Kyle Busch has been crowned champion for a second time and the NASCAR Cup season has been put to bed.
What’s to come for the upcoming 2020 season? Let’s put this way: Although the season will begin as it usually does, with February’s Daytona 500, changes are coming next season that have the potential to significantly alter the sport.
Here are a few of the more important changes to watch for:
NASCAR’s schedule has received a major face lift, shifting from a years-old template to some new dates and concepts.
* The championship race shifts from Homestead-Miami Speedway to Phoenix’s recently renovated track.
* Daytona’s traditional July race around the Fourth moves to August and becomes the final regular-season race before the playoffs begin the following week at Darlington.
* Pocono gets a Saturday-Sunday Cup weekend double-header in June.
* The early-season “West Coast” swing (Las Vegas, Fontana, Phoenix) is moved up one week to begin immediately after Daytona.
* Martinsville gets a night race, and on Mother’s Day weekend.
* A two-week break in July and August to make way for the Summer Olympics, which are televised by NBC.
The big change is coming in 2021, when NASCAR’s “Next Gen” car is scheduled to be introduced. But there are a few rules changes coming in 2020, mostly to cut costs.
* Teams will be able to have 12 “active” chassis available (previously, there was no limit).
* Teams will be allowed a maximum of 150 hours of wind-tunnel testing (previously, there was no limit) and at four sites (two in Mooresville and one each in Concord and Indianapolis).
* Teams’ on-track “road crew” rosters have been reduced from 12 to 10. That includes team members such as crew chief, engineers, mechanics, shock specialists, tire specialist and a spotter (but not the five-member pit crew),
NASCAR will be without two veteran drivers who announced their retirement as full-time Cup drivers recently. Paul Menard, whose one Cup victory came at Indianapolis in 2011, is calling it quits. David Ragan, who won superspeeday races at Daytona (2011) and Talladega (2013) is also retiring. Look for Ragan in a TV booth sometime soon.
A couple of young drivers will make their full-time Cup debuts in 2020. Cole Custer moves up from Stewart-Haas Racing’s Xfinity ride to the No. 41 Ford (which had been driven by Daniel Suarez). Christopher Bell moves from the Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity team to Leavine Family Racing (which has a technical partnership with JGR). Tyler Reddick will shift from Richard Childress Racing’s Xfinity to the No. 8 RCR Cup ride.
Who's going where?
Then there are the Cup drivers who are changing teams: Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing to Roush Fenway Racing), Matt DiBenedetto (Leavine Family to Woods Brothers), Daniel Hemric (Childress to JR Motorsports) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway to JTG Daugherty). Suarez is the odd-man out so far; he has yet to find a ride.
What's in a name?
Monster Energy’s title-sponsorship deal with NASCAR has expired. A new sponsor hasn’t been announced, but it’s likely NASCAR will adopt a new business model that will look — and sound — different. Chief operating officer Steve Phelps said earlier this year that NASCAR wants to move away from the naming rights, title sponsor concept, and instead try to “bundle” sponsorships with TV networks, tracks and the sanctioning body.
Farewell, Jimmie Johnson
Remember Jeff Gordon’s retirement tour in 2015, when he was honored at each track during his final season as a driver? Expect much of the same in 2020 as seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson races for a final season before his retirement.