Chevrolet Is Clearly the Class of Early 2024 NASCAR Season

Jackson Wheeler
8 Min Read


  • Okay… so the gap from Chevrolet’s tried-and-true Camaro back to Ford’s new Mustang Darkhorse and Toyota’s new Camry XSE might be tighter than it looks on paper.
  • On the race tracks, though, it’s a different matter.
  • The victory for Kyle Larson on Sunday was his 18th since joining Hendrick’s organization in 2021 and his 24th overall following six with Chip Ganassi between 2014 and 2020.

He’s kidding, right? Surely, crew chief Cliff Daniels didn’t say Chevrolet’s early-season advantage over Ford and Toyota isn’t really what it seems?

Huh?

He actually said that after watching eight Chevy drivers lead 237 of 267 laps in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

“I think the gap is actually tighter than it may look like on paper,” said Daniels, who led Kyle Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet team to an overpowering victory in the Cup Series race. “One advantage we probably have right now is the continuity of what we know of our car. Knowing their (new) cars are different, I imagine the balance and some of the handling characteristics are different.

“The continuity of our stuff and the depth of our notes were really helpful. But we’ll have to keep evolving pretty quickly because the more Ford and Toyota start to get their stuff figured out, the gap is going to get closed. When I write my post-race notes it’ll be that the gap is tighter across the field than when we won here last fall.”

nascar cup series ambetter health 400 qualifying

Alex Slitz//Getty Images

It might be worth dropping a few bucks on Kyle Larson with your favorite sports book after the way Chevrolet has performed in the early going.

Not surprisingly, Hendrick Motorsports general manager Jeff Andrews echoed that after watching HMS get its insurmountable 303rd Cup victory

for team owner Rick Hendrick dating to 1984.

“We know we have very little margin here,” Andrews said. “We know we’re up against new cars from Ford and Toyota (so) we have to do our best to work and keep advancing this car. We’re early into the season and there’s a lot of racing to go. As Cliff said, Ford and Toyota will get there. The 45 (runner-up Tyler Reddick) was very good and you saw a couple Fords up there. Anytime you change a platform as much as they have, it’s going to take a little bit of time.

“Both those OEMs certainly have a lot of potential. We’re going to have to keep pushing really, really hard to keep ourselves in contention through the early part of the summer and then set ourselves up for the fall. But I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far this season.”

Okay… so the gap from Chevrolet’s tried-and-true Camaro back to Ford’s new Mustang Darkhorse and Toyota’s new Camry XSE might be tighter than it looks on paper. On the race tracks, though, it’s a different matter.

Bowtie Bunch has six drivers among the top-10 in Cup and Xfinity points.

Some numbers: Chevrolet was 1-2 at Daytona Beach, 1-3 at Atlanta, and 1-4 at Las Vegas; it has 11 of this year’s 30 top-10 finish positions, topping Toyota’s 10 and Ford’s 9; Chevrolet is 8-for-9 over NASCAR’s top three series, going 3-for-3 in Cup, 2-for-3 in Xfinity, and 3-for-3 in the Craftsman Truck Series; and the Bowtie Bunch has six drivers among the top-10 in Cup and Xfinity points, and four drivers among the top-10 in Craftsman.

Larson led the most laps, won both stages, and gave Chevy its third consecutive early-season victory. Teammate William Byron won the season-opening Daytona 500 and Chevy driver Daniel Suarez won last weekend’s thriller at Atlanta. Some consider Las Vegas the “true” season-opener because at a modest 1.5 miles, it’s slower than Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, and requires a more traditional chassis setup and more driver input.

Similar to the year’s first two races, the Pennzoil 400 had its moments even though Larson led eight times for 181 of 267 laps, including the final 26. He held off Reddick in a Toyota, defending Cup champion Ryan Blaney in a Ford, Ross Chastain in another Chevy, and Ty Gibbs in another Toyota. Reddick was challenging late until Larson effectively threw the winning block on the last lap.

The victory was his 18th since joining Hendrick’s organization in 2021 and his 24th overall following six with Chip Ganassi between 2014 and 2020. He was fired by Ganassi and banished from NASCAR for most of 2020 after using a racial slur during an iRacing event. He went through almost eight months of sensitivity training, counseling, and public outreach before NASCAR reinstated him late in 2020.

Hendrick didn’t hesitate to recruit him to fill the seat vacated when Jimmie Johnson left for IndyCar. Together, Larson and Daniels have won 18 points races (plus two all-star races), made the Playoffs three consecutive years, and won the 2021 Cup Series title to cap their 10-win storybook season.

And now, with the Playoffs virtually assured and the series going to 15 venues where he’s already won 21 times, maybe now would be a good time to drop a small wager on Larson to win another championship.

He is, after all, in Chevrolet for NASCAR’s best team.

Lettermark

Unemployed after three years as an Army officer and Vietnam vet, Al Pearce shamelessly lied his way onto a small newspaper’s sports staff in Virginia in 1969. He inherited motorsports, a strange and unfamiliar beat which quickly became an obsession. 

In 53 years – 48 ongoing with Autoweek – there have been thousands of NASCAR, NHRA, IMSA, and APBA assignments on weekend tracks and major venues like Daytona Beach, Indianapolis, LeMans, and Watkins Glen. The job – and accompanying benefits – has taken him to all 50 states and more than a dozen countries.  

He’s been fortunate enough to attract interest from several publishers, thus his 13 motorsports-related books. He can change a tire on his Hyundai, but that’s about it.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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