Revealed: The biggest non-F1 motorsport stories of 2023

Elizabeth Blackstock
Marc Marquez of the Repsol Honda Team in the gravel after and accident with Jorge Martin of the Prima Pramac Racing

Marc Marquez: Final year with Honda

F1 is considered the pinnacle of motorsport and dominates headlines as a result – but there were plenty of other big stories to follow in 2023.

From IndyCar to endurance racing to two-wheeled sports, motorsport was chock full of twists and turns all year long. We saw stunning race wins, shocking departures, and total technology revamps.

If you missed any of these moments or are just keen on revisiting them one last time before the year is out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best storylines here.

NASCAR Gets International

American stock car racing hasn’t always been a fan favorite for international motorsport audiences, but 2023 brought with it plenty of opportunities for diverse audiences to tune in – starting with Jenson Button’s Cup Series debut.

The former F1 champion partnered with Rick Ware Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing to pilot a Ford Mustang in select events in 2023, starting with Circuit of the Americas, where he took his best finish of the year by crossing the line in 18th place.

Kamui Kobayashi, known for his endurance racing wins with Toyota Gazoo Racing, also made his Cup Series debut in 2023, opting to team up with 23XI Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

But the most shocking story of them all involved former Supercars racer Shane van Gisbergen.

The New Zealander made his debut at NASCAR’s inaugural Chicago street race, where he became the first driver to win his debut Cup race in 60 years; his name also joins a short list of six non-American drivers who have won Cup races. He’ll be taking part in the full Xfinity Series schedule in 2024, along with select Cup races.

NASCAR Goes To Le Mans

This year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans fielded what’s known as a Garage 56 entry; limited to one per year, the Garage 56 program is intended to showcase burgeoning automotive technology at one of the biggest events in the world. In 2023, that entry was inspired by a NASCAR stock car.

While it can be difficult to consider NASCAR to be a cutting-edge sport, the series did introduce something called the Next-Gen car two years ago; this machine represented a massive leap forward in Cup Series technology, as it’s the first stock car to be built to turn both left and right.

It fits NASCAR’s goals of introducing more road courses and drawing in more international talent.

Button, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, and sportscar ace Mike Rockenfeller brought the Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro home at the end of the 24-hour event — and even brought some competition to the GT cars, too.

Josef Newgarden Wins A Dangerous Indy 500

The 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 was a wild, red-flag-fueled affair that, at one point, saw a tire detach from the upturned Honda of Kyle Kirkwood and launch into a trackside parking lot.

As red flags punctuated crash-filled sprints to the glory of the checkered flag, fans wondered if the event was setting an unnecessarily dangerous precedent by trying to finish the race under green-flag conditions.

On the last lap, however, Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden stole the lead from former F1 driver and reigning Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson and drove to a hard-earned victory.

Newgarden, who was competing in his 12th consecutive Indy 500, has won two IndyCar titles – but that 500 victory evaded him. Overwhelmed with emotion at finally accomplishing his dream, Newgarden parked his Chevrolet on the front stretch of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ran into the grandstands to celebrate.

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Alex Palou Sticks With IndyCar After Winning Title

The battle between McLaren Racing and IndyCar driver Álex Palou still rages on.

Let’s turn back the clocks. In July 2022, McLaren announced it had signed Palou as an F1 reserve driver with the intention of also giving him a seat in IndyCar; Palou’s team, Chip Ganassi Racing, stated that Palou was contractually obligated to remain with the team until the end of the 2023 season.

All parties reached an agreement that said Palou would drive for CGR in 2023 but could take part in some McLaren activities when he wasn’t busy – but this year, Zak Brown nixed McLaren’s end of the deal after learning that Palou had re-signed with CGR until 2026.

Now, McLaren is suing Palou for roughly $23 million in damages, which it alleges would cover the costs of things like using Palou as a reserve driver, developing him for F1, giving him a $400,000 advance on his 2024 salary, and negotiating sponsorship deals for him.

It’s a hefty sum, but Palou’s decision makes sense. He won a dominant IndyCar title with CGR in 2023, and his prospects are just as strong with the team in the future.

Andretti’s First Big Formula E Victory

As Andretti Global made headlines in the F1 world courtesy of its Expression of Interest in joining the F1 grid, the Formula E arm of the American-based operation powered Jake Dennis through to a driver title — the first for Andretti.

Andretti has competed in Formula E since the very first season, and its results have been mixed through the years. This season, however, marked a turning point; with several wins and consistent finishes, Dennis was able to power the Andretti machine to an FIA Championship.

Whether or not that factors into the decision to allow Andretti Global to enter F1, however, remains to be seen.

Marc Marquez Leaves Honda Behind

Spanish MotoGP rider Marc Marquez has become a two-wheeled legend, and part of that success has come down to his long ties with the Honda factory team.

This year, however, Marquez and Honda announced that they’ll be parting ways for 2024 — breaking a contract that was set to continue for an additional year. It was a mutual agreement.

It was a difficult year for both Marquez and Honda. As Honda’s bike lost performance, Marquez pushed harder to compensate and ultimately overstepped his boundaries on multiple occasions; even after he was forced to sit out several races to heal his injuries, he was still the top performing Honda rider. And that wasn’t saying much.

Marquez will join Gresini Racing, a Ducati satellite team, for 2024.

Ferrari’s Triumphant Le Mans Return

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans — but for the past 50 years, the Ferrari name has been absent from the top-tier prototype entry list.

But with the introduction of the new Hypercar class, more manufacturers found the World Endurance Championship calling their name, and that included two Ferrari 499Ps that locked out the front row in qualifying.

After an epic battle with Toyota, the marque that has dominated Le Mans in recent years, the No. 51 Ferrari of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, and former F1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi took the checkered flag first at the end of a full day’s racing. It was a storybook victory and the comeback that the team could have only dreamed of.

Extreme E Becomes Extreme H

Extreme E, the all-electric off-road SUV racing series, announced a significant shift in its future: Starting in 2025, XE will become Extreme H, the first series to power its competition with hydrogen.

XH cars have already begun testing, and both the FIA and F1 are so interested in the development of hydrogen power that they’ve teamed up with XH to form a Hydrogen Working Group.

Read next: Exclusive: How a hydrogen-powered Championship could impact F1’s future