Tony Stewart the NASCAR Hall of Famer and three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion will return to NASCAR racing in 2020. At least once. It’s great to hear that Stewart is competing in the July 4th Xfinity Series event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will drive a second Stewart Haas Racing entry. The Xfinity Series is running on the Indianapolis road course for the first time. And that will make this a unique and exciting event for the 2020 season.
The West Coast Swing for NASCAR’s Cup and Xfinity Series’ and Harrison Burton’s breakthrough Xfinity Series win at Auto Club Speedway is at the center of this week’s hot topics. Las Vegas is first on West Coast schedule, with Auto Club Speedway the mid-point, and Phoenix at the close. How significant is the West Coast Swing to the rest of the season? Read Andy Laskey’s views, then post your thoughts in the comment section below.
Is the West Coast Swing Indicative of the Whole 2020 Season?
The short answer is no, it’s not.
While it’s clear that the two most competitive teams to start the year have been Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports, it should be noted that other teams haven’t been able to change or do much to improve their cars. Cars for the west coast races were likely prepared before the season even began making it difficult for teams to make any sort of significant changes in areas that can be improved upon.
When NASCAR returns to the east coast in the coming weeks at Atlanta and Homestead, it’s reasonable to expect that teams who have struggled to start 2020 will go there with something other than what they brought to the west coast. Expect some new players at the top of the running order in the coming weeks and look for the teams of Stewart Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing to improve as time goes on.
A much clearer picture of who the true players are should start to take shape at the end of the month, after NASCAR runs Atlanta, Homestead, and Texas. The sport is ever-evolving and you can bet the powerhouse teams that have started the season slow will continue to improve and get back to their winning ways.
Harrison Burton Scores First Career Xfinity Win
It’s always a milestone when a driver earns their first career NASCAR national series victory. Yet this victory seems to solidify the presence of Harrison Burton as a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver for Joe Gibbs Racing.
The driver of the No. 20 Dex Imaging Toyota, Burton earned his first career win at Auto Club Speedway this past Saturday and the win puts him in the playoffs. This win is big as Burton came off a full-time Truck Series campaign that saw him go winless and miss the playoffs driving an entry for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Burton, however, did run a limited schedule last season in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing in which he earned five top-tens in only nine starts.
Burton is off to a hot start this season with three top-fives and a win in only three starts. It validates that he not only belongs in NASCAR but may also become a serious threat to win the championship in his rookie season. He’ll be one to watch throughout the season.
Editor’s Note: Fan4Racing writer Andy Laskey is the co-host for NASCAR Hot Topics Sound Off on Fan4Racing Radio every Monday and Thursday night at 10 pm ET. He’ll now offer a weekly blog of NASCAR Hot Topics to elaborate on subjects that – due to time constraints – we miss or short-change on the radio show. Please share your perspective of these hot topics in the comments section below.
Hot Topics 1 – Daniel Suarez Fails to Make Daytona 500
Arguably one of the biggest disappointments to start the 2020 NASCAR season has to be Daniel Saurez missing the season-opening Daytona 500. The driver of the Gaunt Brothers Racing No. 96 Toyota was involved in a crash in the Duel 1 race that sent him to an early exit from the race and subsequent DNQ from the 500.
This is incredibly disappointing for a team trying to gain traction and establish themselves in the NASCAR Cup Series. The deal between Saurez and Gaunt Brothers Racing came together fairly late in the off-season, which put the team in a position of hiring personnel and building cars barely in time for Daytona Speedweeks. Making the Daytona 500 would have helped this up and coming team in a major way, especially in terms of financial benefits by starting the event, with a good performance and showing the potential to win.
What ‘could have been’ was the chance to gain exposure and sponsorship for the team. Missing the biggest race of the season automatically puts this team in a deficit and it will be interesting to see how they can overcome this set-back in the coming weeks.
Hot Topics 2 – No Sophomore Slump for Gragson
A feel-good story to start the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season has to be Daytona winner Noah Gragson. Entering his sophomore season in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, Gragson finds himself in a situation of opportunity to step up and establish himself as a title favorite and help secure his long term future in the sport.
There’s no better way to do that than start the season off by winning the biggest race of the year. Granted, winning a superspeedway race doesn’t guarantee success for the whole season but it certainly gives this team a lot of confidence moving forward. To start the weekend, Gragson exhibited a lot of confidence and optimism for the 2020 season, as do all teams this time of year. But you just get the feeling that this has the potential to be a big year for Gragson and certainly his win at Daytona helps establish himself as one of the favorites.
With last year’s Big Three drivers in Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, and Tyler Reddick moving to the Cup Series, it remains to be seen exactly who will fill that void, however, this weekend Noah Gragson certainly made his case that he’ll be a season-long contender.
The start of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is only a little over a month away and when Stewart Haas Racing(SHR) hits the track for Speedweeks in Daytona, there will be some notable changes. SHR will once again field four full-time Cup teams with a new driver piloting one of those entries, a rookie crew chief leading another, and another crew chief swapping teams. The intentions of these changes are to produce the highest level of performance in pursuit of another Championship. Continue reading →