2020 NASCAR season in pictures

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As the 2020 NASCAR season approached, much of the talk focused on 2021. A robust free agent market led to questions of if there would be a dramatic shift in where drivers raced after 2020. And they would do so with the Next Gen car, which was scheduled to make its debut in 2021 before it was pushed back a year.

No one could have known that as Erik Jones won the wreck-filled Busch Clash, in a car that was involved in three accidents, that the world was changing and would impact all of society, including NASCAR.

More than 100,000 fans and President Donald Trump gathered in February at Daytona International Speedway to watch the Daytona 500, only to see the race delayed a day by rain and Denny Hamlin‘s dramatic win muted by Ryan Newman’s horrific accident that hospitalized him for two days.

There was no better sight all year than the image of Newman walking out of the Daytona Beach hospital with his daughters.

This will be a year we’ll never forget for many reasons.

2020 NASCAR season
Ryan Newman leaves a Daytona Beach, Florida hospital with his daughters after his Daytona 500 crash. Newman recently told NBC Sports how the accident has changed him. He said he’s “probably more spiritual than I ever was. I’m more giving than I ever was. I’m more empathetic than I ever was. I’m probably a better dad. I’m a better person because I had that moment.” (Photo: Roush Fenway Racing)

 

The scene before the driver/crew chief meeting March 8 at Phoenix, the last time this season there would be such a gathering. After the season resumed, COVID-19 protocols led to virtual driver/crew chief meetings and social distancing in the garage area. Among those pictured is Kyle Larson. This would be his final Cup race of 2020. After uttering a racial slur during an online racing event in April, he lost his ride at Chip Ganassi Racing. He spent the next several months “listening and learning.” NASCAR reinstated Larson, and Hendrick Motorsports hired him to drive the No. 88 car in 2021. (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

When the NASCAR season paused because of the coronavirus, the sport turned to iRacing with its stars to give fans their weekly fix of racing. This also brought out former stars Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. While the virtual world mimicked much about real racing, many of the crashes were out of this world, such as Gordon’s high-flying act in a race at virtual Talladega. But iRacing gave fans the chance to better appreciate a driver like Timmy Hill. Others who also benefitted from their experience on iRacing and got to showcase it were Garrett Smithley and Landon Cassill. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

NASCAR returned May 17 at Darlington Raceway. It was a new world for the sport. There were no fans. The schedule was dramatically revamped multiple times. No practice. No qualifying. Everyone in the infield wore masks. Through it all, the sport ran a full season in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Two days after he and wife Marissa found out she had a miscarriage, Chase Briscoe held off Kyle Busch to win the May 21 Xfinity race at Darlington Raceway. After winning, he returned to his motorhome and FaceTimed his wife: “She’s still in not the best mood because of what happened, but it definitely raised her spirits up a little bit,” he said that day. “But it’s not by any means swept under the rug. This is still really serious for us, and we’re struggling right now.” Marissa would suffer a second miscarriage in October. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

NASCAR rallied around Bubba Wallace on June 22 at Talladega Superspeedway, a day after a noose was found in his team’s garage stall. An FBI investigation later determined that no federal hate crime had been committed, stating that the noose had been there since October 2019 and there was no way of knowing that Wallace and his team would occupy that garage stall in 2020. Competitors pushed Wallace’s car on the grid to the front in a show of unity. Teams followed the drivers down pit road. Car owner Richard Petty joined the group. Here, Wallace stands with close friend Ryan Blaney in front of the rest of the field. Later in the year, the new team owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin would announce that Wallace would be its driver for 2021. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

The All-Star Race was full of change this year. It was moved from Charlotte to Bristol. The date changed from May to July. More than 20,000 fans attended the event. Other changes included NASCAR moving the numbers on the side of the car back and adding lights underneath each vehicle. The race also saw the trial of the choose rule, which later was instituted for each series. Here, Brad Keselowski (2), Kevin Harvick (4) and Chase Elliott (9) race. Elliott would go on to win the event. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

After finishing a career-high sixth, NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Williams takes a moment Oct. 17 at Kansas Speedway to mourn the loss of his friend, Tim Hayes. As Williams buried his head, he faced conflicting emotions. “Every time we’ve had a good run, we’d get back to the shop on Monday, he would talk about it,” Williams told NBC Sports of Hayes. “I was mad because he wasn’t going to be at the shop on Monday telling me how good we did.” (Photo: Parker Kligerman)

 

Matt Kenseth took over the No. 42 at Chip Ganassi Racing after the team fired Kyle Larson. Kenseth scored a top-10 finish at Darlington in May, but much of the season proved to be a struggle. A highlight was Kenseth’s runner-up finish at Indianapolis in July. Chip Ganassi Racing hired Ross Chastain to drive the No. 42 car in 2021. Kenseth told the Wisconsin State Journal after the season that his career as a full-time Cup driver was finished. Here, Kenseth spins in the grass at Texas in October. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

 

Call it a passing of the torch. As Chase Elliott (9) celebrated his championship after winning the Phoenix race, Jimmie Johnson (48) took one last lap to salute the fans in what was his final race as a full-time Cup driver. The two met on track, slapped hands, and saluted each other before moving on: Elliott to a champion’s celebration and Johnson to his family on pit road. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.

Sunday Clash at the Coliseum: Start time, TV info, race format

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LOS ANGELES – NASCAR is back and back at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Nearly three months after Joey Logano won the Cup title at Phoenix, Cup drivers return to action this weekend to run the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race on Sunday night.

This marks the second consecutive year the series has raced inside the Coliseum, which has hosted the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics.

Details for Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum 

(All times Eastern)

HEAT RACES: There will be four 25-lap heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top five from each race advance to the Busch Light Clash. The first heat race is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

LAST CHANCE QUALIFIERS: There will be two 50-lap qualifiers for drivers who did not advance to the Clash through their heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top three finishers in each of the qualifiers advance to the Clash. The 27-car Clash lineup will be finalized by adding one provisional spot for the driver highest in points last season not yet in the Clash field. The first of these two last chance qualifying races is scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m.

CLASH STARTING LINEUP: To be set by heat races and the Last Chance Qualifiers. Winner of heat 1 will start on the pole for the Clash. Winner of heat 2 will start second. Winner of heat 3 will start third. Winner of heat 4 will start 4th. Runner-up in heat 1 will start fifth and so on.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver intros are at 7:50 p.m. … Invocation by Judah Smith, lead pastor of Churchome, at 8:07 p.m. … The USC Trojan Marching Band will perform the national anthem at 8:08 p.m. … Actor Rob Lowe will give the command to fire engines at 8:15 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to be waved by USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams at 8:20 p.m.

DISTANCE: The Clash is 150 laps (37.5 miles) on the 1/4-mile short track.

STAGES: There will be a stage break at Lap 75 (halfway in the Clash). Wiz Khalifa will perform during the break.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the event, beginning at 4 p.m. . … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 63 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the start of the heat races. Partly cloudy with a high of 61 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the Clash..

LAST TIME: Joey Logano held off Kyle Busch to win the inaugural Clash at the Coliseum. Austin Dillon placed third. .

Catch up on NBC Sports coverage

New NASCAR season features several changes

Clash at the Coliseum provides a reset for RFK Racing 

Harrison Burton looks for progress in second year in Cup

Dr. Diandra: Muffling racecars won’t change fan experience

Drivers to watch at Clash in Coliseum

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events 

Looking back on 10 historic moments in the Clash

 

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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NASCAR drivers are scheduled to hit the track today in competitive mode for the first time in 2023.

Practice is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on the oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Single-car qualifying for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum is scheduled to begin at 8:35 p.m. (ET). The 36 drivers will be divided into three 12-driver groups for practice.

Cup practice groups

Cup qualfying order

Saturday’s qualifying will set the starting lineups for Sunday’s four 25-lap heat races. The top five finishers in each heat race will advance to the main event. Two 50-lap “last chance” races will follow, and the top three finishers in each of those events will join the feature field.

The 150-lap main event is scheduled at 8 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

For the second consecutive year, the Clash is being held on a purpose-built track inside the LA Coliseum, one of sport’s iconic venues. Joey Logano won last year’s race and last year’s series championship and will be among the favorites Sunday.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Weather

Saturday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High 71.

Saturday, Feb. 4

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 2 – 11:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 8 p.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8:35 – 9:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

New NASCAR Cup season features several changes

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While NASCAR looks back in celebrating its 75th season, there’s plenty new for the sport heading into the 2023 campaign.

Driver moves and schedule changes and are among some of the big changes this year. Here’s a look at some of the changes this season in Cup:

Drivers

— Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch has a different look, as he moves from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Tyler Reddick. 

— Tyler Reddick goes from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Kurt Busch, who was injured in a crash last summer and has not returned to competition.

Ryan Preece goes from being a test driver and backup at Stewart-Haas Racing to taking over the No. 41 car formerly run by Cole Custer, who moves to the Xfinity Series. 

— Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson returns to Cup after running the past two seasons in the IndyCar Series. He’s now a part owner of Legacy Motor Club and will run select races for the Cup team. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500, driving the No. 84 car.

Ty Gibbs goes from Xfinity Series champion to Cup rookie for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Noah Gragson goes from Xfinity Series title contender to Cup rookie for Legacy Motor Club (and teammate to Jimmie Johnson).

Crew chiefs

— Keith Rodden, who last was a full-time Cup crew chief in 2017 with Kasey Kahne, is back in that role for Austin Dillon at Richard Childress Racing, as Dillon seeks to make back-to-back playoff appearances. Rodden comes to RCR after working with the Motorsports Competition NASCAR strategy group at General Motors.

— Chad Johnston, who has been a crew chief for Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth, will serve as crew chief for Ryan Preece at Stewart-Haas Racing.

— Blake Harris goes from being Michael McDowell’s crew chief at Front Row Motorsports to joining Hendrick Motorsports to be Alex Bowman’s crew chief. 

— Mike Kelley, who served as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s crew chief when Stenhouse won Xfinity titles in 2011 and ’12, returns to the crew chief role with Stenhouse this season at JTG Daugherty Racing. 

Races

— What’s old is new. The All-Star Race moves to North Wilkesboro Speedway in May, marking the first Cup event at that historic track since 1996.

— July 2 marks debut of the street course race in Chicago, marking NASCAR’s first street race for its premier series.

— The spring Atlanta race and playoff Texas race have both been reduced from 500 miles to 400 miles.

Rules

Ross Chastain’s video-game move on the last lap at Martinsville will no longer be allowed, NASCAR announced this week. 

— Stage breaks are gone at the road course events for Cup races. Stage points will be awarded but there will be no caution for the end of the stage.  

— If a wheel comes off a car while on track, it is only a two-race suspension (last year it was four races) for two crew members. The crew chief is no longer suspended for the violation. 

— Cup cars have a new rear section that is intended to absorb more energy in a crash to prevent driver injuries after Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman each missed races last year because of concussion-related symptoms.

— Elton Sawyer is the new vice president of competition for NASCAR. Think of the former driver as the new sheriff in town for the sport.

Achievements 

— With a win this season, Kyle Busch will have at least one Cup victory in 19 consecutive seasons and become the all-time series leader in that category, breaking a tie with Richard Petty.

Denny Hamlin needs two wins to reach 50 career Cup victories. That would tie him with Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for 13th on the all-time list. 

Kevin Harvick, running his final Cup season, is 10 starts away from 800 career series starts. That would make him only the 10th driver in Cup history to reach that mark.