NASCAR season is officially upon us and once again, the season starts out with a week full of on-track activity leading up to the Daytona 500, which takes place Sunday, February 17th.
The week starts out with front row qualifying and the Clash on Sunday the 10th. Then on Thursday, the Duels take place, which decides the remainder of the starting positions. After the Duels, there are a few Daytona 500 practice sessions between Friday and Saturday. Then on Sunday, the green flag drops for the 61st running of the Daytona 500.
This past NASCAR offseason there were plenty of moves that put old faces in new places. There are four veteran drivers that have taken new rides on different teams than they were on last year.
The most significant of these moves involves Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 champion, going from Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing. Truex took over the 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, now sponsored by Bass Pro Shops. Furniture Row Racing folded after last season, which forced Truex to find a new ride. Joe Gibbs is a great fit for Truex and his team given that both teams run Toyotas. Also, Truex got to bring is crew chief, Cole Pearn, and pretty much his entire pit crew to Joe Gibbs. So, it’s almost like he never moved.
Truex taking over the 19 car forced Daniel Suarez to find a new ride. The latter has taken over driving duties for the Stewart Haas Racing 41 Ford, sponsored by Haas Automotive and Arris.
Suarez is taking over the car that Kurt Busch drove last season. Busch has moved from Stewart Haas to Chip Ganassi Racing. As a result, Busch is now driving the 1 Chevrolet, sponsored by Monster Energy. Kurt is taking over Jamie McMurray’s spot at Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray is no longer driving a full schedule, but is driving a select few races with the 40 car, which is a Chip Ganassi entry.
The last veteran driver with a new home is Ryan Newman. He switched from Richard Childress Racing to Roush Fenway Racing. Newman is racing the 6 Ford, sponsored by Oscar Meyer. The 6 car last year was shared between Trevor Bayne and Matt Kenseth, both of which are not driving this year.
One more big move that is worth mentioning involves Jimmie Johnson and his team. Johnson’s 48 car will not feature Lowe’s as a sponsor for the first time in his 18 year career. Johnson’s car is now sponsored by Ally Bank. Another move within Johnson’s team is that his longtime crew chief, Chad Knaus, has moved to one of Johnson’s teammate’s crews within the Hendrick Motorsports camp, specifically William Byron’s 24 car.
With all of these veterans moving to different cars, there are also four rookies this year to pay attention to. Daniel Hemric (in the 8 car), Ryan Preece (in the 47 car), Matt Tift (in the 36 car), and Tanner Berryhill (in the 97 car).
With all of these moves from the offseason, this season is shaping up to be a very interesting one. And now that Speedweeks is underway, I’m more anxious than ever to drop the green flag on the 2019 NASCAR season.