NASCAR has never failed to excite and raise fans’ expectations for the forthcoming seasons. As soon as the first green flag dropped and the engines roared at the Daytona 500, the 2019 season was sure to be filled with twists and turns, with the added uncertainty of the new rules package being added gradually throughout the first few races of the season, the only thing that could be guaranteed is that 2019 was going to prove who the greatest in the field of forty was and who could overcome the pressure of the playoffs. As the season progressed, the intensity rose, and the legendary accomplishment by Kyle Busch reaching 200 career wins across all three top series, matching the king, Richard Petty, sparked debate across the fan base; that reaching 200 across three series does not amount to reaching 200 wins in the top level only. Some believe that Richard ‘the king’ Petty shall remain NASCARs best ever driver as he won all 200 of his career total wins in the cup series, whereas Kyle ‘Rowdy’ Busch has had to rely on his Gander Outdoor Trucks, Xfinity, and Cup Series results. Either way reaching that milestone is an incredible accomplishment and it’s predicted that Busch will reach 100 cup series wins by the end of his career. Feel good story of the year, Matt ‘Guido’ DiBenedetto, gaining a career high in top fives and top tens for himself and Levine Family Racing after his first, and only season piloting the no.95 car and reaching a personal best at Bristol Motor Speedway and leading the most laps in the Daytona 500. Announced just before the Bristol Night Race that DiBenedetto would not be returning to LFR and that the Joe Gibbs Racing affiliation would be taken over by Xfinity series sophomore, Christopher Bell.
A comeback victory for Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing after a dry spell through the mid-season meant he would continue to climb the season standings after a win in Pocono and six consecutive top 5 finishes would enter the playoff standings in second. Four wins in the regular season gave Hamlin an additional twenty points going into the final stretch, plus a win in the final race of the round of 12 and round of 8 would propel the no.11 into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Joined by his JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex JR and Stewart-Haas 2014 champion Kevin Harvick. Hamlin was considered the favourite to win through much of the season. Martin Truex JR was looking like an underdog through the round of 12, however after being denied a win to advance to the championship 4 in 2018, although always being a factor in Miami, a win in Martinsville made Truex a force to be feared. Come November 17th the driver of the no.19 would put almost the whole field a lap down by the time stage one’s green flag pit stops would be cycling around. The pit crew would put the left side tires on the right side of the car. This may not seem like a big problem to the outside viewer, but the right-side tires are bigger than the left-side tires. The damage caused to the splitter caused the car to become extremely tight and Truex would be forced to come back down pit road before the damage would erase any chance of a championship, although he would need a miracle to have rallied back to the victory. He ended up finishing second in the final standings for the second year in a row. He lost to eventual champion and now two-time champion Kyle Busch. Daniel Suarez will not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing after signing a one-year deal with the 2-time championship organization. After failing to make the playoffs by four points to Ryan Newman, Suarez would continue to battle on for the 17 th spot with seven-time champion, Jimmie Johnson. Suarez wrestled the lead away from teammate Clint Bowyer in the opening race of the round of 16 before fading to the middle of the pack in 20th . He did secure 17th place by the end of the season, however Suarez has not revealed any plans for 2020, he has been released for another Xfinity driver, Cole Custer. Paul Menard announcing the end of a 12-year full time career. In usual Menard fashion, this announcement was under the radar, no-one expected this announcement. Menard suffered an injury by the time Talladega came around and switched rides with three-time truck series champion, Matt Crafton. Menard has 471 cup series starts under his belt and a win in the 2011 brickyard 400, he has no intention of returning to the sport. Matt DiBenedetto will pilot the iconic no.21 ford for Wood Brothers Racing in 2020 Announcements of shock retirements, promotions, and the final sixteen progressing to the post-season, and Ryan Newman driving the no.6 car into the playoffs for the first time since 2004, when Mark Martin raced for Roush-Fenway Racing. NASCAR’s ‘silly season’ has had no shortages of shocks and surprises. The playoffs opened up in its usual dramatic fashion at Las Vegas motor speedway, with the points leader, Kyle Busch, “falling back on insurance” after getting loose on the exit of turn two and tagging the wall on lap 4, then driving into the back of the 53 car towards the middle of stage 3 and finishing a lap down in 19th only lowered him closer to the cut-off line, though not enough to put him in any immediate danger. Busch would continue to fight his way through the rounds to land himself a spot in Miami. Not used to being the underdog, Kyle Busch overcame a 21-race win-less streak to hoist the championship trophy and celebrated with wife Samantha, and son Brexton.
JGR’s record season totaling in 19 wins (over half the season) and their fifth championship, reaching a record in all time wins (330), after the loss of his son, J.D Gibbs, would only restore a sense of hope for that team, and winning the Daytona 500 (Denny Hamlin), coca cola 600 (Martin Truex JR) and the southern 500 (Erik Jones) plus scoring multiple 1-2-3 finishes, is an extraordinary feat. JGR also released the news that Martin Truex JR’s long-time crew chief, Cole Pearn, who won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, alongside Truex, would be resigning as crew chief for the 19 team to spend more time with his family. James Small will be the successor of the 19 team while also having previous experience atop the pit box for two races in 2017, and in the V8 Supercar championship in Australia. Team Penske announced new driver/crew chief pairings with champion crew chief Paul Wolfe, moving to coach Joey Logano, championship crew chief Todd Gordon working with Ryan Blaney and Jeremy Bullins to be paired with Brad Keselowski.The 2020 cup series rookie of the year battle will be decided by the Xfinity series’ “big three” (Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, and two-time Xfinity champion Tyler Reddick). Custer will be driving the no.41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, Christopher Bell will be taking over from Matt DiBenedetto in the no.95 Toyota Camry for Levine Family Racing and Tyler Reddick will be piloting the no.8 car for Richard Childress Racing, taking over from Daniel Hemric after a one-year deal with RCR. Hemric will return to the Xfinity series to drive part-time for JR Motorsports. Finally, after going winless for the past two seasons and missing out on the playoffs for the first time in his career, Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson announced he will be #chasing8 for the last time in 2020, hoping to set a record for most championships in the cup series, surpassing Dale Earnhardt and Richard petty (both on seven). Johnson has had an impressive career to say the least, amassing 83 wins (tied for 6th all time), seven championships (tied for most all time), and holding the record for most consecutive championships (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) and 35 pole awards, all whilst remaining at Hendrick motorsports for the entirety of his career. Jimmie will be calling it a day on a 20-year career in 2020 with close to 700 career starts. It is also worth pointing out that Jimmie holds the record at Dover international Speedway at eleven total victories. To summarize this years’ “silly season”, there was no shortage of drama and added hype heading into the 2020 Daytona 500. With the induction of Tony Stewart, Bobby LaBonte, Waddell Wilson, Buddy Baker and Joe “coach” Gibbs into the hall of fame and a Superbowl win for the Kansas City Chiefs for Clint Bowyer, Stewart Haas Racing, I expect, will have some momentum on their side, even possibly planting multiple cars in the championship 4 this season? As I said, this off-season has been pretty intense and 2020 will continue to elevate NASCAR in the modern era.