If you don’t follow professional motorsports, there’s no better time than the present to tune in. (And if you’re already a fan, get ready, because the times, they are a-changin’.) Across numerous disciplines, 2023 promises a bevy of hot topics, dramatic finishes, and compelling storylines to follow throughout next season. Here are the top six to follow next year.
Sports car racing’s new landscape
Professional sports car racing has undergone the biggest offseason transformation in recent memory. Granted, the changes were multiple years in the making. It all started in 2020, when premier North American sanctioning body IMSA entered into an agreement with Euro sports car league WEC that would allow a common car to compete between the two series—and vie for the series’ respective crown jewel events.
Manufacturers campaigning prototype racers can compete in sports car racing’s holy trinity: the 24 Hours of Le Mans (WEC-sanctioned), the IMSA-sanctioned Daytona Rolex 24 and Twelve Hours of Sebring. IMSA will call its prototype class “Le Mans Daytona hybrid” (LMDh) or GTP, while WEC will refer to its futuristic racers as “Hypercars.” Regardless of manufacturer or denomination each car will produce about 670 horsepower from a hybrid system.
Also involved in the shakeup are a new set of prototype manufacturers. This January, BMW and Porsche will join mainstays Cadillac and Acura on the dense Daytona grid. How dense? We reported in earlier in December that IMSA will have to send some teams home as they will exceed the number of open spaces on Daytona’s pit lane. A cutoff before the green flag—sounds like drama is brewing. The season begins 0n January 20th with the Roar Before the 24 mandatory practice, a great time to visit Daytona.
NASCAR to use rain tires at ovals
Professional sports are fighting an uphill battle against streaming services. Why attend a live event when you can stay at home and watch dragons or baking shows? A dubious forecast does nothing but keep vacillating fans at home. In 2023, NASCAR is battling back against Mother Nature. America’s premier stock car sanctioning body recently revealed plans to utilize treaded rain tires at select ovals.
For years, the series has successfully implemented rain ready Goodyears at road courses. The new package, which has been tested as far back as 2021, will likely be at NASCAR’s disposal for short tracks (ovals less than a mile in length) such as Martinsville, Bristol, Richmond, and Phoenix.
Kyle Busch ditches Toyota for Chevrolet
NASCAR’s biggest free agent landed a new deal earlier this fall, as it was announced that Kyle Busch would join Richard Childress Racing in 2023. The announcement marks the polarizing driver’s move from Joe Gibbs Racing, where he spent 15 years driving Toyotas, to the Chevrolets.
Busch and Childress have a tumultuous history. Back in 2011, after several on-track run-ins between Busch and Childress’ drivers, the team owner took matters into his own hands—literally. One weekend, while at the track, Childress reportedly put Busch in a headlock and punched him multiple times.
Busch brings a first ballot hall-of-fame career to his new team as well as a big personality and an intense desire to win. No matter. The last driver to win a championship with Childress? The most intense of them all: Dale Earnhardt.
McLaren stacked in IndyCar
Earlier this year, Zak Brown and the Arrow McLaren SP team added to their IndyCar roster with a rather big acquisition. In 2023, open-wheel superstar Alexander Rossi will don the McLaren orange and trade Honda badges for the team’s Chevrolet Bowtie. Rossi, who spent seven years with Andretti Autosport, will join returning drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist to make the three-car effort.
Rossi will look to build on an already-stellar career which includes his 2016 Indy 500 triumph during his rookie campaign with Andretti.
New faces in F1 garage
On that note, it appears Michael Andretti is still poised to own a Formula 1 team.
While nobody new is joining the F1 grid in 2023, there are rumblings and expect to see a couple of new suitors. Earlier in December, Andretti shared that the organizations attempts to join the F1 circus have been making “pretty good progress.”
To an outsider, it might seem like an easy foray if Andretti Autosport has the means. The truth is, it’s rather difficult to join the field of ten teams. Some of the veteran F1 teams have met the move with resistance and are generally unwilling to divide the F1 pie up more than necessary. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali mentioned that the addition of a new team must add value to the sport. An Andretti team on the grid? Seems like value-and-a-half.
Also, look for a Porsche presence in the garage. The marque seems just as persistent as Andretti to join Formula 1. Earlier this year, a discussions were terminated between the German manufacture and Red Bull Racing. Where do they go from here? In the mean time, another rumor has surfaced that Ford may join Red Bull in some capacity. Pay attention to this space—and the people in suits populating the F1 paddocks.
High Limit sprint series
This one is definitely off the beaten path, but if you have any interest in dirt racing you’ll definitely want to follow this storyline. Since the 1980s, national winged sprint car racing has been dominated by one traveling sanctioning body: the World of Outlaws. This series ping-pongs across the continental US, delivering fans an action-packed evening of the fastest race cars on dirt. Giant tires, oodles of aero, and the power-to-weight ratio of a Formula 1 car—it’s quite the spectacle.
In 2023, a new sprint series joins the fight for the national recognition, and it was all started by some familiar faces in the sport. NASCAR driver Kyle Larson and four-time WoO champ Brad Sweet have created their own show dubbed the “High Limit Sprint Car Series.” Compared to the World of Outlaws, the schedule is rather brief, but what it lacks in distance it makes up for in dollars. All the shows pay more than $20k, and it was announced earlier this week that Trackhouse Racing, of NASCAR fame, would boost the purse to $50k at the series Kansas’ stop.
NASCAR driver Alex Bowman and fan favorite Rico Abreu have already committed to running much of the 12-race schedule.
Which storyline are you excited to follow? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.