NASCAR Draft Kit: 2020 Driver Rankings

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2020 Driver Rankings

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

Below are our driver rankings and outlooks for the 2020 NASCAR season.

1. Kyle Busch Busch cemented his NASCAR legacy last season with a five-win, 27 Top-10 campaign, and walked away with his second Cup Series championship after winning the season finale at Homestead.  For five-straight seasons Busch has registered at least four victories and Top-5 finishes in the driver standings.  The Joe Gibbs Racing star has become the gold standard in NASCAR's top division and is finally in position to start piling up the championships much like what Jimmie Johnson did in the early 2000's.  Busch will set out to defend his championship in 2020.  Adam Stevens returns as crew chief of the No. 18 Toyota team, and the duo will look to continue their dominance.  Recent trends point to 5+ wins and roughly 26-28 Top-10 finishes.  Busch will once again be one of the top contenders to win the championship, and a regular face among the leaders each week.

2. Kevin Harvick The Stewart Haas Racing star nabbed four victories and 26 Top-10 finishes last season en route to a third-place finish in the driver standings.  It was his third-straight season finishing third in the point standings.  Harvick has been in the hunt for that second-career championship, but closing the deal has been problematic.  Most of that issue rests squarely on the Chase for the Cup system.  Harvick is a tremendous season-long performer, but has not had the best luck with the one-race, winner-take-all playoff format.

Below are our driver rankings and outlooks for the 2020 NASCAR season.

1. Kyle Busch Busch cemented his NASCAR legacy last season with a five-win, 27 Top-10 campaign, and walked away with his second Cup Series championship after winning the season finale at Homestead.  For five-straight seasons Busch has registered at least four victories and Top-5 finishes in the driver standings.  The Joe Gibbs Racing star has become the gold standard in NASCAR's top division and is finally in position to start piling up the championships much like what Jimmie Johnson did in the early 2000's.  Busch will set out to defend his championship in 2020.  Adam Stevens returns as crew chief of the No. 18 Toyota team, and the duo will look to continue their dominance.  Recent trends point to 5+ wins and roughly 26-28 Top-10 finishes.  Busch will once again be one of the top contenders to win the championship, and a regular face among the leaders each week.

2. Kevin Harvick The Stewart Haas Racing star nabbed four victories and 26 Top-10 finishes last season en route to a third-place finish in the driver standings.  It was his third-straight season finishing third in the point standings.  Harvick has been in the hunt for that second-career championship, but closing the deal has been problematic.  Most of that issue rests squarely on the Chase for the Cup system.  Harvick is a tremendous season-long performer, but has not had the best luck with the one-race, winner-take-all playoff format.  The No. 4 Ford team and crew chief Rodney Childers will reload and fire again in 2020.  Harvick was very strong down the stretch run last season.  All four of his victories came in the second half of the campaign, and he finished the playoffs with a three-race Top-5 streak.  The veteran driver should be poised again for a four-to-five win, and 26 Top-10 finishes season.

3. Martin Truex Jr. In a lot of measures Truex has been the most dominant driver of the last three seasons.  The Joe Gibbs Racing star has averaged six wins and 24 Top-10 finishes over the last three campaigns.  Truex won the 2017 Cup Series championship, and he's finished runner-up in the last two championship seasons.  However, the driver of the No. 19 Toyota will have a new crew chief in 2020.  The crew chief that led him to all that success the last three seasons, Cole Pearn, has left the team and left NASCAR all together to pursue other opportunities outside NASCAR.  This will be a significant development for Truex this season.  It's difficult to replace that type of leadership and team chemistry overnight.  Truex will attempt to do just that with his new crew chief.  While we see some downturn potential to Truex's performance, he'll still rank among the elite in the sport.  It will take some time to regain that momentum he had with Pearn, but it will come with time.

4. Chase Elliott The Hendrick Motorsports star took some major steps in 2019.  Elliott nabbed three victories and four pole positions en route to his fourth consecutive playoff appearance.  Unfortunately, he and the No. 9 Chevrolet team suffered a collapse during the second half of the playoffs and took an early exit from the Chase for the Cup.  Still, Elliott's three victories tied a career-best mark, and his 601 laps led for the campaign set a new season-best mark for the young driver.  A lack of consistency was really the only major hurdle for this driver and team last season.  We believe they'll overcome that problem in 2020.  We should see the 24-year-old driver continue to mature, and continue to improve to the point where Elliott becomes a major contender for the championship this season.  We expect to see new career-best marks in wins, Top 5s, Top 10s and laps led for this driver and team.

5. Joey Logano Logano was unable to successfully defend his 2018 championship last season, but he still had a pretty good campaign.  He led the Penske Racing No. 22 Ford to two victories and 21 Top-10 finishes.  Despite ending the season on a four-race Top-10 streak, Logano would get bounced from the playoffs after Phoenix and wind up fifth-place in the final driver standings.  He'll refocus and gear up for another championship run in 2020 with Todd Gordon still calling the shots from atop the war wagon.  While Logano's chances are a bit longer than the drivers above him in these rankings, he still has some home-run potential.  A season of 2-3 victories and 22-24 Top-10 finishes seems reasonably in reach.  As to Logano's championship chances, that will boil down to his end of season performance during the Chase for the Cup.

6. Denny Hamlin The Joe Gibbs Racing veteran rebounded spectacularly last season.  After posting a disappointing 2018 campaign, Hamlin erased any doubts about his driving ability with a stellar six-win, 24 Top 10 campaign in 2019.  The driver of the No. 11 Toyota would race for the championship at Homestead but fall short finishing fourth in the title chase.  Still, it was a very impressive effort for the 39-year-old driver.  Hamlin will look to hold onto those gains with crew chief, Chris Gabehart, who led him to that success.  He posted career-high marks in terms of Top 5s, Top 10s and average finish position for the season.  It will be tough to top that level of performance, so we expect a slight pull back in those numbers in 2020.  Hamlin will still be in the top tier of drivers, but don't expect a carbon copy of last year's titanic performance.

7. Brad Keselowski Keselowski turned in his typical three-win, 19 Top-10 finish campaign last season, but fell short of advancing into the final round of the Chase.  For the second-straight season, the Penske Racing star suffered some inconsistency in the playoffs and fell short of racing for the championship at Homestead.  This has really been the pattern for Keselowski the last three seasons.  He's averaged about three wins and 20 Top 10s but has lacked the crucial push late in the season to challenge for the championship.  We'll see if the No. 2 Ford team can solve that puzzle in 2020.  Once again, Keselowski will be paired with crew chief Paul Wolfe to see if they can return to 2012 championship form.  It is a bit concerning that Keselowski's lone title has grown so distant in the rearview mirror.  With a pattern of performance so well set over the last three seasons, he's solidly placed seventh in the pre-season driver rankings.

8. Kyle Larson 2019 was a bit of a mixed bag for Larson and the Chip Ganassi Racing team.  He broke a long winless streak with his surprising victory at Dover late in the year.  Larson also registered a career-best sixth-place in the final driver standings after a deep drive into the Chase for the Cup.  However, there were also some disappointments for the No. 42 Chevrolet team.  Larson registered a four-season low in average finish (15.1) and a three-season low in terms of Top 10s with 17.  Laps led were also a three-season low with 529 total for the campaign.  Once again Larson will be one of the toughest drivers in the top tier to predict for 2020.  There's so much potential with this driver and team, but Larson seems to get in his own way at times.  It's difficult to expect consistency from a driver who's given us only one consistent season in his six-year career.

9. Ryan Blaney The Penske Racing youngster took some gradual steps over the last three seasons, and now Blaney may be poised to explode.  The driver of the No. 12 Ford won a race for the third-straight season, and he claimed career-best marks of 11 Top-5 and 18 Top-10 finishes in 2019.  It all added up to an impressive seventh-place finish in the points for Blaney.  Now he and crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, will look to step it up a notch this season.  We really liked the way this driver and team rounded out last season.  Blaney has a lot of momentum and looks like he has the most room to grow of the drivers ranked in our Top 10.  We could see Blaney post his first multi-win season in 2020 and he could break the 20 Top-10 plateau for the first time in his career.  Those fantasy racing players who are fortunate enough to get Blaney on the cheap this season should reap some pretty big rewards.  2020 could be the last season this driver comes cheap in drafts and auctions.

10. Kurt Busch After a successful transition to Chip Ganassi Racing last year, Busch returns for season two in the No. 1 Chevrolet.  The 20-year veteran grabbed one victory (Kentucky) and 18 Top-10 finishes last year in a good campaign.  Busch didn't drive as far into the Chase for the Cup as he would have liked, but the effort was good enough to earn a multi-year extension with Ganassi.  At 41-years-old Busch is approaching elder statesman status in NASCAR's top division.  With 684-career starts and 31 victories, Busch has etched his name among some elite company.  The veteran driver will once again be paired with crew chief, Matt McCall, and the duo will look to post an even better campaign in season two at CGR.  We should see some modest improvement in Top-10 totals and a deeper drive into the playoffs for Busch in 2020.

11. Erik Jones Jones was on track for a career-best campaign in 2019, but a late-season cold spell would put a damper on his numbers and eliminate him from the first round of the Chase.  The Joe Gibbs Racing youngster will look to make up for that this season.  Jones grabbed his second-career victory last year with his big win at Darlington, and he ripped off a strong four-race Top-5 streak during the midsummer.  That glimpse of Jones' potential teases what he could do in 2020.  The No. 20 Toyota team ended last season on a good note with a three-race Top-10 streak, including an impressive third-place finish in the season finale at Homestead.  Jones and crew chief, Chris Gayle, will look to hit the ground running at Daytona in February.  This campaign could hold the first multi-win season for Jones, and breaking the 20 Top-10 plateau for the first time in his career.

12. William Byron The two-season trend line for Byron is tantalizing.  After a forgettable rookie campaign, Byron went out in 2019 and posted five pole positions, five Top-5 and 13 Top-10 finishes en route to an 11th-place points finish.  The Hendrick Motorsports youngster is just 22-years-old, but he's a very quick study behind the wheel.  The pairing with crew chief, Chad Knaus, last season appears to have been a winning move for the No. 24 team.  Byron's development is following a similar trend line to that of Hendrick teammate, Chase Elliott.  It's just a matter of time before Byron is winning races and contending for championships.  The 2020 season could see this driver and team explode with the upside that Byron possesses.  We feel that the 12th-place ranking in the pre-season standings is really the floor for this young driver.

13. Clint Bowyer Although Bowyer was winless in 2019, his 18 Top-10 finishes were a six-season high for the veteran driver.  After a pretty good drive into the Chase playoffs, Bowyer would end up ninth-place in the final point standings.  That's not bad for this embattled veteran driver.  At times last season he lacked the consistency to push him into victory lane and contend with the elite drivers in the series.  That's always been Bowyer's major weakness.  When he goes cold, he goes stone cold and can often times be his own worst enemy.  Stewart Haas Racing is going to try something new with this driver and team this season.  The No. 10 and No. 14 teams swapped crew chiefs, so Bowyer will be under the direction of John Klausmeier this season.  We'll soon see if the shakeup yields any added performance for Bowyer.

14. Aric Almirola As expected, Almirola did suffer a bit of a downturn in performance last season.  His 2018 campaign set all kinds of new career marks for the veteran driver, so you knew it would be a difficult task to duplicate.  Still, Almirola deposited three Top-5 and 12 Top-10 finishes in the bank by season's end.  He would take an early exit from the Chase for the Cup and end up 14th-place in the championship points.  Stewart Haas Racing has brought in Mike Bugarewicz from the No. 14 team of Clint Bowyer to be Almirola's new crew chief.  This is an interesting shakeup, and will hopefully pay some dividends.  In fact, we expect Almirola to receive a better "bump" from this crew chief swap than Bowyer.  Almirola may not make it back to victory lane in 2020, but he should see his Top 5 and Top 10 totals climb back in the right direction.

15. Alex Bowman Season two at Hendrick Motorsports saw some noticeable improvement in the No. 88 team and Bowman.  The 26-year-old driver grabbed his first-career victory with a thrilling win at Chicago, and he posted career-bests with seven Top-5 and 12 Top-10 finishes.  It all added up to an impressive 12th-place finish in the driver point standings, which was also another career-best mark.  Once again Bowman will be paired with crew chief Greg Ives to see if they can take the next steps in his development.  The duo ended last season well with a pair of Top 10s in the last three events, so momentum is on their side coming into 2020.  Bowman has a lot of unrealized potential, but just how much is hard to gage.  It's a contract season for him, so the motivation to race hard will be with him throughout this campaign.

16. Cole Custer The 21-year-old prospect is ascending to the Cup Series in 2020.  Custer is coming off a seven-win Xfinity Series campaign and runner-up points finish last season.  The Stewart Haas Racing prodigy has done nothing but win at every stage of his racing development, and now he'll take over the very capable No. 41 Ford team at SHR.  Custer brings his Xfinity Series crew chief, Mike Shiplett, in the move up to NASCAR's top division.  This is a great move, and that established chemistry should help ease this often difficult transition.  Custer piled up eight victories, 31 Top-5 and 50 Top-10 finishes over his last two seasons of racing in the Xfinity Series, so he is ready to take this step up.  He won't be ready to win right out of the gate, so development will take some time.  We would expect Custer to post rookie season numbers that are modestly better than what Daniel Suarez achieved in the same car last season.

17. Tyler Reddick The two-time Xfinity Series champion will move into NASCAR's top division this season.  Reddick takes over the No. 8 Chevrolet team that Daniel Hemric piloted last season.  Hemric labored to just two Top-10 finishes in this car last season in a struggling rookie campaign.  We expect Reddick to move performance up a few notches.  The young driver raced like his hair was on fire last season.  He grabbed six victories and an amazing 24 Top-5 finishes en route to claiming the Xfinity Series championship for the second-straight season.  Reddick will bring his crew chief from that division, Randall Burnett, and the two will look to carry on their coupled success at NASCAR's top level.  It's going to be a tough labor to elevate this race team, but Reddick has the pure talent to make some serious headway.  He made a couple spot starts last season in the Cup Series and impressed with a ninth-place finish at Kansas Speedway.

18. Ryan Newman The 42-year-old veteran posted a solid season in his first campaign with Roush Fenway Racing.  Newman piloted the team's No. 6 Ford to three Top-5 and 14 Top-10 finishes and a respectable 15th-place finish in the points.  It was just another typical Newman year.  While the ability to win races has grown distant in the rearview mirror this driver still races well and finishes well most weekends.  His 14.6 average finish in 2019 is a testament to this fact.  Newman is a consistent performer who seldom fails to finish races, and that reliability equals dependability from the fantasy racing side.  He will once again be paired with Scott Graves at crew chief, and the two should pick right up where they left off in 2019.  The Cup Series is getting younger each season, and that is a bit of a concern as Newman goes forward, but for now he should hold steady.

19. Jimmie Johnson The seven-time champion announced that 2020 would be his last full season of Cup Series racing.  Johnson is coming off two disappointing campaigns and the 44-year-old veteran missed the Chase for the Cup playoffs for the first time in his career last season.  Crew chief Kevin Meendering was replaced by Cliff Daniels mid-season in 2019 but the hoped boost never materialized.  Instead, Johnson continued to spiral downward, collecting just four Top 10s in the 15 races that Daniels presided.  It could be that father time has finally caught up to the NASCAR icon, and skill erosion has set in.  This season will be a farewell tour for Johnson, and it could be very reminiscent of recent farewell tours like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s.  Inconsistency and mixed results could continue to hound Johnson in his final year of competition.

20. Austin DillonThe 2019 season was so disappointing on so many levels for Dillon and the No. 3 Chevrolet team.  He failed to make the Chase for the Cup for the first time in four seasons, he posted a lowly six Top-10 finishes, and saw his average finish inflate two spots from 17.5 in 2018 to 19.5 in 2019.  It was a tough campaign for Dillon and his Richard Childress Racing team.  Some good news is happening in 2020.  Dillon will be reunited with his old crew chief, Justin Alexander.  Under Alexander's guidance, Dillon drove to a Daytona 500 victory in 2018 and a Coca-Cola 600 win in 2017.  He also finished much more consistently in those two campaigns, making the Chase for the Cup playoffs in both instances.  Dillon will look to rebound to that form with his old chief this season.  Of all the drivers in the middle portion of the rankings, Dillon presents about as much rebound potential as any in the group.

21. Matt DiBenedetto DiBenedetto is coming off simply an incredible and surprising campaign in 2019.  He piloted the small Leavine Family Racing team's Toyota to three Top-5 and seven Top-10 finishes and managed a career-best 22nd-place in the final driver standings.  It was a pretty significant jump in performance for the journeyman driver.  DiBenedetto's season highlight was easily his near-brush with victory lane in the Bristol night race.  He led 93 laps late in that event and looked like a sure winner before Denny Hamlin tracked him down in the closing laps.  The runner-up finish was still an incredible feat at a tough short track.  DiBenedetto now takes over the seat of the storied No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.  He replaces the just-retired Paul Menard at this team.  DiBenedetto should push to retain similar performance at this very capable race team, and challenge the Top 20 in driver points.

22. Christopher Bell Perhaps the most gifted of this season's stellar rookie class is Bell.  He steps into the No. 95 Toyota at Leavine Family Racing.  Bell is a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver and is coming to the Cup Series via JGR's partnership agreement with LFR.  This team is a "satellite" Gibbs team and enjoys the same equipment and technical support as the other JGR teams.  Bell has spent the last two season's dominating the Xfinity Series.  Although he has no championships, the 25-year-old prodigy has piled up a staggering 15 victories and 38 Top-5 finishes over his last two seasons competing in the Xfinity Series.  Unfortunately, Bell's lack of performance in key playoff races has prevented him from winning those titles.  Crew chief Jason Ratcliff makes the jump with Bell and they look to continue building this small race team at LFR.

23. Chris Buescher Late last season saw Buescher thick in the middle of the silly season shuffle.  He essentially swapped teams with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and will now race in the No. 17 Ford at Roush Fenway Racing.  He will be paired with crew chief Luke Lambert and two will look to resurrect this slumping race team.  Buescher had a very steady 2019 campaign at his old team, JTG Daugherty Racing.  The journeyman driver nabbed four Top-10 and 12 Top-15 finishes en route to a 20th-place standings finish.  He managed a career-best 17.8 average finish last season and that was due largely to his weekly consistency and low DNF total (4) across the 36-race season.  Buescher will have to start from scratch in more ways than one in 2020, but he is a talented driver and this is a capable race team.  How quickly he and Lambert develop communication and chemistry will be key in season-long performance.

24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse has been on a two-season slide after posting his career-best Cup Series campaign in 2017.  The slump cost this veteran driver his job at Roush Fenway Racing, so now he moves to JTG Daugherty Racing this season.  Crew chief Brian Pattie also makes the move with Stenhouse to the No. 47 Chevrolet team.  This familiar face should help in the transition.  Pattie guided Stenhouse to that two victory, nine Top-10 finish campaign back in 2017.  However, they do come to a team of fewer resources than the No. 17 RFR Ford so we have to be a bit reserved about the potential this season.  Stenhouse and Pattie need a fresh start, but it could take them some time to find their way with this new race team.  We have a very cautious and reserved outlook for Stenhouse in 2020.

25. Ty Dillon The No. 13 Germain Racing team return intact for another season of Cup Series racing.  Dillon posted a pretty good performance in this car last year.  He grabbed a career-best three Top-10 finishes to go along with nine Top-15 finishes.  It all added up to a career-best 20.6 average finish mark for the campaign.  Dillon will once again be paired with crew chief Matt Borland and the two will look to continue their incremental improvement in the mid-pack of the Cup Series driver field.  At 27-years-old and now with well over 100 Cup Series starts to his credit, Dillon is no longer a green driver in NASCAR's top division.  The experience is noteworthy, and really the only limiting factor for this team is money and resources.  Dillon and this race team should hold serve this season.

26. Ryan Preece Preece comes back for season two at JTG Daugherty Racing.  This year he will pilot the team's No. 37 Chevrolet entry after the departure of Chris Buescher.  Preece's rookie campaign held a modicum of success.  He grabbed one Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes last year in the team's No. 47 Chevrolet.  The larger ovals and superspeedways were really this driver and team's sweet spot and where Preece posted his best finishes.  That should be the case again in 2020.  He was slowed by 6 DNF's last season, and he'll need to lower that mark if he hopes to improve and climb the driver standings.  Trent Owens will call the shots from atop Preece's war wagon.  Owens guided Buescher to a 20th-place points finish last year, so there's good reason to hope Preece will improve under his guidance.  There's good upside with this young driver and potential to climb higher in these rankings by season's end.

27. John Hunter Nemechek This young driver opened some eyes late last season driving in relief for Matt Tifft in the No. 36 Ford Mustang.  Nemechek grabbed a pair of Top-25 finishes in those three starts, with the top finish of 21st-place at Fort Worth.  The effort ended up being an audition with Front Row Motorsports, so they have tabbed the 22-year-old prospect to drive the No. 38 Ford of the just-retired David Ragan.  Nemechek has spent the last seven seasons grooming his skills between the Gander Truck Series and Xfinity Series.  In 150 combined starts he grabbed seven victories and 79 Top-10 finishes between those two racing series.  The skill set is obvious and still growing.  Nemechek has a lot of seat time for a driver just 22-years-old.  This race team presents some opportunities to impress, and experienced crew chief, Seth Barbour, gives a good steady presence for this young driver in his rookie campaign.

28. Darrell Wallace Jr. Wallace is entering a contract year at Richard Petty Motorsports.  The last two seasons in the No. 43 Chevrolet haven't shown much growth for the young driver.  Wallace has managed nearly identical average start and average finish (around 24.0) marks for both campaigns, and he's finished 28th-place in the driver points both seasons.  It really has been a flat line performance to this point.  RPM will be taking a long, hard look at Wallace this season.  With sponsorship getting tougher and tougher to come by, results need to start happening on the track in order for Wallace to secure a contract extension here.  That pressure will either galvanize this youngster and he'll step up, or he could completely fold under that pressure.  It's tough to predict.  However, we do note that he only cracked the Top 20 twice in the final eight events of 2019.

29. Michael McDowell The Front Row Motorsports veteran posted a typical campaign in 2019.  McDowell rode the No. 34 Ford Mustang to two Top-10 and 10 Top-20 finishes.  The two most impressive outings of the year were his fifth-place Daytona 500 finish and his fifth-place Talladega finish in October.  The superspeedways have always been kind to this driver and team.  It all resulted in a 27th-place finish in the driver points for McDowell.  Although FRM is reducing from three to two teams in 2020, it will have no impact on this team.  All sponsors and crew chief are expected to return this season.  With the reduction in FRM's footprint, McDowell could benefit a bit.  More focus and resources could flow into this team.

30. Corey Lajoie The 28-year-old is returning for season two at Go FAS Racing.  Lajoie had a career-best Cup Series campaign in 2019 and grabbed his first two Top-10 finishes.  They were both superspeedway events, but great accomplishments none-the-less.  Lajoie also posted career-best marks in terms of average start and average finish, so last season was a good effort for this small race team.  Randy Cox has departed the crew chief role, so Lajoie will have a new crew chief in 2020.  At the time of this writing it has not been announced who will be taking over that very important role.  Now approaching 100-career Cup Series starts, this driver is beginning to sort some things out.  Depending on who GFR brings in to crew chief for Lajoie that will largely dictate any potential growth and improvement this season.

31. Brennan Poole December news brought us word that Poole would be joining the very deep rookie class in 2020.  He comes to the No. 15 Chevrolet team of Premium Motorsports and be partnered with veteran crew chief, Pat Tryson.  Ross Chastain spent most of last season racing in this car, but Poole will get it for the full campaign this season.  The young Texan only raced a half-schedule in the Truck Series last year, but put up some respectable results with four Top 10s in just 13 starts for a very small team in that racing series.  Poole has just 83-career Xfinity Series starts to his credit, so he's a bit thin in the experience category.  He'll set off on his first Cup Series action of his career this season.  There will be many struggles and lessons in his near future.

32. Joey Gase Rick Ware Racing is set to field three full-time teams in 2020, and Ware will be the pilot of one of those three cars.  At the time of this writing it's not clear if he'll be in the No. 51, No. 52 or No. 53 entry, but that's not important at this point.  Gase made 11 starts last year between three different teams.  It was his most active Cup Series season in six seasons of competition.  Now the 27-year-old driver will get a full 36-race schedule to show off his skill.  Gase has been around the better part of the last decade and has nearly 300-combined starts between Cup and the Xfinity Series, so he's not short on experience.  He should give Rick Ware the best performance of his three teams this season.

33. Timmy Hill MBM Motorsports plans to field their No. 66 Toyota for the full season in 2020.  Right now Hill looks to be that primary driver, if not full-season driver for MBM.  Hill made just eight Cup Series starts last season, and only six of those came with this same race team.  He shared the ride for their roughly half-season schedule in what was a very uneven performance.  There's a lot of question marks around this operation with regards to sponsorship, resources and crew chief, so it's a bit of a fuzzy situation.  We know MBM is committed to running the full schedule and they have a very capable driver in Hill.  The rest will be left for them to sort out as the season goes on.  There is good potential here if some things can come together.

34. J.J. Yeley Yeley is signed to pilot one of the three Rick Ware Racing rides this season.  The 15-season Cup Series veteran now has close to 300 starts for his career.  Yeley raced roughly half the schedule last year (15 starts) for RWR with some mixed results.  The best of the lot was an impressive 12th-place finish in the July Daytona race.  Yeley hasn't competed in a full schedule since the 2015 season, so there could be some concerns with regards to conditioning for the 43-year-old driver.  One thing is for certain though, Yeley will give his full 100-percent to this race team and have them running at the end of most of their races.  He'll keep them out of trouble and minimize those dreaded DNF's.

35. Landon Cassill Cassill takes a bit of a hit in value in 2020 as he looks to be shifting from full-time Cup Series competition to just part-time.  StarCom Racing has committed to put Quinn Houff in their No. 00 Chevrolet this season, and has stated that Cassill will be "part of the team."  So at this point it's unclear how many starts Cassill will receive, but it looks like Houff could be in for a majority of the action.  The veteran nabbed just two Top-20 finishes last season, and both came at the superspeedway ovals of Daytona and Talladega.  There's limited potential racing with this small race team.  If Houff stumbles at any point, Cassill could be in line for more starts.  However, it's a very cloudy picture and outlook heading into this season.

36. Quinn Houff StarCom Racing has tabbed Houff to be their majority driver for the next two seasons in the No. 00 Chevrolet Camaro.  While the number of starts is unclear, and veteran driver Landon Cassill is still in the picture, it's clear that StarCom wants to move in the direction of Houff if he can turn in the performance.  The 22-year-old Virginian made 17 starts last season in his first season of Cup Series action.  Houff registered just three Top-30 finishes across those starts, mostly in the Spire Motorsports No. 77 Chevrolet.  The one major thing Houff has going for him is youth.  He's very teachable at this point in his career, and Houff has shown that he can win races and race competitively based on his teen years racing in Super Late Models.

37. Ross Chastain The very popular journeyman driver has a cloudy Cup Series slate in 2020.  Chastain raced the full schedule last season in a respectable effort with Premium Motorsports.  However, it's what the 27-year-old driver accomplished in the Xfinity and Truck Series that would turn heads last year.  Chastain grabbed his second-career Xfinity Series win racing part-time for Kaulig Racing, and he ran the full Truck Series schedule, grabbing three victories and challenging for the championship in that division of NASCAR.  Chastain would ultimately wind up second in the overall truck standings of last season.  It looks like 2020 will be a full-time Xfinity campaign as Kaulig has Chastain tabbed for their No. 10 entry.  How much time that will leave for Cup racing is a mystery at this point.  Chastain is very capable but it looks like his focus is shifting away from the Cup Series this season.

38. Reed Sorenson At the time of this writing it is unclear what Sorenson's plans are for this  season.  He spent much of last year racing with Premium Motorsports and rounded out the year racing with Spire Motorsports.  The two teams have a partnership, so it wasn't surprising to see the ride-share of Sorenson.  At this point it's unclear what the No. 27 and No. 77 teams have planned for 2020, but it would be reasonable to expect Sorenson will be involved in one or the other to a major degree.  He grabbed just two Top-25 finishes last season racing a majority of the schedule, but wound up in the garage area with DNF's far more often (nine times).  Sorenson's 329 starts of Cup Series action are a nice factor of reliability, but these small race teams can only give him subpar cars at this point in their existence.

39. Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing will field three full-time teams this season, so it looks like Ware could increase his involvement in NASCAR's top division.  While he's yet to be named to one of the three rides, he could race roughly half the schedule in one of them.  Last year's 13 starts netted just one Top-30 finish for this young driver.  However, Ware got valuable seat time for his extended growth as a driver.  The 24-year-old has a lot of room to grow and it looks like he could be upping his involvement at the Cup level this season.  Ware will also do some racing in IMSA for Rick Ware's new venture into sports car racing.  2020 is shaping up to be a very busy season for this young driver, but he still has a lot to learn before he can improve.

40. Daniel Suarez After three seasons of racing at NASCAR's top level, Suarez finds himself without a ride heading into 2020.  Stewart Haas Racing parted ways with the young Mexican at the conclusion of 2019.  Cole Custer's star was rising fast, and there was no preventing him from taking over the No. 41 Ford at SHR.  Suarez is still looking at his options for 2020, but Cup prospects are growing thin.  Rumors have him more likely heading to the Xfinity Series.  Richard Childress Racing has been courting Suarez to take over one of the team's Chevrolets in that division of NASCAR.  It would be a good landing spot for Suarez and a much more competitive situation than what he has available to him in Cup.  Suarez has some good potential if a decent door opens in NASCAR's top division, but it's more likely that he'll go race for wins and a possible championship in Xfinity with RCR this season.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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