It’s almost that time again, Speedweeks is around the corner and the green flag will drop for the 62nd Daytona 500 before we know it. 2020 will feel like the last year of the NASCAR that we’ve known for the past 20 years or so and we are already seeing plenty of changes, including the changes in the schedule. I believe we are in for an exciting 2020 NASCAR Season across the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series. In my recent episode of the NASCAR Show on The Grueling Truth, I discussed my thoughts on what was going to happen this coming season. Here are some predictions that I have for the 2020 season as well.
It’s hard to believe that Johnson went from winning his 7th championship in 2016 to not making the playoffs for the first time in his career in 2019. Johnson announced over the offseason that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2020 Cup Season. From what I’ve observed watching races, Jimmie was having rather decent runs as the season was ending, but he would end up in a wreck or would have a mechanical issue. I do believe Johnson can win still, he had some bad luck this past season too. He will go out with a win, that’s why I believe he will win a race in 2020 and make the playoffs to run for the historic 8th championship one last time.
Kyle Busch has stated before that once he gets 100 career wins in the Xfinity Series, he will stop racing in that circuit. I’m sure a lot of people would love to see that, as many fans have risen concern in recent years about “Cup leeches” or “Busch-Whackers” if you want to go back to the Busch Series days. For example, in 2016, Kyle Busch ran 17 Xfinity races, winning 10 of those 17. With the new rules, Busch can only run five truck races and seven Xfinity races. However, looking at the fact that Kyle won four of those seven races last season and all five of the truck races he ran, I think there is a really good possibility that the defending Cup Series champion will get four wins and reach that 100th win. Whether you like him or not, Busch is the best active driver in NASCAR right now. Period. Busch will continue to be in contention for the Cup title as well, we’ll get to that in just a bit.
It might not feel like 2011 where we had five first time winners in the Cup Series, but I think there will be a handful in contention and are hungry for that first win in NASCAR’s top circuit. To start off with the Cup Series, I think William Byron will get his first career win this season. He had a very nice improvement with Chad Knaus coming over as crew chief for Byron after spending 16 years with Jimmie Johnson. Byron is a future Cup Champion in my opinion, he’s got the talent and has won is almost everything as he worked his way up. I was worried in 2018 that he was being rushed, but now it looks like he’s beginning to be the driver that I think many thought he would be. 2020 will be the year the #24 gets back into victory lane for the first time since Jeff Gordon’s final win at Martinsville in 2015.
I also believe that we will see some rookie wins in 2020. For sure I can see Christopher Bell winning a Cup race in his rookie season, maybe even two! This could be the most competitive rookie class we’ve had in a while with Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer. Speaking of Custer, I think Custer could get his first career cup win, though Stewart Haas Racing had a rather quiet 2019. Kevin Harvick was the head of the show, also making the Championship Four. Compared to a dominating season the team had in 2018, where Harvick dominated the 1.5-mile tracks, as well as wins from Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer. It’ll be interesting to see if SHR can bounce back, if they do, Custer can get a win in 2020. The last driver that I think can get his first Cup win in 2020 is Matt DiBenedetto, who is moving over to the Wood Bros Team, replacing the now retired Paul Menard. DiBenedetto showed some signs last season, there was some inconsistency, but also some good runs, also nearly getting his first career win at the Bristol night race. It’s a possibility, we’ll have to wait and see, he can win the 21, but will he? One thing I can be certain about is that a Matt DiBenedetto win would be a popular win in the sport.
In other racing series to note, Daniel Hemric will drive a partial schedule for Jr Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this season. I can see Hemric finally getting his first Xfinity win, this is a year where he needs a good break out of good results and a win or two. Other Xfinity drivers that I see getting their first Xfinity win this season
In 2019, Joe Gibbs Racing won 19 of the 36 NASCAR Cup races, a bit more than half of the entire schedule. Denny Hamlin won six races, Martin Truex Jr won seven races, Kyle Busch won five races, and Erik Jones had one win at Darlington. Joe Gibbs Racing is now what Hendrick Motorsports was in the late 2000’s and early to mid-2010’s, the most dominant team in NASCAR. I don’t think it’ll be on the scale where they win 19 races again, but it’ll be close. JGR will continue to be the team to beat, as three of their four drivers were contending for the championship in November last season. Don’t forget about Christopher Bell either, though he’s driving for Leavine Family Racing, that team has JGR equipment now to the levels of Furniture Row Racing before the team shut down in 2018. With the same package as 2019, Joe Gibbs Racing is the team to beat in 2020!
For fun, I have three early 2021 Silly Season Predictions. This is all hypothetical and who knows right now if that it’s going to happen or not.
Chase Briscoe is likely going to break out and be a title contender in the Xfinity Series this season. Clint Bowyer did not have a good season despite making the playoffs in 2019. If Bowyer doesn’t make the playoffs, good chance Briscoe could be a Cup rookie in 2021.
This will be the biggest discussion for 2021 silly season. I feel like there could be 12 drivers that could take over the ride of the seven-time champion. I will say, he will need to have a big season in Xfinity in 2020 if he wants to move up to Cup. I’ve had the feeling that Gragson would most likely replace Johnson in 2021, I think Gragson will have a good season and get some wins. Time will tell, but this looks like the most likely scenario.
Erik Jones had a good season in 2019, good consistency and got a win at Darlington. However, he wasn’t on the same level as his other three teammates, in which all made the championship four. He got a one year extension on his contract at Joe Gibbs Racing for 2020, but I’m pretty sure Coach Joe and TRD want Bell on the main team at some point. That could be the 20 in 2021, Jones will easily find a ride elsewhere. Perhaps he could be a candidate for the 48 as well. I think this will most likely happen as I also think Bell is going to have a terrific rookie season.
Down below are simply who I think will win the Championship in the Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Cup Series.
2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion: Chase Briscoe
2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion: Denny Hamlin
In conclusion, there is a lot to look forward to in 2020. What are your thoughts? What do you think will happen in the 2020 NASCAR Season? Don’t forget, not only will we have a lot to look forward to this year, but the coming years as well. This decade as a matter of fact with the NextGen car, schedule changes, new faces, new places. It’ll be interesting to see, but for now let’s kick back and enjoy the 2020 Season! I’ll leave you lastly with who makes the playoffs across all three series. Have a good one!
#52 Stewart Friesen
#16 Austin Hill
#88 Matt Crafton
#24 Brett Moffitt
#26 Tyler Ankrum
#2 Sheldon Creed
#18 Christain Eckes
#99 Ben Rhodes
#98 Grant Enfinger
#13 Johnny Sauter
#98 Chase Briscoe
#22 Austin Cindric
#10 Ross Chastain
#11 Justin Haley
#19 Brandon Jones
#7 Justin Allgaier
#1 Michael Annett
#9 Noah Gragson
#01 Garrett Smithley
#18 Riley Herbst
#20 Harrison Burton
#39 Ryan Seig
#18 Kyle Busch
#19 Martin Truex Jr
#11 Denny Hamlin
#22 Joey Logano
#2 Brad Keselowski
#12 Ryan Blaney
#9 Chase Elliott
#48 Jimmie Johnson
#24 William Byron
#95 Christopher Bell
#41 Cole Custer
#42 Kyle Larson
#1 Kurt Busch
#4 Kevin Harvick
#10 Aric Almirola
#88 Alex Bowman
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