Sport Daytona 500: 5 key NASCAR questions before the 2020 season begins

17:35  14 february  2020
17:35  14 february  2020 Source:   ftw.usatoday.com

'Big One' rears its head late in Daytona 500

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The Daytona 500 will be held February 16, 2020 at the Daytona International Speedway. Learn more about the season -opening NASCAR Cup Series How much is a ticket to the DAYTONA 500 ? The DAYTONA 500 has sold out the past three years! Tickets for the 2020 DAYTONA 500 are on sale

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After one of the shortest offseasons in sports, it’s Daytona 500 time again, and it kicks off the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Denny Hamlin wearing a uniform© Provided by For The Win

Kyle Busch is the defending series champion after winning his second title in November, and the top-3 drivers from the second-tier XFINITY Series, including 2019 champ Tyler Reddick, have moved up to the premier series. Oh, and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is retiring at the end of the year.

There are so many storylines to keep track of this season, so here are the top-5 questions we have going into the first race of the year.

1. Will Jimmie Johnson win a race in his final season?

a close up of Jimmie Johnson wearing a helmet© Provided by For The Win

This will surely be one of the dominant stories of the 2020 season. Johnson’s 19th full-time season will be his last, and despite his 83 wins, the No. 48 Chevrolet driver is in the middle of the worst stretch of his career. He hasn’t been to Victory Lane since 2017, when he won three races, and didn’t make the playoffs in 2019.

Joey Logano leads final Daytona 500 practice; Toyotas sit out

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The 2020 Daytona 500 promises plenty of excitement for NASCAR fans everywhere. Last year, Denny Hamlin led for 30 laps at NASCAR 's biggest race and came away with his second Daytona 500 victory since 2016. Now, he'll look to defend his title at Sunday's 2020 Daytona 500 , also known as the

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - After one of the shortest offseasons in sports, it's Daytona 500 time again, and the race kicks off the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season . There are several storylines to keep track of this season , so here are the top five questions we have going into the first race of the year.

Based on the last couple seasons, having a true championship-contending car seems like a stretch with only five total top-5 finishes in 2018 and 2019. But this is his first full season with crew chief, Cliff Daniels, who took over in the middle of last season, and Johnson told NBC Sports at the time he brings “a spark there that I’m not sure we were aware we were missing.”

When For The Win asked Johnson on Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway if he’d be OK without winning at least one more, he said simply: “I wouldn’t have a choice.”

The 48 car had some speed during qualifying for the Daytona 500 on Sunday, coming in fourth behind pole winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Hendrick teammates Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott. (However, since he wasn’t in the top two, Thursday’s Duels determined he’ll start sixth.) So maybe that’s the first sign of hope for Johnson and his team. Whether you’re a 48 fan or not, it’s hard to deny the poetic finish of Johnson at least winning one more race and qualifying for the playoffs. But we won’t know if his car has lasting and versatile speed for a few more weeks.

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The wait is over and the 2020 NASCAR season begins this weekend with the 62nd annual Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida. This year will also be the last for NASCAR 's Generation 6 cars before "Next Gen" cars are introduced in 2022. The Daytona 500 is held on a

A season dawns anew at the World Center of Racing. It's Daytona Day, the 60th running of the Brad Norman NASCAR .com February 17, 2018 at 11:58 PM. A season dawns anew at the World Center The Fords are super fast. And that youth-veteran rivalry beginning to bud last year appears to be on

2. Will Joe Gibbs Racing continue its ridiculous dominance?

  Daytona 500: 5 key NASCAR questions before the 2020 season begins © Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC

Joe Gibbs Racing opened the 2019 season with Denny Hamlin winning the Daytona 500 and closed it with Kyle Busch winning his second championship, beating out teammates Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., plus Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick. Along with Erik Jones, the JGR drivers combined to win 19 of 36 races last season. But can they keep it up?

“It’s almost impossible,” said Hamlin. “You never know. I don’t think anyone counted on us winning six races last year. I think there’s always someone within a season that no one saw coming winning a lot of races you weren’t counting on. …

“I enjoy the challenge of us going out there. I like our chances any time there are changes, that our organization adapts quicker than anyone.”

2019 was unprecedented for a team’s dominance, so that’s a high bar to clear. However, there’s no reason to think Busch’s and Hamlin’s teams won’t pick up right where they left off. Truex will need to adjust to a new crew chief in James Small, formerly the team’s lead engineer, after the often brilliant Cole Pearn announced his surprise retirement at the end of last year.

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And in his third season with the powerhouse team, Jones, who won the Busch Clash exhibition race Sunday, looks poised to start pulling his weight with more than one win a season.

3. How will the 2020 Cup Series schedule changes impact the competition?

Homestead-Miami Speedway is in March, Pocono Raceway has two races in two days, Daytona’s summer race is the regular-season finale, and Darlington Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway are on the playoff schedule – AND Bristol is the first elimination race — and Phoenix Raceway is hosting championship weekend. NASCAR spiced up the 36-race schedule a little, drivers dig it and things could get wild, especially in the latter half.

4. Will Silly Season, NASCAR’s free agency, start early?

  Daytona 500: 5 key NASCAR questions before the 2020 season begins © Provided by For The Win

It practically already has with NASCAR’s potential future free agents and their contracts being a popular topic doing into the Daytona 500. Several of the sports biggest names could end up switching teams at the end of the 2020 season, including Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney, Hendrick Motorsports’ Bowman, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer.

Jimmie Johnson starts final season in defense of Clash win

  Jimmie Johnson starts final season in defense of Clash win DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jimmie Johnson‘s return to Daytona International Speedway has been understandably bittersweet. Though he‘s excited to get back into the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to start a new NASCAR Cup season, Johnson must process the realization that the 2020 season will be his last as a full-time driver […]“Coming down here, I obviously know this is my last full-time season,” Johnson said on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. “So there were mixed emotions. But I‘m excited to start my final year.

RELATED: Practice 2 results | Best 10-lap averages. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie William Byron led the final practice round before Daytona 500 qualifying Saturday, circling Daytona International Speedway at 201.681 mph in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

No Daytona 500 from '96-'13 drew fewer than 12 million viewers. This year's Daytona 500 also saw upticks among all key adult and male demos RESERVING JUDGEMENT: In Daytona Beach, Zach Dean notes while there was "some confusion" about NASCAR 's new format, it was "only the first race."

Plus, with Johnson retiring, there’s a guaranteed opening with Hendrick and a lot of potential for movement should these guys, and maybe more, become free agents.

“There are always rides available, but there are usually limited amounts of very good rides and this year there are several of them,” Bowyer said Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.

“We all know that you are only as good as your last race. You can’t go on a swing of bad races or have a bad year or whatever else. You have to be the total package and that is probably more so today’s day in age than ever. You have to be the total package in that race car and out of it as well.”

5. Which driver will win his first race?

Chad Knaus, William Byron in uniform© Provided by For The Win

William Byron, who’s in his third season with Hendrick Motorsports, seems like a good bet. He and Chad Knaus have one year together under their belts now, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they make it to Victory Lane at least once.

Another option is Matt DiBenedetto, who came close at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2019 before finishing second (to Hamlin) and is now in his first season in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Or maybe it’s Cole Custer, a rookie who’s taking over the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.


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Logano, Byron win Daytona 500 qualifying races

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The inaugural Daytona 500 , in fact, was not even the first NASCAR points race to be held at Daytona International Speedway. (That would be a 100-mile qualifier run two days before the “Inaugural 500 You could say it worked, because developers began scooping up beachfront property to build hotels.

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