Cup driver Corey LaJoie stated on a podcast Thursday what he believes will be the series’ short track rules package in 2020, but NASCAR told NBC Sports that “those efforts continue” and that officials will provide “more information when appropriate.”
The racing quality at short tracks last year was a hot button issue, leading NASCAR President Steve Phelps to say in November at Miami that “our promise to our fans … is that we are going to provide the best racing we can at our short tracks.”
LaJoie, who is entering his second full-time Cup season with Go Fas Racing, detailed what he said the changes would be at short tracks on the “Sunday Money” podcast he co-hosts. The podcast is produced by Motor Racing Network, which is owned by NASCAR.
Here’s what LaJoie said.
“So we are going to have a low downforce package. The 750 (horsepower package) is going to have a comparable sized spoiler to what it had in (2018). It’s going to be a little bit bigger than what it was in 2018, not much. Less than three inches. The spoiler’s only going to be as tall as my cellphone.
“It will take the amount of downforce we had last year at the short tracks and cut it in half. So we had about 3,400 pounds of downforce is what they said last year and it should be about 1,700. So that’s a lot. It’s up to Goodyear, the ball’s going to be in Goodyear’s court to make a little bit softer tire that degrades a little bit so we can move around and lay some rubber down at places like Richmond and Martinsville. I don’t know what they’re going to do at Dover. I assume they’re going to be low downforce there as well, Phoenix. So hopefully it provides a little bit better racing.”
Asked in November if NASCAR would cut the rear spoilers on cars for short tracks, Phelps said: “Yes, could we go to something that is a lower downforce package and do we think that will probably be one of the answers that we could look at to be successful on the short tracks? Yes. Whether it’s cutting off the spoiler, other opportunities for us to take some of the downforce off there, those are things that we’ll explore.”
Martinsville prominently illustrated the issues at short tracks last year. Brad Keselowski won the spring race after leading 446 of 500 laps. Martin Truex Jr. won the fall playoff race, leading 464 of 500 laps.
The Richmond playoff race had six lead changes among three drivers. Truex, the race winner, and Kyle Busch, who finished second, combined to lead 311 of 400 laps.
The championship finale moves to Phoenix this season for the first time.
Here is NASCAR’s full statement to NBC Sports on Thursday:
NASCAR is working closely with our industry partners and race teams to improve the racing on short tracks and road courses. Those efforts continue, and we look forward to providing more information when appropriate.
The seven-time champion will have one last go at earning a record eighth title before retiring from full-time Cup racing. He’ll also try to end a 95-race losing streak that dates to June 2017. A win by Johnson would give him 84 and move him into a tie with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth all-time.
The defending Cup champion is within milestones in all three of NASCAR’s national series. He’s four Cup wins away from 60, four Xfinity Series wins from 100 and four Truck Series wins away from 60. Busch has said once he reaches 100 Xfinity Series wins he’d stop competing in the series unless car owner Joe Gibbs needed him to fill in.
With 56 career victories, Busch is seventh on the all-time wins list. Dale Earnhardt is sixth with 76 victories.
A win by Busch this year would give him wins in 16 straight seasons. That would match Jimmie Johnson’s streak from 2002-17. Richard Petty had 18 straight seasons with a win (1960-77) and David Pearson had 17 straight seasons with a win (1964-80).
The 2014 Cup champion needs one win to reach 50 for his career. He’s currently tied for 11th on the all-time wins list with his team owner, Tony Stewart. Harvick has 1,151 starts across NASCAR’s three nationals series. Thirty four starts this year will match him with Richard Petty for second all-time. Joe Nemechek has the most all-time with 1,188.
After earning six wins in 2019, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver needs three more to reach 40 Cup wins. He’s currently tied with Hall of Hamer Bobby Isaac. Should Hamlin win the Daytona 500, he’d be the first driver to win the race in back-to-back seasons since Sterling Marlin (1994-95).
The 2017 Cup champion could reach 30 career wins this season. He has 26. Of note, every eligible retired driver who has 30 or more Cup wins is a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Five active drivers have 30 or more wins: Brad Keselowski (30 wins), Kurt Busch (31), Hamlin (37), Harvick (49) and Kyle Buch (56).
In his second season with Roush Fenway Racing, Newman is within two victories of 20 career wins. He’s been stuck there since 2017 when he won the spring race at Phoenix Raceway. A win would give Newman a victory with all four organizations he’s competed for in Cup (Team Penske, Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing are the others). Roush is winless in the last 91 races.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver should reach 700 Cup Series starts this season. He’s 16 starts away from the mark and is scheduled to reach it June 14 at Sonoma Raceway. Among active full-time Cup drivers, Busch’s 684 starts are the most.
The Team Penske drivers should both reach 400 career starts this season. Logano will reach the mark in the Daytona 500, while Keselowski needs 23 starts. He’s scheduled to make start No. 400 on Aug. 9 at his home track of Michigan International Speedway (Keselowski has yet to win there).
McDowell and Almirola are each set to reach 350 Cup Series starts this season. McDowell is scheduled to reach that mark Sept. 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Almirola would reach it Oct. 25 at Texas Motor Speedway. With 321 starts, McDowell trails Landon Cassill (324 starts) for most starts among active full-time drivers without a win. StarCom Racing has not announced its plans for Cassill in 2020.
The veteran driver is set to compete full-time for Rick Ware Racing this season. It would be his first full-time Cup season since 2007 when he drove for Joe Gibbs Racing. Yeley is nine starts away from his 300th Cup start. He is scheduled to reach the mark April 19 at Richmond Raceway.
Go Fas Racing on Tuesday named Ryan Sparks as crew chief of the No. 32 NASCAR Cup Ford Mustang driven by Corey LaJoie.
Sparks, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, joins the organization after 13 years with Richard Childress Racing. He most recently served as a race engineer on the No. 3 Cup Series team with driver Austin Dillon. Sparks also served as race engineer for Dillon’s 2011 Truck and 2013 Xfinity Series championships.
“I am beyond ecstatic for the opportunity that the St. Hilaire family has given me,” Sparks said in a team media release. “This is something I’ve been working for my entire career, and I’m looking forward to working with Corey and continuing Go Fas Racing’s progression up the points standings.”
Sparks’ hiring completes the team’s roster for the upcoming season.
“Ryan comes with a ton of motivation and knowledge to continue pushing the team in the right direction,” LaJoie said in the release. “Just by being around him for a couple hours on his first day I knew he was the guy for the job.”
BREAKING: Ryan Sparks named Crew Chief for GFR, @CoreyLaJoie.
Here’s what the table looks like for the Cup Series heading into 2020.
New Era, New Names
After serving in the role for three years, Monster Energy is no longer the entitlement sponsor of the Cup Series. With its departure also comes the end of the Cup Series’ entitlement sponsor model that had been in place since 1971 beginning with Winston.
After five decades of being the Winston, Nextel, Sprint and finally the Monster Energy Cup Series, the premier series will simply be called the NASCAR Cup Series.
There’s a lot of expectations for what the Cup Series schedule will look like in 2021 after the end of NASCAR’s current five-year agreement with tracks.
But 2020 also has plenty of groundbreaking schedule developments.
– Martinsville Speedway will host its first official Cup night race on May 9. The short track also will host the final playoff elimination race for all three national series, with the Cup race held Nov. 1.
– Pocono Raceway will be the site of the Cup Series’ first ever doubleheader weekend June 27-28. Saturday’s race will be preceded by a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series event and Sunday begins with a Xfinity Series race.
– Daytona International Speedway will host the Cup regular season finale, moving its second date from the traditional July 4 weekend to Aug. 29. The July 4 weekend race is now held by Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Cup races there July 5).
– Darlington Raceway and the Southern 500 will open the Cup playoffs on Sept. 6. It’s joined in the opening round by Richmond Raceway and in the playoffs for the first time, Bristol Motor Speedway, which will be the first elimination race.
– After being the site of the first elimination race the last two seasons, the Charlotte Roval will be the Round of 12 elimination race (Oct. 11) and be preceded by Talladega Superspeedway.
– After a nearly two-decade run, Homestead-Miami Speedway is no longer the site of the championship weekend. Its place is now held by Phoenix Raceway, with the Cup championship race scheduled for Nov. 8. Miami’s Cup race will be March 22.
– Other notable changes: The Xfinity Series will compete at Martinsville (Oct. 31) for the first time since 2004. The Truck Series returns to Richmond Raceway (April 18) for the first time since 2005.
Chevrolet Cup teams will appear in Daytona with a slightly different look to their cars.
When the full Cup Series starting grid forms for the first time at the Daytona 500, there will be a lot familiar faces sporting new numbers with new teams. That includes a rather accomplished rookie class.
– Matt DiBenedetto debuts with Wood Brothers Racing in the No. 21 Ford, moving over from Leavine Family Racing and taking over for Paul Menard, who retired from full-time racing.
– Cole Custer and crew chief Mike Shiplett were promoted by Stewart-Haas Racing to take over its No. 41 Cup car, taking the place of Daniel Suarez. Suarez has not announced his plans for this season. SHR has not announced plans for its Xfinity program in 2020.