With the drivers headed back to Daytona for the 500 on the 16th of February, many questions were being asked to Jim France, who stated, “We’re coming off of a very good year, I felt like last year, we were really getting some momentum back,” the NASCAR Chairman said. “It’s exciting now, going into this coming year.”
Since replacing his nephew as head of the family business in August 2018, Jim France has been a steady guide for a series trying to stop a slide in every important metric. Attendance and television ratings may have finally bottomed out, but sponsorship dollars are as hard to find as ever and cost-cutting is a major priority across the entire industry.
But one of the most saddening things coming out of 2019 into 2020 is this will be the last season for “Mr. 7 Time.”
NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson (7 time champ) is retiring at the end of the 2020 season. In addition, it is also the last year for the current race car; as the “Next Gen” car is on schedule to race in 2021, and the project is expected to trim millions from team budgets because its parts and pieces will require a smaller workforce.
Even before that, NASCAR for 2020 made long overdue tweaks to the schedule with a few seismic shifts:
- Phoenix will host the championship-deciding finale in November
- Martinsville Speedway got a night race and the penultimate playoff race
- Daytona gave up its traditional July Fourth weekend to Indianapolis Motor Speedway (and will now host the final regular-season race)
- Pocono Raceway is going to host two Cup Series races in one weekend.
NASCAR made those changes despite five-year contracts that had given track owners stability, but fans have complained about the stale schedule and 2020 was NASCAR’s first chance to make even small changes.
With that said, I do feel this will benefit NASCAR and it’s ratings do to the newer times of the Daytona and Indianapolis races. I guess we as the fans will have to see what the season has in store for us starting this Sunday…
Overview of the Manufacturers:
Ford: The auto-giant has been one of the premier manufacturers in NASCAR for almost a decade. But don’t let that fool you into thinking they are an automatic win in every race. Ford has had some troubles on the short tracks as well as maintaining speed with some of the Toyota’s like Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Though, Ford somehow always brings their A-Game to every race and I see Kevin Harvick bringing home the championship this season.
Toyota: The smallest field of drivers, yet probably the most powerful. With 3 out of the 4 championship drivers being pilots of Toyota’s it just shows their power. However, with better efforts from Chevy, and young drivers from Ford. Toyota will have to stay on top of their game if they are to keep winning races. Yet, I still see Toyota being the winningest team this coming season.
Chevy: This team over the last 10 years has been the weakest of the three manufacturers in my opinion. However, Chevy now has young guns like Chase Elliot and Alex Bowman. As well as old times like Jimmie Johnson, right? But Chevy are looking to have their best season in years, as they spent millions of dollars on engine information and chassis adjustments over the offseason. Now, Chevy will look to try and break into the Championship 4 this coming season with its new improvements.
Rookie of the Year: Christopher Bell
Pole Award of the Year: Martin Truex Jr
Manufacturers Award Winner: Ford
Pit Crew of the Year: The No. 18 Squad
Championship 4: Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch
Championship Winner: Kevin Harvick
With all of this said, we should all look forward to this season, and welcome it with open arms. Yes it will bring emotions to us all; but that is what the sport is about. The highs and lows. So let’s get ready to hear those engines fired come this Sunday.
Photo: Thacker / LAT