NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR midseason awards: Best driver, top rookie, biggest upset and more
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR midseason awards: Best driver, top rookie, biggest upset and more

Updated Jun. 19, 2023 9:44 a.m. ET

It's not mathematically the middle of the season as the year is 18 events in (16 points races, Clash and All-Star Race) with 20 points races remaining, but the one off-weekend of the year seems like a good time for some midseason awards.

So without making you wait, here is a list of some accolades I would hand out if the season ended today:

Upset of the Year

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. winning the Daytona 500 ... and beyond. Stenhouse winning the 500 wasn't a huge upset because he had won at Daytona previously in a Cup race (the summer race). But combine the victory with sustaining solid performance as he sits 14th in the standings is impressive for a driver who was 26th in the standings last year.


Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!  

Driver of the Year

No one … yet. No driver has dominated this season. At one point, it might seem like William Byron. At another, it would seem to be Kyle Busch. Another time it might seem to be Kyle Larson. And after the past few weeks, Martin Truex Jr.

Rookie of the Year

There are only two rookies this season: Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson. Obviously, Gibbs is having a better year at 18th in the standings. Gragson was 32nd before last week's race, which he missed after suffering concussion-like symptoms.

Race of the Year

Kansas was a great race and it came down to the end with Denny Hamlin making a pass on Larson, whose car was fading in the final laps. There was a little bit of contact but nothing that would be considered dirty. And it wasn't just the finish. The whole race was pretty darn good.

Rivalry of the Year

Ross Chastain vs. Everyone. This is a rivalry that has continued from last year. It has taken a breather in the past month or so, but at the start of the season it was Chastain vs. Hamlin, vs. Larson, vs. Chase Elliott, vs. Daniel Suarez (his teammate), vs. Michael McDowell and, of course, vs. Gragson.

"I'm comfortable making other drivers uncomfortable"

Ross Chastain sat down with Jamie McMurray and talked about his on-track incidents and if he will change his style of racing.

Upstart of the Year

Todd Gilliland. After a rookie season in which he finished 28th in the standings, Gilliland was told he would be replaced in the Front Row Motorsports No. 38 car for at least six races this year. Gilliland didn't just go and get a ride for those other races, he has shown he belongs. He sits 24th in the standings this year. He averaged 14.75 points per race last year while he is averaging 17.4 points per race this year. Maybe even bigger, he's just 19 points out of the top 20 in points. Last year at this time, he was 91 points out of the top 20.

Move of the Year

Joey Logano made a great pass of Brad Keselowski on the final lap to win at Atlanta. Keselowski said his only way to stop it would have been to throw a block that likely wouldn't have worked and would have wrecked the entire field.

Underwhelm of the Year

Stewart-Haas Racing has just one car — Kevin Harvick (fifth) — in the top 24 in the standings. Ryan Preece is 25th, Aric Almirola is 26th and Chase Briscoe is 31st. Briscoe would be 20th if not for a 120-point penalty for a counterfeit part. But even if Briscoe was at 20th in the standings, SHR still would likely fill this slot.

D'oh of the Year

Chase Elliott has missed seven races this season, six because of a broken leg he suffered while snowboarding and one for a suspension for an egregious right-rear-hook of Hamlin's car at Charlotte. Accidents happen. Mistakes happen. Elliott hasn't been able to avoid either this year.

"I'm all-in on trying to win"

Chase Elliott understands he is in a must-win situation to make the playoffs after an eventful season to this point.

Crew Chief of the Year

This is a tie of two crew chiefs who took new roles this year: Mike Kelley for Stenhouse and Travis Peterson for McDowell. What makes Peterson's work even more impressive with McDowell is that it is pretty much a new group of mechanics working together, and they have McDowell 19th in the standings.

New Driver-Crew Chief Combo of the Year

Kyle Busch and Randall Burnett. There obviously was potential in putting one of the sport's greatest drivers with a crew chief who won three races the previous year. But the fact they have three wins this year and Busch is sixth in points is impressive.

Owner of the Year

Richard Childress. He won the Kyle Busch sweepstakes and the two put their past issues behind them. Childress took a driver he knew likely would run better than his grandson because he knew it would make his team better. Mission accomplished.

"Great for RCR, just win, baby!"

In his first year with RCR, Kyle Busch captured the checkered flag at the Enjoy Illinois 300 for his third victory of the season.

Moment of the Year

Ryan Blaney didn't just snap a 59-race winless streak by capturing the Coca-Cola 600, he went to celebrate in the stands with the fans, just as his Team Penske brethren Josef Newgarden did the same weekend when winning the Indianapolis 500.

Sweep of the Year

The Truex family at Dover. Ryan Truex won for the first time in a NASCAR national series race when he captured the checkered flag in the Xfinity race at Dover. Two days later, his brother, Martin, won the Cup race at Dover, the track that is closest to their New Jersey roots.

Can't Wait For Next Year

Legacy Motor Club. They are struggling and have announced they will change from Chevrolet to Toyota next season. This likely won't be a fun next 20 weeks.

"Great excitement for what our future holds"

Jimmie Johnson discussed his thoughts regarding the big changes coming to Legacy Motor Club.

Thinking Out Loud

The whole midseason awards list is pretty much me thinking out loud!

I know some race fans probably wish they could have had some sort of NASCAR national series racing over the weekend, maybe giving the Xfinity Series or the truck series the spotlight.

But the NASCAR national series industry taking a collective pause does two important things:

--It gives everyone who works on the national series level the option to have a full week with their families, to possibly go on vacation with their children as many families try to do during the summer.

--If fans do want to see racing, it encourages them to go to their local tracks or watch NASCAR grassroots racing online or seek out another form of racing.

In The News

--Grandstand seats are sold out for the NASCAR Cup Series championship race Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway. Why so early? It might not just be the championship being decided — it's the last Cup race for Kevin Harvick, who retires at the end of the season.

Social Spotlight

Stat of the Day

There have been six different points leaders in the 16 weeks this season. Joey Logano (after week 1), Ross Chastain (2-3, 7, 11-14), Alex Bowman (4-6), Christopher Bell (8-10), Ryan Blaney (15) and Martin Truex Jr. (16).

They Said It

"Running well definitely doesn't hurt. He plays his cards pretty close to his chest, so who knows what the hell he's thinking. [It's] definitely all pointing in the right direction if he wants to stick around." —Martin Truex Jr. crew chief James Small on whether Truex will return in 2024

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

Top NASCAR stories from FOX Sports:

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
NASCAR Cup Series
Kyle Larson
Kyle Busch

Get more from NASCAR Cup Series Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more