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5 key NASCAR stories to watch in 2020 Featured

Posted On Friday, 27 December 2019 23:14 Written by
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Despite some strong runs in 2019, Daniel Suarez was unable to retain his ride at Stewart-Haas Racing for 2020, and will be replaced by Cole Custer. Where he ends up has yet to be decided. Despite some strong runs in 2019, Daniel Suarez was unable to retain his ride at Stewart-Haas Racing for 2020, and will be replaced by Cole Custer. Where he ends up has yet to be decided. Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

While it seems like the 2019 season just ended, the start of NASCAR racing in 2020 is just weeks away.

As fans anticipate the new season, here are a handful of stories to keep in the back of your mind that will be worth watching as the year unfolds.

Cup Rookie of the Year Battle
There’s a larger crowd than usual battling for this honor in 2020.

  • Christopher Bell in the 95 car (as a temporary stopover until a Gibbs car is vacant)
  • Cole Custer in Stewart-Haas Racing’s 41 car
  • Tyler Reddick replacing Daniel Hemric in the 8 car for RCR.

Rounding out the ROTY contenders (battling for 4th, in all honesty, with inferior equipment) are:

  • Quin Houff (#00 car — StarCom)
  • Brennan Poole (#15 car — Premium)
  • John Hunter Nemechek (#38 car — Front Row)

So how will this battle finish up? The way I see it, Custer has the best equipment out the gate; Reddick has a chance at ROTY if he can avoid the wrecks Hemric had; Bell has the most talent of the bunch and ability to get the win that seemed close but eluded Matt DiBenedetto in the 95 in 2019. 

I’ll pick Bell to get a race win and take home Rookie of the Year honors in a tight battle with Custer and Reddick (who will not win). Nemechek should easily get 4thplace in the rookie battle, followed by Poole and Houff.

What happens to Daniel Suarez?

While I know it’s all about business and money, as it always is in NASCAR, part of me thinks Daniel Suarez got a raw deal at the end of 2019.

His Cup seat went to Cole Custer, who is talented but I don’t think as strong as Suarez overall on track. The money worked out his way and not so much for Suarez, so here we are. (Personally, even with Custer moving up, I would have kept Suarez over Bowyer in the Cup lineup.)

With all the major Cup races basically taken, and even the mid-pack Cup cars accounted for, the only option remaining is a team like Gaunt Brothers Racing (a smaller operation where Suarez could bring the sponsorship dollars he does have).

The alternative is going back to where he previously won a championship — the Xfinity Series; Perhaps in the former Tyler Reddick ride for RCR. With the lower cost to run in that series, he may be able to find a home.

Though it would be a step down technically, it can also be the stepping stone to get him back to Cup if he can continue winning in the lower series and show he has the goods to compete with the Cup guys moonlighting in the Xfinity races.

I sincerely hope he lands somewhere, as Suarez is one of the most exciting young drivers in the field, and losing him from NASCAR altogether would be a big loss to the sport. 

Who will contend in Xfinity Series?
Last year’s Big 3 have moved up, so who’s going to be your title favorites now?
Justin Allgaier is the easy answer, as he’s been in the hunt nearly every year and is a series mainstay.

But there are many others who could take over the spotlight.

Young Harrison Burton is taking over Bell’s #20 Gibbs ride, and is a tremendous talent with a chance to follow in Bell’s footsteps and compete immediately for a title. Chase Briscoe returns to Stewart-Haas Racing and is an easy pick to contend in 2020, based on how he surged in 2019. 

IF (and it’s a big IF) anyone takes over the 00 or 2 cars from Custer or Reddick, they’re instantly in the discussion based on last year’s performance. These cars could also disappear too, as that’s how the business goes.

What about another young up-and-comer in Riley Herbst, running full-time in that always dominant 18 car? He’s no Kyle Busch, but can he rack up wins and contend for a crown?

Will his Gibbs teammate Brandon Jones in the 19 car put up strong numbers to back up his maiden win in 2019?

Will spoiler entries in the Final Four come from Noah Gragson at Jr. Motorsports, Ross Chastain from Kaulig Racing, or Austin Cindric at Team Penske?

Whatever happens, it should be fun to watch once again, though it will be hard to top 2019 and the show put on by Bell, Custer and Reddick.

Will Gibbs dominate Cup again?
With 2020 being the final Cup season before the next-gen car debuts in 2021, are we doomed for another repeat of boring Gibbs domination most weeks? Will it be a foregone conclusion that Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., and Denny Hamlin are in the Final Four yet again?

I certainly hope not, as that would be a terrible transition into the new era, which will no doubt be an improvement on whatever we see on track in 2020.

I’d love to see ANYONE, whether it be Team Penske with Keseloski/Logano/Blaney, or the young driver lineup at Hendrick Motorsports (plus old man Jimmie in his final campaign), step up in 2020 and give us some excitement. Otherwise fans will continue to tune out and may not be around for the exciting new era launching in 2021. 

Changes in the aero package

Passing at short tracks and road courses suffered the most under the 2019 aero package, so I’m very much hoping that changes are made before the season begins to improve the competition at these tracks.

One place that desperately needs a better race is Phoenix, which will host the championship race in 2020. A stinker at that track would be a terrible way to end 2020.

I sincerely hope NASCAR listens to fans on this topic, or these types of races will continue to suffer. 

Matt Myftiu can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He is on Twitter @MattMyftiu, and AutoTechReviews is on Twitter @AutoTechReview.

 

 

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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