2020 NASCAR Cup Series – Early Predictions & Odds
2020 NASCAR Cup Series Preview
It’s been about one month since the NASCAR Cup Series 2019 season came to an end.
As February draws near, the teams make their final adjustments ahead of 2020.
This season will be filled with many interesting storylines, and the outlook is very promising.
The Big Three could be set for another dominant season at the front of the field.
This is also Jimmie Johnson‘s final season – will #48 succeed in his “chasing 8” quest?
There is also a promising group of young rising stars and rookie drivers.
It’s no exaggeration to say that 2020 could be one of the best seasons in recent memory.
The Big Three and the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Battle
The three drivers combined for 20 wins in 36 races last year, and for 16 wins in 2019.
Joey Logano was the fourth element in 2018 and went on to upset the Big Three to win his first Cup Series title.
The Team Penske driver fell just short of qualifying for Homestead this year, with Denny Hamlin advancing as the fourth contender.
This time around, Kyle Busch ended a five-month drought to win the Ford 400 and secure his second career championship.
Truex was arguably the fastest driver over the course of the year, winning a series-best seven races.
Some other drivers could potentially show up in the mix for the championship.
Team Penske’s Logano and Brad Keselowski combined for five wins this season.
Teammate Ryan Blaney had a breakout performance during the postseason, finishing a career-high sixth in the final points standings.
Hamlin bounced back in style after going winless in 2018 for the first time in his career.
Still chasing after his first career title, the Joe Gibbs Racing veteran will likely be in the mix as well.
Chase Elliott looked like a genuine title contender throughout the season but had a massive drop in the final four races.
Even so, the young star should be set for another good year in 2020 and is another driver to keep an eye on.
So is Kyle Larson, who left behind a terrible first half and regained his 2017 form.
While Chip Ganassi Racing isn’t quite at the same level as its competition, Larson has shown the ability to punch well above the team’s weight.
Can Anyone Stop Joe Gibbs Racing?
While the Big Three has been the class of the field among drivers, Joe Gibbs Racing has been the most dominant team for five years.
The powerhouse won two of the last five Cup Series championship trophies with Kyle Busch, in 2015 and 2019.
Now defunct satellite operation Furniture Row won the 2017 championship with JGR driver Truex Jr.
The Toyota powerhouse won 19 of 36 races last year.
Truex Jr. led all drivers with seven wins, while Hamlin was second with six and Kyle Busch third with five.
Busch will have the chance to win back-to-back titles, something that has not happened since 2010.
One of the biggest challenges for JGR comes from Truex’s team, as longtime crew chief Cole Pearn has decided to step down.
Pearn played a key role in Truex’s career resurgence and was one of the best crew chiefs in the Cup Series.
Gibbs’ closest competitors have been Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing.
Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports failed to show up in the last two years but did show some promising signs of improvement in 2019.
That being said, the outlook is still very good for JGR heading into 2020.
Jimmie Johnson’s Final Season
It is undeniable that Jimmie Johnson has suffered a significant drop in performance.
The seven-time champion went winless for the first time in 2018, and again in 2019.
He now faces a 95-race drought, which far surpasses his previous worse of 16 races.
That being said, Johnson will have plenty of motivation to deliver in his final season.
Topping the list is his final shot at winning a historic eighth title, which would make him the first driver to achieve the feat.
Johnson is also only two race wins away from fourth in the all-time list.
While #48 is a lock to make it to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on the first ballot, he could further cement his legacy.
He looks at another Hendrick Motorsports legend for inspiration.
Johnson’s mentor and longtime friend Jeff Gordon had a strong final season in 2015, winning at Martinsville and advancing to the Championship Four.
Even if none of this actually happens, 2020 is still a special year.
After all, it will offer us one last chance to watch one of the sport’s all-time greats in action.
The Last Year Before Another Generation Shift
NASCAR has already announced its Gen 7 cars for 2021.
Images and videos of the car’s first official test at Phoenix have already come out over the week.
While this raises the expectations for 2021, we still have one year to go before the new car’s introduction.
It also means that 2020 will mark the final go-round for the current Gen 6 cars.
The current generation of cars was introduced in 2013, as a replacement for the unpopular CoT.
While Gen 6 did a good job at resembling its streetcars counterparts, it never really delivered on track.
The cars continued to struggle with dirty air, and removing aero did not make the racing any better or closer.
At the same time, the marketing strategy from the manufacturers underwent a significant change.
Chevrolet introduced the Camaro in 2018, deviating from the family sedan-oriented design adopted by NASCAR.
Ford followed suit in 2019, bringing the Mustang to the Cup Series.
The current design, however, does not favor the muscle cars, making the on-track version look significantly different compared to the streetcars.
Gen 7 is likely going to address this as well, which is another reason for the generation shift.
The series will experiment with some of its Gen 7 concepts by adding them to the last iteration of Gen 6 cars.
As a result, race fans will have a chance to catch an early glimpse into NASCAR’s on-track product for 2021.
The Breakout Candidates
The 2019 season got off to a relatively slow start, with few different race winners.
As the year went on, however, more drivers managed to make the trip to victory lane.
This season saw 12 different drivers win at least one points-paying race, with one first-time winner.
Alex Bowman had some near-misses, including his notable streak of three consecutive second-place finishes in May.
After nine years of trying, the Hendrick Motorsports youngster finally scored his first-ever win in NASCAR.
Bowman had a strong season, securing a spot in the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Despite his early exit in the Round of 12, #88 still managed to score three top 5 finishes.
He is now expected to improve upon it and could be one of the drivers looking at a breakout season in 2020.
Ryan Blaney struggled during the spring but came back to finish the year on a high.
The Team Penske driver scored six top 10 finishes during the playoffs, including a win at Talladega.
Blaney advanced to the Round of 8 for the first time and scored a career-best sixth in points at the end of the year.
He won’t have an easy job having to defeat two experienced teammates in Logano and Keselowski, but #12 looks set for another strong season in 2020.
Another strong candidate for a breakout year next season is William Byron.
The second-year driver scored five pole positions in 2019, good enough for second behind Kevin Harvick’s six.
It was Byron’s first year alongside seven-time champion crew chief Chad Knaus, who moved over from the #48 team.
By the end of the season, Byron’s improvement was noticeable.
Despite his early Round of 12 exit, #24 had his best race of the season at Martinsville.
Byron came home a close second behind the dominant Martin Truex Jr., who went on to lead more than 400 laps.
While the Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to score another top 5 in the final four races, his development was quite encouraging.
Now with two full seasons under his belt, and one year working with Knaus, Byron looks poised for a breakout in 2020.
The Rookie of the Year Battle
One of the most prestigious awards in NASCAR, the Rookie of the Year hasn’t delivered much in excitement recently.
Next year’s rookie field, however, is stacked with great names.
The Xfinity Series’ Big Three’ is finally moving up the ladder.
Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer, and Christopher Bell were the class of the field in the second-tier series.
Reddick, the two-time champion with two different teams, is moving up with Richard Childress Racing.
He replaces the 2019 ROTY Daniel Hemric in the #8 car.
While Reddick isn’t as flashy as Bell and Custer, his consistency is absolutely remarkable.
Despite his move from JR Motorsports to RCR, Reddick managed to repeat as a champion.
Not only that, but his overall record was significantly better.
He managed to win a career-high six races while adding 24 top 5 and 27 top 10 finishes in 30 starts.
Reddick put on a show in the series finale at Homestead, leading the most laps from the pole while fighting off Custer.
Richard Childress Racing isn’t one of the top teams in the Cup Series, however, which could damage his chances at the ROTY award.
After finishing runner-up twice, Custer is moving up with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Custer will replace Daniel Suárez onboard the #41 car, which has six wins in the last six years.
While Custer will have the best equipment out of all rookies, it also creates some significant pressure due to the high expectations.
He led all Xfinity driver in 2019 with six pole positions, and was second in race wins with seven.
Custer is the early favorite for the 2020 Rookie of the Year honors.
Despite having failed to win the Xfinity Series championship, Christopher Bell has drawn the most hype among next year’s rookies.
He made the most out of the Joe Gibbs Racing strong equipment, winning a series-best 15 races in the last two years.
Bell led the Xfinity field with seven wins in 2018 and eight in 2019.
He was subject to speculation regarding his future, which included a potential move to JGR’s #20 car.
Bell ultimately signed with the organization’s satellite operation, Leavine Family Racing, to replace Matt DiBenedetto in the #95 car.
The team had encouraging results in 2019, which included leading the most laps at the Daytona 500 and a heartbreaking second place at Bristol.
Bell has a tough task ahead of him, as both Reddick and Custer have more established teams behind them.
However, the Joe Gibbs Racing equipment is among the best in NASCAR, and Leavine Family Racing has improved significantly this year.
While winning the Rookie of the Year honors is obviously important, this move is massive for the series.
Reddick, Custer, and Bell are widely regarded as the sport’s next superstars.
NASCAR fans will have the chance to watch the trio develop over the course of their rookie year.
As some of the biggest names in the sport retire, these young drivers are the future of NASCAR.
A successful first year for this trio could be huge for the future of the Cup Series.
2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Odds
The latest odds for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship are provided by the DraftKings Sportsbook.
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