As the 2020 NASCAR racing season approaches, let’s take a look at the changes that have happened during the off-season.
One of the major announcements was that its premier series will now be known as the NASCAR Cup Series. Replacing the single branding model, NASCAR will have four Premier Partners that include Busch Beer, Coca-Cola, GEICO and Xfinity.
Another significant decision by NASCAR was implementing a reduced-downforce package for 2020 on six short tracks and on all three road courses. The major changes include using smaller spoilers, going from an 8-inch height to 2.75 inches and a revamped front splitter. The splitter will measure a quarter-inch (previously 2 inches) with 2-inch wings (down from 10.5 inches).
The intent is to limit downforce which stabilizes the cars and will allow the drivers more input and control over handling, intensifying the competition. The new package will be utilized at Bristol Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Phoenix Raceway. It will also be used at the road courses of Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen International and for the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval course.
Chevrolet will feature a new car in 2020 as they switch from the Camaro ZL.1 to the Camaro ZL1 1LE. It will make its debut during Daytona Speedweeks.
“The ZL1 1LE is the highest performer within the Camaro production-car lineup,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of Performance and Motorsports. “We took lessons from the production car and applied them to the new 2020 Cup car.”
Daytona International Speedway’s second race of the season will move from the July 4th weekend to host the Cup Series regular season finale on Aug. 29. Indianapolis Motor Speedway will take its place on the schedule.
Pocono Raceway will present the first-ever doubleheader weekend on June 27-28 with Cup Series races on both Saturday and Sunday. The Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series and the Xfinity Series will compete as well for an action-packed weekend.
Darlington Raceway will be the site of the first race in the Playoffs with the Southern 500 on Sept. 6. Richmond Raceway will join the Playoffs for the first time the following weekend and Bristol Motor Speedway will host the first elimination race on Sept. 19.
Martinsville Speedway will have its first official Cup Series night race on May 9 and will also host the final elimination race of the Playoffs on Nov. 1.
Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval will be home to the elimination race in the Round of 12 on Oct. 11.
Phoenix Raceway will host the final race of the year and crown the Cup Series champion on Nov. 8. Homestead-Miami Raceway, the site of the finale for almost two decades, will not be a factor in the Playoffs with its race moved to March 22.
Drivers on the move:
Christopher Bell will move from the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the Xfinity Series to the Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Toyota in the Cup Series. His crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, will move with Bell to LFR.
Chris Buescher will change teams. After three years with JTG-Daugherty Racing, he will move to the No. 17 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford vacated by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Luke Lambert will make the move from Richard Childress Racing to join Buescher at RFR as his Crew Chief.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., after seven full-time seasons with Roush Fenway Racing, heads to JTG Daugherty Racing and will compete in the No. 47 Chevrolet. Crew chief Brian Pattie will make the move with Stenhouse to continue as his crew chief.
Ryan Preece will remain with JTG Daugherty Racing for his second full-time year in the Cup Series but will move from the No. 47 into the No. 37 Chevrolet with Trent Owens as his new crew chief.
Cole Custer will move from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, staying with Stewart-Haas Racing and replacing Daniel Suarez in the No. 41 Ford. Mike Shiplett will move up with Custer to continue as his crew chief.
Daniel Suarez, after only one season at Stewart-Haas Racing, lost his ride to Cole Custer. His plans for 2020 are unknown.
Matt DiBenedetto lost his ride in the Leavine Family Racing No. 95 to Christopher Bell but quickly found another ride for 2020 when Paul Menard announced his retirement. He will pilot the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in his sixth year of competition in the Cup Series.
Joey Gase has competed in six full-time seasons in the Xfinity Series. He also has 41 previous starts in the Cup Series but will compete full-time for Rick Ware Racing in 2020 in NASCAR’s premier series.
Quin Houff will replace Landon Cassill in the No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet in the 2020 Cup Series. In 2019 he made 17 starts for Spire Motorsports.
Landon Cassill lost his ride in the No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet to 22-year-old Houff. In a statement, StarCom Racing said, “we have a commitment to Landon that we plan to honor in 2020,” but no further details have been announced.
John Hunter Nemechek will move from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series in the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford. In his first full-time season in the Xfinity Series, he scored six top-fives and 19 top-10s, finishing seventh in the year-end rankings.
Brennan Poole, after running part-time in No. 30 On Point Motorsports Chevrolet in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, will move up to the Cup Series with Premium Motorsports in the No. 15 Chevrolet. The 2020 Daytona 500 will mark his first start in the Cup Series.
Tyler Reddick is headed to Richard Childress Racing to compete in the No. 8 Chevrolet. He has two Xfinity Series championship titles with two different teams and nine career wins. Randall Burnett will make the move with Reddick as crew chief.
JJ Yeley is going from a part-time ride with Rick Ware Racing to a full-time ride with the organization in 2020.
Matt Tifft‘s future in NASCAR is on hold while he focuses on his health after he missed the last four races of the 2019 season due to a seizure. Tifft and Front Row Motorsports Cup Series amicably agreed to end their relationship.
Crew Chief Changes:
James Small will move up from lead engineer on the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. after the retirement of Cole Pearn.
Justin Alexander will return to the No 3 RCR as crew chief for Austin Dillon.
Ryan Sparks, former race engineer for the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 team moves to join Go Fas Racing as crew chief for Corey LaJoie. Also, of note, Go Fas Racing will have a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing beginning with the 2020 season.
Jerry Baxter, former crew chief of the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, moves to the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet as Bubba Wallace‘s crew chief.
Mike Bugarewicz moves from the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 team to work with Aric Almirola as crew chief of the SHR No. 10 team.
Johnny Klausmeier moves from the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 team to serve as the crew chief for Clint Bowyer in the No. 14.
Jeremy Bullins will move from the No. 12 Team Penske Ford to crew chief for Brad Keselowski and the Team Penske No. 2 Ford.
Todd Gordon will move from the No. 22 Team Penske Ford to serve as crew chief for Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 Team Penske team.
Paul Wolf, former crew chief for the No. 2 Team Penske Ford will move to crew chief for Joey Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
Drivers Paul Menard and David Ragan announced their retirement from full-time racing in the Cup Series after the 2019 season.
Jimmie Johnson announced in November that the 2020 season would be his last as a full-time competitor. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has spent his entire career with Hendrick Motorsports driving the No. 48 Chevrolet, making his first Cup Series start in 2001.
“I’m so thankful for 18 incredible years of racing in NASCAR,” Johnson says. “The sport has been good to me. It has allowed me to do something I truly love. I showed up chasing a dream and achieved more than I ever thought possible. I’m looking forward to next season and celebrating what will be my last year as a full-time NASCAR Cup driver. I know what this team is capable of, and I hope 2020 is one of the best yet.”
Even more intriguing is the question of who will replace Johnson in 2021.
Stay tuned for what promises to be an exciting season of NASCAR racing beginning with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 16
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