a solid season in terms of my model, but I didn't list him on my top 200 list mainly because I thought it was more that Matt Crafton was washed up than because Rhodes was actually good. I do think a lot of people sell Rhodes short because he is difficult to like, has two too many titles, and does a lot of stupid things (such as his failed attempt to blend into traffic in the truck race last night), but I also don't think he's a hack the way so many others seem to (he isn't a top-tier Cup prospect either and Bob Pockrass is right about that though). Austin Hill is even more difficult to like and that rating is harder to justify for me. He just probably had the best luck of any driver in the top three NASCAR divisions in 2023 while his teammate Sheldon Creed probably had the worst luck. Hill outran Creed, yes, but if you actually looked at their performance and not merely their finishing records, Creed was pretty close in speed and dominance particularly when you throw out the drafting tracks. It is very shocking that Creed has not won yet, but now that he is in a JGR car that has faster and more consistent equipment than RCR usually does, multiple wins will likely come for him this year. Despite Cole Custer's Xfinity title, Riley Herbst actually beat him in their teammate head-to-head, but that's just because Herbst was much luckier in the races he finished, and in most of the races where Herbst did have bad luck, he ended up not finishing them, which created a very weird skew similar to when Austin Dillon beat Reddick in their head-to-head in 2022 even though Reddick blew him to smithereens. Custer certainly outran Herbst, but I will admit Herbst did do more than I ever thought he would do and has improved a lot. What I will say is that while Custer certainly outperformed Herbst in performance, he did so by a lot less than I was expecting and I do feel despite the title, he mildly underachieved my expectations and was disappointing (particularly since he won less and was a lot less dominant than he was in 2019 when he faced a much stronger field). But not so disappointing that he shouldn't have gotten the #10 car over Noah Gragson, who was even more disappointing in more ways than one. I do want to give a shoutout to Kyle Weatherman, whose pieced-together Frankenstein season with five different teams beat a lot of good drivers in my teammate model much to my surprise. I had never really rated Weatherman prior to 2023, but he did an excellent job in a tough situation and he deserves better. He probably should have gotten the opportunity that Josh Williams got in actuality, although I don't think Williams is terrible and I think he'll do better in the Kaulig car than I think a lot of others are expecting.

Finally, why is Gragson getting a second chance in Cup? I understood why Kyle Larson was because he had shown the potential for greatness beforehand, but Gragson did far worse than even I was expecting (witness Jones's high ranking here). Even if Stewart-Haas had done the right thing and brought Custer back, they'd have four below-average drivers in Cup either way, so I guess it doesn't matter much. But usually when a driver loses a ride seemingly in part due to social media backlash (Matt DiBenedetto, Brett Moffitt, Brandon Brown - the last of these cases is certainly the saddest since he himself did nothing wrong) they never get a major opportunity again unless they show some kind of supreme, transcendent talent. Larson did so he was able to survive. Those three did not and now they are all gone. Yet Gragson not only got another opportunity, he did so with a team that is historically better (although if they still are, they won't be better for much longer). And as his Clash performance proved, it doesn't seem like he's improved as a driver any and his 2022 is looking like more and more of a fluke as it was the only time he showed any kind of dominance whatsoever despite having the fastest cars and still losing the Xfinity title. I'm not saying Gragson shouldn't have had a ride anywhere, but for him to bounce back seemingly unscathed despite still sucking after a year he was probably going to be fired on performance anyway (he was expected to be fired from Legacy Motor Club even before his racist meme went viral) really rubs me the wrong way, especially in a year when those other three drivers are now rideless. And is Gragson even better than DiBenedetto, Moffitt, and Brown? I'm not sure to be honest. Josh Berry at Stewart-Haas is also a pretty embarrassing replacement for Kevin Harvick after a winless Xfinity season that was not very good (it gives me huge J.J. Yeley at Gibbs vibes), but Harvick insisted upon that so I get it, and at least Berry does not seem to be the obnoxious human being that Gragson was and is.

1Carson Hocevar0.268
2Chase Elliott0.236
3Chris Buescher0.207
4William Byron0.207
5Kyle Larson0.206
6Erik Jones0.171
7Kyle Busch0.165
8Denny Hamlin0.164
9Christopher Bell0.156
10Kevin Harvick0.146
11Austin Hill0.118
12Ben Rhodes0.115
13Martin Truex, Jr.0.105
14Ryan Blaney0.101
15A.J. Allmendinger0.081
16Corey LaJoie0.073
17Aric Almirola0.043
18Joey Logano0.041
19J.J. Yeley0.031
20Ryan Preece0.021
21Justin Allgaier0.020
22Brad Keselowski0.000
23Ross Chastain-0.014
24Michael McDowell-0.044
25Daniel Suarez-0.044
26Riley Herbst-0.045
27Kyle Weatherman-0.045
28Austin Dillon-0.046
29Chandler Smith-0.058
30Tyler Reddick-0.062
31Alex Bowman-0.064
32Bubba Wallace-0.067
33Justin Haley-0.082
34Chase Briscoe-0.099
35Daniel Hemric-0.108
36Ty Gibbs-0.115
37John Hunter Nemechek-0.127
38Todd Gilliland-0.136
39Garrett Smithley-0.143
40Josh Williams-0.150
41Ty Dillon-0.171
42Brennan Poole-0.181
43Josh Berry-0.190
44Harrison Burton-0.191
45Andy Lally-0.202
46Matt Crafton-0.204
47Bayley Currey-0.234
48Austin Cindric-0.247
49Sheldon Creed-0.274
50Jeffrey Earnhardt-0.295
51Cole Custer-0.305
52Noah Gragson-0.368
53Ryan Ellis-0.379

Projections vs. Reality

I already addressed a lot of this in the previous section, so I'm not going to go into as much detail here as I did in the open wheel article. Just as before, I have listed the preseason favorite in bold type, although in a few cases the higher-rated driver entering the season is not the higher-rated driver now (for instance, Ryan Preece overtook Chase Briscoe in my model in 2023). I've already praised Erik Jones and critiqued Noah Gragson enough in that section, but it should come as no surprise that Jones outperformed his expectation more than any other pair of teammates throughout the season. It shouldn't really come as a surprise that Alex Bowman underachieved against all three of his teammates because he was injured, but Chase Elliott's 18-2 head-to-head record against him was very strange and is almost entirely the reason why he ended up being the highest-rated Cup driver in his worst-ever season.

I would like to go into detail with regard to a few other driver comparisons though. Since Ryan Blaney won the championship, it's hardly a surprise he outperformed his expectation against Austin Cindric and especially Joey Logano, but Cindric's performance was shockingly bad for a non-rookie Cup driver. Even though sophomore slumps are a cliche, they hardly exist in NASCAR as almost all NASCAR drivers are better in their second year than their rookie season but Cindric actually performed worse. Not only did Blaney beat his expectation against Cindric by 16.2%, but Cindric actually lost his head-to-head teammate comparison to Harrison Burton, which is especially shocking when you consider the reputations of both of those drivers. Cindric and Burton were rookies the same year and based on their Xfinity performances when Cindric won a title while Burton only won for the most part deus ex machina wins when he had Ben Beshore as crew chief before Beshore advanced to Cup, one would have never expected Burton to outperform Cindric in any metric ever, but he did so here and that is strange (I'd still say Cindric was probably better in the races, but only barely). Briscoe vastly underachieved against both Aric Almirola and Ryan Preece, which doesn't really come as a surprise since Briscoe was the disappointment of the year. Briscoe did overachieve against Kevin Harvick, but it seems that since he announced his retirement, he let off the gas considerably particularly later in the season and although he did easily beat all three of his teammates, he still considerably underachieved against all of them. Harvick's performance was still good enough to rank 10th in my model but that was by far his worst performance since 2009. Harvick clearly retired at exactly the right time in my opinion. Despite Josh Berry taking over Harvick's car, he did underachieve his expectation against Justin Allgaier in the Xfinity Series, so this is an awkward season for him to make the transition to Cup.

In all, 29 favored teammates had a winning head-to-head comparison against their teammate while only 15 underdogs did. There was one tie between Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. but I gave it to Truex because he had the lower overall teammate rating entering the year (and still does). Because my model did successfully predict 2/3 of the teammate comparisons, it was pretty valid but if there was a weird trend this year, it's the fact that so many favorites beat their teammates by less of a margin than my model says they should have. Obviously Harvick is one of the main reasons as it's clear he had stopped caring at some point in the second half of last season and was going through the motions (especially in the Bristol Night Race when he was eliminated from the playoffs, which might have been the worst race of his entire career). But the median performance versus teammate expectations in 2023 was -3.2% and that seems really low to me in general. Most favored teammates underachieved their expectations, which I'm not sure is something you'd typically expect. This may actually bode well for the future of competition in the Cup Series because it may indicate that there are a lot of lower-rated drivers on the rise, even drivers who aren't very good like Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton, and Riley Herbst. The next column I have planned (although I may not release it for a while) is a column where I have calculated the average teammate ratings for all drivers in F1, Cup, IndyCar, and Formula E to determine which seasons had the deepest overall fields. I attempted this before but my methodology then was much more hamfisted and scattershot and I'm not sure I did as good a job of measuring competition back then as I thought I did. It didn't really occur to me to use my model to measure this until recently, but I think I like those results better than my previous results (at least if you ignore the pre-'90s years of NASCAR when there were usually almost never any multi-car teams). At some point this year, I will write a column summarizing my data on the average level of competition by year using my teammate model, but that is for another day. Now on to the overall model update.

BuschA. Dillon71.5%16-672.7%1.2%
LaJoieT. Dillon75.8%22-775.9%0.1%
BlaneyH. Burton76.0%19-773.1%-2.9%
LoganoH. Burton83.2%20-580.0%-3.2%
C. SmithHemric53.5%11-1247.8%-5.7%
McDowellZ. Smith58.9%3-350.0%-8.9%
CindricH. Burton58.9%12-1446.2%-12.7%
NemechekR. Truex68.2%1-325.0%-43.2%
AllmendingerC. Smith61.0%0-30.0%-61.0%

The Model

Below I have updated my stock car teammate model to reflect all stock car races through 2023. Although I did not include last night's truck race, there was only one teammate comparison between two teammates who had previously made Cup starts who both finished the race (Bayley Currey and Matt Mills), so that was not nearly enough data to really shift the model in any significant way and it certainly wasn't worth rerunning the model just for that. Although I do include some non-points events for my open wheel and touring car models (because historically there have been important races where drivers from different open wheel and touring car series came together to compete against each other) I do not for my stock car model, so the Clash is not included here. As I mentioned above, I have listed all drivers with ten or more teammate comparisons who either made a start in 2023 or are expected to in 2024 in the below table. I made one exception for Shane van Gisbergen who only has five teammate comparisons because he is full-time this year and is obviously a major driver of interest. His teammate rating of .127 is the highest for any stock car driver entering the model and that is not a surprise considering he won his debut. However, given his lack of oval experience I expect him to tank this season as A.J. Allmendinger will crush him and I think Josh Williams will generally beat him. Carson Hocevar at .120 is very close, which is not a surprise since he and Ross Chastain are tied in their head-to-head teammate record in the Truck Series and he was the overall highest-rated driver in my model in 2023. These are unusually high ratings for drivers debuting in my stock car model (where experience tends to matter even more than in my open wheel model), and they are certainly two of the drivers who will be most interesting to watch in 2023. Hocevar is already favored to outperform Corey LaJoie this year and LaJoie is a driver my model has indicated was underrated for years (he outperformed him at Gateway last year, that's for sure). I do think LaJoie will still outperform Hocevar because Hocevar is less experienced, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if Hocevar ends up stronger. Three other drivers made their Cup debuts in 2023 and also enter my model for the first time: Grant Enfinger at .026, Austin Hill at -.041, and Sheldon Creed at -.138. There were several other drivers who made Cup debuts as well, but they were mostly road racers with fewer than ten teammate comparisons much like SVG and I decided to only include him on this list because he is the only one of those competing full-time this year.

Because Jimmie Johnson crashed in all three of his starts, he did not have any new teammate comparions in 2023 but he continues to be the highest-rated active driver in my model. Because Kevin Harvick underachieved against all three of his teammates in 2023, he slightly went down from .249 to .242 that year, but he had so many teammate comparisons in previous years that he was barely affected. I suspect the same thing will happen to Johnson, who is three months older than Harvick. However, unlike Harvick who still did significantly outperform all his teammates by a smaller margin than he was expected to, I actually think both Erik Jones and John Hunter Nemechek will post winning head-to-head records against Johnson this year as they've been rising drivers for years while Johnson has minimal experience in the NextGen car or in NASCAR in general since his original departure in 2020. Johnson is poised for a fall and it will be interesting to see whether Johnson or Harvick ends up higher whenever Johnson finally retires. Because Johnson is only competing on a limited deal and had so many teammate comparisons prior to that because he drove for a four-car Hendrick team, it wouldn't surprise me if he still stays ahead of Harvick even if he is badly outperformed by his teammates as I expect he will be.

Even though Chase Elliott was the highest-rated Cup driver in my model, he technically slightly went down even though his teammate rating to the thousandths place remains unchanged. After he did narrowly outfinish Kyle Larson 12-10 (even though Larson destroyed him on track), his expectation has gone up from 50.5% last year to 50.8% this year, and since he won't be battling an injury this time, it's still plausible he'll be able to do that. However, since the #9 team kept Alan Gustafson as crew chief and he is nowhere near as good as Rudy Fugle or Cliff Daniels, I think he will underachieve this time and I would guess that Larson will overtake him in my model in 2024. William Byron and Chris Buescher predictably rose as they were two of the highest-rated drivers in my model in 2023. Surprisingly, Ross Chastain did too even though he posted a negative rating. I suspect Chastain went up due to second-order effects as a lot of the teammates he raced against in earlier years gained experience. In particular, Ryan Preece shot up a massive amount from -.101 to -.049 because he outperformed Chase Briscoe significantly and exceeded expectations against Harvick, which probably pushed Chastain up because they were Xfinity Series teammates. Upon Harvick's retirement, Preece is now the highest-rated Stewart-Haas driver in my model with a below average rating, which is really damning towards the entire organization that until recently was considered to be a championship-caliber juggernaut. Christopher Bell seems to be following a very similar trajectory as Scott McLaughlin in my open wheel model as both of them were rated almost exactly zero in 2021 (which was the first season both of them had full-time teammates) but they have steadily gained ground each year since, although I would say McLaughlin has had a much steeper trajectory and is the much better driver. Corey LaJoie continuing to rise from his already-high previous rating is perhaps one of the biggest surprises as a lot of fans had written him off for dead given his disappointing Gateway run. However, he too continues to rise probably because Justin Haley rose and Haley was one of LaJoie's most frequent teammates.

Because most NASCAR veterans have a lot more teammate comparisons than most open wheel veterans since there are substantially more races in a season and the teams generally are larger, the amount any veteran can move is generally not that much. So Ryan Blaney at .019 continues to rise at a glacial pace and his rating will likely never reflect his ability even at career's end, and I will have to think about what I need to do to adjust for that. I'm sure Tyler Reddick will probably eventually climb above average as well at some point since he's a well above average driver at the moment but he actually dropped to -.053, behind a lot of drivers who are infinitely worse than him. Reddick just needs to eventually dominate a teammate in finishes by the same margin he does in performance or dominance, and I'm sure it will eventually happen. Drivers usually become more consistent in their 30s, although that often comes at the expense of speed. Even a driver as hot and still young as Erik Jones only improved from -.034 to -.022 so even he has too many teammate comparisons to climb above average. It doesn't help that in his more mediocre seasons he was usually driving for a four-car Joe Gibbs operation. Now he is much better but he drives for a two-car team, which means he has fewer teammate comparisons in his good years than in his bad years, which is probably one of the bigger flaws of my model. The same can likely be said for Daniel Suárez, which is probably one of the things that is also currently hurting Ross Chastain.

As a result, most of the drivers who did make large shifts were generally minor league drivers with substantially fewer teammate comparisons, such as Ryan Sieg (down from .046 to .024), John Hunter Nemechek (down from .047 to .023 despite winning the Xfinity championship; it was rather embarrassing that he lost to part-time driver Ryan Truex 1-3 and also lost the title when he was the prohibitive championship favorite), Brennan Poole (down from .016 to -.011, dropping below average for the first time in my model), Brett Moffitt (up from -.121 to -.088, but that's largely because he had a strong performance against Sheldon Creed who enters the model for the first time, not based on his 2023 races), Kyle Weatherman (up from -.164 to -.101 and he probably deserves mention as arguably the #1 underdog of 2023), and Cole Custer (down from -.092 to -.116, but that's more because Riley Herbst was luckier in the races he finished; Herbst rises from -.403 to -.288, a larger margin than anyone else in the model, but that is still a very bad rating). For an actual Cup veteran to increase or decrease by more than about .02 points last year was rare although there were a few exceptions. In addition to Preece's rise from -.101 to -.049, Todd Gilliland rose from -.188 to -.157, Chase Briscoe dropped from -.050 to -.070, Austin Cindric dropped from -.157 to -.185, and Harrison Burton rose from -.246 to -.224. Even most of those drivers were second-year drivers in 2023, which does show how hard it is for drivers with much longer careers to move at all (if Ryan Blaney's glacial pace despite his considerable improvement in 2022 and 2023 wasn't enough evidence for that). Despite my model's many flaws (especially with the Penske drivers and Reddick), I do think in most other cases it does a solid job of ranking 21st century drivers, but you definitely do have to take a lot of it with a grain of salt. I think I've gotten better at identifying which ratings to take seriously and which outliers to ignore. If you asked me right now, I'd say Noah Gragson is the most overrated driver here and Tyler Reddick is the most underrated. We'll see if these opinions will hold up in the coming years, but it's time to write my RotoBaller columns for the Daytona 500 now, so I'm gonna cut this short right here to give myself some time to do that since this is actually my paid gig. Enjoy the remaining races.

Jimmie Johnson0.2460.2490.2500.25072.7% vs. Nemechek, 77.2% vs. Jones
Kevin Harvick0.2480.2510.2490.242
Chase Elliott0.2200.2240.2230.22350.8% vs. Larson, 61.8% vs. Byron, 65.6% vs. Bowman
Kyle Larson0.2180.2260.2180.21549.2% vs. Elliott, 61.0% vs. Byron, 64.8% vs. Bowman
Kyle Busch0.2020.2000.2010.20471.9% vs. A. Dillon
Denny Hamlin0.1650.1630.1660.16952.2% vs. Truex, 57.0% vs. Bell, 78.5% vs. Gibbs
Martin Truex, Jr.0.1510.1530.1480.14747.8% vs. Hamlin, 54.8% vs. Bell, 76.3% vs. Gibbs
Shane van Gisbergen0.12757.3% vs. Allmendinger, 73.8% vs. Williams
Carson Hocevar0.12052.5% vs. LaJoie, 74.5% vs. Smith
Brad Keselowski0.1180.1160.1170.11452.0% vs. Buescher
William Byron0.0730.0740.0910.10538.2% vs. Elliott, 39.0% vs. Larson, 53.8% vs. Bowman
Christopher Bell0.0000.0640.0750.09943.0% vs. Hamlin, 45.2% vs. Truex, 71.5% vs. Gibbs
Corey LaJoie0.0420.0580.0840.09547.5% vs. Hocevar, 72.0% vs. Smith
Chris Buescher0.0640.0770.0780.09448.0% vs. Keselowski
Ross Chastain0.0780.0880.0900.09468.0% vs. Suarez
Joey Logano0.0890.0840.0870.08556.6% vs. Blaney, 77.0% vs. Cindric, 80.9% vs. Burton
Alex Bowman0.0690.0790.0820.06734.4% vs. Elliott, 35.2% vs. Larson, 46.2% vs. Byron
A.J. Allmendinger0.0140.0380.0490.05442.7% vs. van Gisbergen, 66.5% vs. Williams
Grant Enfinger0.026
Ryan Sieg0.0390.0440.0460.024
John Hunter Nemechek0.0550.0440.0470.02327.3% vs. Johnson, 54.5% vs. Jones
Ryan Blaney0.0110.0100.0140.01943.4% vs. Logano, 70.4% vs. Cindric, 74.3% vs. Burton
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.0.0080.0130.0100.017
Parker Kligerman-0.0030.0000.0010.004
Matt Crafton-0.007-0.004-0.002-0.00853.5% vs. Rhodes
Brennan Poole0.0160.0240.016-0.01186.9% vs. Ellis
Austin Dillon-0.012-0.012-0.013-0.01528.1% vs. Busch
Aric Almirola-0.025-0.020-0.019-0.01754.9% vs. C. Smith, 62.1% vs. Creed
Erik Jones-0.041-0.036-0.034-0.02222.8% vs. Johnson, 45.5% vs. Nemechek
Justin Allgaier-0.026-0.027-0.030-0.030
Trevor Bayne-0.035-0.029-0.037-0.031
Michael McDowell-0.047-0.043-0.029-0.03362.4% vs. Gilliland
Austin Hill-0.041
Ben Rhodes-0.074-0.068-0.055-0.04346.5% vs. Crafton
Ryan Preece-0.117-0.093-0.101-0.04950.9% vs. Gragson, 52.1% vs. Briscoe, 62.0% vs. Berry
Tyler Reddick-0.057-0.055-0.050-0.05351.8% vs. Wallace
Noah Gragson-0.066-0.051-0.05849.1% vs. Preece, 51.2% vs. Briscoe, 61.1% vs. Berry
Chandler Smith-0.062-0.06641.1% vs. Nemechek, 45.1% vs. Almirola, 57.2% vs. Creed
David Ragan-0.070-0.069-0.069-0.067
Chase Briscoe-0.150-0.087-0.050-0.07047.9% vs. Preece, 48.8% vs. Gragson, 59.9% vs. Berry
Bubba Wallace-0.100-0.083-0.078-0.07148.2% vs. Reddick
J.J. Yeley-0.091-0.090-0.090-0.086
Daniel Suarez-0.097-0.095-0.093-0.08632.0% vs. Chastain
Brett Moffitt-0.121-0.135-0.121-0.088
Daniel Hemric-0.082-0.096-0.097-0.09427.9% vs. van Gisbergen, 35.2% vs. Allmendinger, 51.7% vs. Williams
Justin Haley-0.122-0.110-0.110-0.10058.6% vs. Ware, 62.0% vs. Grala
Kyle Weatherman-0.183-0.186-0.164-0.101
Johnny Sauter-0.115-0.107-0.106-0.101
Bayley Currey-0.145-0.151-0.118-0.10667.6% vs. Mills
Josh Williams-0.095-0.096-0.11126.2% vs. van Gisbergen, 33.5% vs. Allmendinger
Cole Custer-0.112-0.099-0.092-0.11667.2% vs. Herbst
Ty Gibbs-0.202-0.130-0.11621.5% vs. Hamlin, 23.7% vs. Truex, 28.5% vs. Bell
Ryan Truex-0.159-0.149-0.136-0.119
Gray Gaulding-0.133-0.126-0.120-0.125
Zane Smith-0.125-0.117-0.12525.5% vs. Hocevar, 28.0% vs. LaJoie
Matt DiBenedetto-0.139-0.136-0.134-0.135
Andrew Ranger-0.102-0.177-0.138-0.137
Sheldon Creed-0.13833.9% vs. Nemechek, 37.9% vs. Almirola, 42.8% vs. C. Smith
Todd Gilliland-0.215-0.188-0.15737.6% vs. McDowell
D.J. Kennington-0.125-0.202-0.163-0.161
Josh Berry-0.251-0.139-0.157-0.16938.0% vs. Preece, 38.9% vs. Gragson, 40.1% vs. Briscoe
Ty Dillon-0.171-0.172-0.173-0.174
Austin Cindric-0.330-0.155-0.157-0.18523.0% vs. Logano, 29.6% vs. Blaney, 53.9% vs. Burton
Jason White-0.188-0.187-0.188-0.186
Cody Ware-0.255-0.212-0.185-0.18641.4% vs. Haley
Dylan Lupton-0.128-0.118-0.140-0.187
Timmy Hill-0.187-0.190-0.207-0.206
Kaz Grala-0.261-0.247-0.234-0.22038.0% vs. Haley
Harrison Burton-0.189-0.247-0.246-0.22419.1% vs. Logano, 25.7% vs. Blaney, 46.1% vs. Cindric
Anthony Alfredo-0.310-0.257-0.240-0.237
David Starr-0.245-0.245-0.248-0.245
Jeb Burton-0.275-0.272-0.271-0.267
Garrett Smithley-0.294-0.287-0.283-0.271
Matt Mills-0.313-0.298-0.305-0.28232.4% vs. Currey
Riley Herbst-0.403-0.28832.8% vs. Custer
B.J. McLeod-0.305-0.303-0.305-0.297
Andy Lally-0.361-0.355-0.302
Joey Gase-0.344-0.338-0.332-0.338
Jeffrey Earnhardt-0.348-0.352-0.354-0.341
Ryan Ellis-0.496-0.389-0.388-0.38013.1% vs. Poole
Travis Pastrana-0.393-0.385
Brent Sherman-0.400-0.397-0.397-0.401
Josh Bilicki-0.446-0.430-0.421-0.411
Spencer Boyd-0.809-0.726-0.723-0.712
Sean Wrona is the Managing Editor of racermetrics.com, the Webmaster of race-database.com, and the winner of the 2010 Ultimate Typing Championship at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin. He earned a master's in applied statistics from Cornell University in 2008 and previously digitized several seasons of NBA box scores on basketball-reference.com. He released his first book, Nerds Per Minute: A History of Competitive Typing, in 2021. You may contact him at sean.wrona@gmail.com.