NASCAR Draft Kit: What's New for 2020

NASCAR Draft Kit: What's New for 2020

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

Before we can fill out our cheat sheets or prepare our draft strategies for the 2020 NASCAR season, there are many changes we need to take into account to be prepared for any fantasy racing league.  Let's take an in-depth look at some of these changes that we'll see and some that aren't so apparent when the engines fire up at Daytona in February.

Driver Changes

Thanks to the usual silly season movement and free-agent driver signings, several drivers moved to new teams in 2020. A handful of teams shut down and some are starting new.  A few teams merged or contracted  to stay competitive. Also, a handful of driver/team swaps have taken place; among the most notable are the Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chris Buescher team swaps, Paul Menard and David Ragan retirements and the multiple rookie driver promotions.

DRIVERNEW TEAMOLD TEAM
Quinn HouffNo. 00 StarCom RacingNo. 77 Spire Motorsports
Tyler ReddickNo. 8 Richard Childress RacingNo. 2 Xfinity Series
Brennan PooleNo. 15 Premium MotorsportsNo. 30 Truck Series
Chris BuescherNo. 17 Roush Fenway RacingNo. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing
Matt DiBenedettoNo. 21 Wood Brothers RacingNo. 95 Leavine Family Racing
Daniel SuarezTBDNo. 41 Stewart Haas Racing
Ryan PreeceNo. 37 JTG Daugherty RacingNo. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.No. 47 JTG Daugherty RacingNo. 17 Roush Fenway Racing
John Hunter NemechekNo. 38 Front Row MotorsportsNo. 23 Xfinity Series
Cole CusterNo. 41 Stewart

Before we can fill out our cheat sheets or prepare our draft strategies for the 2020 NASCAR season, there are many changes we need to take into account to be prepared for any fantasy racing league.  Let's take an in-depth look at some of these changes that we'll see and some that aren't so apparent when the engines fire up at Daytona in February.

Driver Changes

Thanks to the usual silly season movement and free-agent driver signings, several drivers moved to new teams in 2020. A handful of teams shut down and some are starting new.  A few teams merged or contracted  to stay competitive. Also, a handful of driver/team swaps have taken place; among the most notable are the Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chris Buescher team swaps, Paul Menard and David Ragan retirements and the multiple rookie driver promotions.

DRIVERNEW TEAMOLD TEAM
Quinn HouffNo. 00 StarCom RacingNo. 77 Spire Motorsports
Tyler ReddickNo. 8 Richard Childress RacingNo. 2 Xfinity Series
Brennan PooleNo. 15 Premium MotorsportsNo. 30 Truck Series
Chris BuescherNo. 17 Roush Fenway RacingNo. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing
Matt DiBenedettoNo. 21 Wood Brothers RacingNo. 95 Leavine Family Racing
Daniel SuarezTBDNo. 41 Stewart Haas Racing
Ryan PreeceNo. 37 JTG Daugherty RacingNo. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.No. 47 JTG Daugherty RacingNo. 17 Roush Fenway Racing
John Hunter NemechekNo. 38 Front Row MotorsportsNo. 23 Xfinity Series
Cole CusterNo. 41 Stewart Haas RacingNo. 00 Xfinity Series
Christopher BellNo. 95 Leavine Family RacingNo. 20 Xfinity Series
TBDNo. 77 Spire Motorsports 

Series Sponsorship

Monster Energy ended its sponsorship of the Cup Series at the conclusion of the 2019 season.  For the  2020 campaign, NASCAR will have four "partners" as the corporate sponsorship of the sport's top racing series — Busch Beer, Coca-Cola, GEICO and Xfinity. 

The price tag for just one corporate sponsor has become a difficult sell in recent years.  So this new and groundbreaking approach makes a lot of sense.  All four brands will share the monetary burden, yet still receive a lot of brand name exposure at the races and in the telecasts.  It will be an interesting shift in 2020, and will be closely watched to gage success for both NASCAR and its corporate partners. 

Chevrolet Introduces New Camaro ZL1 1LE

The Camaro ZL1 will become the Camaro ZL1 1LE for NASCAR competition in 2020.  The tweak denotes a new performance option available in the street production car.  The new Camaro's most noticeable changes are in the grille and hood area  relating to improved aerodynamics.  These advancements come just two seasons after Chevrolet introduced the Camaro into Cup Series competition, and just one season before NASCAR shifts to its new seventh generation Next Gen car in 2021. 

Chevrolet has been hustling to keep up with both Ford and Toyota in the NASCAR manufacturer's battle.  The initial launch of the Camaro didn't go very smoothly in 2018 and Chevrolet has been playing some catchup since.  The new aerodynamic tweaks could have a big impact for all teams running the bowtie brand.  The new Camaro ZL1 1LE will make its Cup Series debut during Speedweeks at Daytona.

Driver Participation Guidelines for Xfinity and Truck Series

NASCAR made some cost-saving tweaks and driver participation changes to their two lower national touring series for 2020.  First, the field for the Xfinity Series will shrink from 38 to 36 teams for each race.  The smaller fields will improve competition and save operating costs for both NASCAR and the teams.  Second, NASCAR is limiting the amount that Cup Series veterans can compete in the lower divisions.  This limit is already set at five starts for the Truck Series, and will be reducing from seven to five events in the Xfinity Series.  These tweaks will continue to reduce the impact that Cup Series stars have when racing in NASCAR's lower divisions.  The hope is that it will better showcase the young talent in each of those racing series.

 This is the third tweak NASCAR has made to the driver participation rules.  The impact has been very noticeable as we see more young and upcoming talent winning these races each weekend, and less of Cup Series stars having a monopoly on these racing events. 

Miscellaneous Rule Changes 

Last October NASCAR announced some minimal updates to the 2020 rules for the Cup Series.  The handful of changes center around procedural regulations that relate to team costs for racing in NASCAR's top division.  The 2019 campaign all-in-all was quite competitive and pleasing to the sanctioning body, so no major rule changes were tabbed for this season.  Among the rule changes for this season are:

  • Each car number will be allowed a maximum of 12 chassis designated as "active" and four chassis designated as "inactive."  Also, each team will be limited to 10 unique chassis designs.  These limitations are hoped to lower team operating costs.
  • Manufacturers will be limited to 150 hours of wind tunnel testing per year.  Previously there was no limit.  
  • At-track rosters for teams will be reduced from 12 to 10. These include engineers, mechanics, crew chiefs, car chiefs and spotters.  
  • The minimum number of events for "sealed engines" will be eight for both short block and long block engines.  The hope is to prevent and limit costly engine rebuilds.
  • The extended parts freeze will continue as development continues for the Next Gen stock car, which will launch in 2021.

More and more of the technical rules and testing rules are in the direction of cost savings for teams.    NASCAR is tightening these requirements to help teams save money, and to put more parity in the racing between the smaller teams and large mega-team stables.

Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series

NASCAR's Truck Series will be known as Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series this season.  Previously known as the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, this slight change in the naming rights was determined prior to the 2019 season when Gander took over sponsorship from Camping World at the end of 2018.  

Camping World took over the naming rights to the truck series in 2009.  It's been a wildly successful run in partnering with NASCAR for several seasons.  Since the acquisition of the Gander Mountain brand, Camping World Holdings has used that brand as the series title sponsor for the truck series. 

Schedule Changes

For the 19th consecutive year, the NASCAR Cup Series schedule will consist of 36 points races as well as two additional weekends featuring non-points events. The Busch Clash at Daytona (Feb. 9) and two Daytona 500 qualifying races (both on Feb. 13) will take place before the season officially gets underway. The NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is May 16.

The schedule will get a pretty good shakeup from the 2019 version.  A few tracks will shuffle in the order, and we have new events for the regular-season finale and championship-crowning race.  We also have the Chase for the Cup playoffs starting at a new location for 2020, Darlington Raceway.  Probably the most eye-opening change is moving the July Daytona race to the end of the 26-race regular season schedule in late August and making that thrilling night race the cutoff for entry into the Chase.  

The other major change is the season finale and championship race, which has been at Homestead-Miami Speedway since 2002.  We will now race at Homestead in event No. 6 of the season.  The new finale will be hosted by ISM Raceway in Phoenix.  That challenging short track will now be where NASCAR crowns its champion for 2020.  The other major changes include: Pocono Raceway hosting a "double header" weekend, Bristol night race becomes a Chase playoff race, Indianapolis moves to July 4 weekend and Martinsville Speedway will play host to its first night race on Mother's Day weekend.     

The fans and teams alike have been asking for changes to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, so 2020 will deliver on that request.  The schedule shakeups, key race shakeups and new events will be a pretty big departure from previous seasons.  The comfort level with traditional race weekends in the schedule will get tossed out the window this season.  The changes should create some more drama and thrills and get the sport out of a bit of a rut in terms of predictability when it comes to the track lineup and order of events.  The new schedule is some welcome "spice" to help NASCAR's top division in terms of fan and TV viewer appeal.

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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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