2020 NASCAR season in pictures


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)

Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.