If you’ve ever searched for a “Chevy dealer near me,” you’ve probably heard of Hendrick Motorsports. Even if you’re not a NASCAR fan, you’ve likely run into Rick Hendrick, the chairman of the nation’s largest privately held automotive dealership group, during your search for a new or used car. Coming upon this is not an accident. His dealerships are a staple in the automobile world, just as Hendrick Motorsports is a consummate NASCAR Cup Series contender. So with the season just underway, it seems a good time to take a look at how the competition is shaping up in what will be another exciting championship cup series.
Let’s take a look at three of the biggest teams heading into the season and see what to expect. With the season officially beginning with the Daytona 500 in February—and with Denny Hamlin taking his 38th career victory—it’s clear this is going to be a wild ride. Joe Gibbs Racing is already a front-runner and looks to be out to a head start with the big Hamlin win at Daytona. The Florida-born driver came into this race with a superb record in the season-opener, finishing outside of the top 10 rankings only twice in the past eight years. During that period, he has won the Daytona 500 twice, while also finishing on the podium twice, and placing fourth twice. Hamlin will be a tough driver to beat this year as he has come into the 2020 season on quite a streak, winning two of his last five races for the 2019 NASCAR season.
Joe Gibbs Racing
2019 was a good year for Joe Gibbs Racing, and expectations are high for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series as they look to capture back-to-back titles. Kyle Busch won his second championship and is hoping to go back-to-back this year as well in his 16th full-time Cup season. All told, last year, JGR had 19 wins from its four drivers, so you can see why they are optimistic coming into this season.
JGR will be a tough team to beat as they feature not just the champion but the runner-up as well. Martin Truex Jr. came aboard in 2019 and put together a strong season for the team, finishing with a series-leading seven wins, which was good for a second-place finish in the overall standings. Unfortunately, he will have to do it without crew chief Cole Pearn this year, who announced in the off-season that he was stepping away from the sport. James Small will be taking over as crew chief of the No. 19 Toyota, a promotion from lead engineer for Small. Truex Jr., however, says the change will go smoothly as he has a lot of confidence in Small and is looking forward to the season.
Denny Hamlin also had a strong season last year, finishing fourth overall and capturing the first of his six wins at the Daytona 500, something even Kyle Busch has never accomplished. Busch does have 56 career wins to his name, however, and together they will be a formidable opponent for any team to beat. Not to be counted out, Erik Jones also had a solid year with a career-best ten top fives, which also saw him win at the prestigious Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Jones comes into the season with a lot of confidence after a win at a race like Darlington, and after finishing the 2019 season with four top tens in the last five races.
Overall, JGR has earned 7 driver’s championships and over 330 wins in major series’ since 1992. Other notable drivers to race for JGR include Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Tony Stewart.
Team Penske hopes a crew chief-driver shuffle will close the gap between them and JGR this season, as they changed all three pairings for this season. Todd Gordon pairs with Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 team, Jeremy Bullins moves to crew chief for Brad Keselowski, and Paul Wolfe is now the crew chief for Joey Logano’s team.
Logano had a strong season last year, finishing fifth, and is looking forward to working with Wolfe. While he admits there will be a steep learning curve, he feels confident that they will have a strong season. Bullins and Keselowski, with 14 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins together, including six in 2013, look to downplay the significance of the change. Keselowski says the day-to-day will remain the same, so they expect another good season from everyone.
In 2019, Ryan Blaney finished a career-best seventh in the standings, and he thinks the shake-up will be good for everyone and become a challenge to be even better this year. Confidence is running high for Team Penske, and for a good reason. All three teams made the playoffs in 2019—a year that saw them win six times with all three drivers finishing in the top 10 of the point standings.
Hendrick Motorsports had three drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2019 and are looking to improve on that performance this year. Jimmie Johnson comes into the year with all eyes on him as he looks to end his Hall-of-Fame career on a winning note. This season will be his last as a full-time driver after deciding in October that it was time to step away from the sport. After a career that saw him amass 83 wins, the seven-time Cup Series champion is finally calling it quits. Look for a strong season from Johnson as you know he’s sure to have something left in the tank.
Though Johnson will be retiring from the Hendrick team and will be getting a lot of attention in the No. 48 entry, there is a young group of drivers to watch out for in 2020 and beyond. Chase Elliott is coming off a strong 2019 season with three wins, nearly making it to the Championship 4. Alex Bowman looks to be a contributor again this year too. With success last year at Chicagoland Speedway, he’s primed for a good year. Though his playoff run came to an end last year during the Round of 12, expect for continued improvement from Bowman this year. Luckily for Bowman this year, his home track, Phoenix Raceway, will host the championship race, so he will surely be ready for a big race.
William Byron rounds out the team as one of the younger drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series, and after a year of working with crew chief Chad Knaus, expect big things from the youngster. Despite the learning curve in 2019, Byron went on to finish with 10 top tens, five top fives, and five poles, while also making the playoffs for the first time.
With Johnson leading the way in his push for that elusive 8th championship, you can expect the Hendrick team to be competitive this season. While most of the attention will center around Jimmie Johnson, and rightfully so, watch out for Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman to build on their accomplishments from last year. And with another year of William Byron working with Chad Knaus, you could make a case that Hendrick Motorsports is primed for a run at Team Penske and JGR.