Will it? Can this package lead to more side-by-side racing, more beating and banging and more drivers upset with one another?
If it does, this could be among the steps to attract more fans. If not, then what?
2. What’s next from NASCAR?
It could be argued that this year will be among the most pivotal for NASCAR.
Steve Phelps enters his first full season as President. Jim France remains interim Chairman, having taken over after Brian France went on an indefinite leave after his arrest Aug. 5 for aggravated driving while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree.
There has been talk of starting the season earlier and ending it sooner, midweek racing and doubleheaders.
How fans accept what NASCAR does — or doesn’t do — will be key.
3. Can Ford teams — particularly Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske — avoid the new-car blues that Toyota and Chevrolet teams experienced the past two years?
Both Toyota (2017) and Chevrolet (2018) struggled at times with their new cars in their debut seasons. If the same thing happens to Ford this year with the Mustang, it could allow Chevy and Toyota teams a chance to win races, qualify for the playoffs and build playoff points. That could be significant.
Toyota debuted the Camry in 2017 to mixed results. Although Martin Truex Jr. won three times in the first 18 races with the car at Furniture Row Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing could not get any of its Toyotas to Victory Lane until the 19th race of the season.
Things changed in the second half of the season. Toyota cars won 14 of the last 19 races and also the championship.
Chevrolet debuted the Camaro last year and also struggled in the first half of the season. Chevy teams won once — the Daytona 500 — in the first 21 races last year. Chevrolet won three times after that — all by Chase Elliott.
So can Ford teams be strong all season or will they need some time to become dominant or will they struggle much of the year?
4. Will new driver-crew chief pairings lead to wins?
Kurt Busch moves to Chip Ganassi Racing for what could be his final Cup season. He’ll look to crew chief Matt McCall to help make this year memorable.
Austin Dillon is reunited with crew chief Danny Stockman. They combined for championships in the Truck and Xfinity Series. While Dillon won last year’s Daytona 500, he wasn’t much of a threat at many other tracks. Can this pairing have success again?
Daniel Suarez lost his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing to make room for Martin Truex Jr. and Cole Pearn. Suarez moves to Stewart-Haas Racing and looks to crew chief Billy Scott to help him succeed.
Ryan Newman moves to Roush Fenway Racing and will have Scott Graves as his crew chief. Graves came from Joe Gibbs Racing. Can these two help raise Roush Fenway Racing’s profile?
Don’t count on that happening this year. Don’t be surprised to see all three win this year. As for who will be the first to win? You don’t have much longer to find out. The season is approaching quickly.
Drivers to take part in Cup Las Vegas organizational test
NASCAR Cup drivers have many milestones ahead of them in 2019.
Here is a look at some that could be reached this season:
Jimmie Johnson has 83 victories and is tied with Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all-time list. His next victory will tie him with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison in fourth. Johnson was winless in 2018, the first time he ran a full Cup season without a victory.
Since winning in his rookie season of 2005, Kyle Busch has never failed to find Victory Lane in the Cup series – a streak of 14 seasons. He’s also had great success in the Xfinity and Truck series. Busch is six total wins away from achieving 200 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions. Busch has 51 Cup wins, 92 Xfinity wins and 51 Truck wins.
Kevin Harvick is five wins away from joining the exclusive 50-win club that has 13 members. Johnson and Busch are the only active drivers with more than 50 Cup wins.
Hendrick Motorsports looks to extend its streak of consecutive seasons with a Cup win to 34 this year.
Last year Erik Jones and Chase Elliott won, marking three consecutive seasons in which drivers scored career-first victories. That was the longest streak since 2005-2007. The last time at least four consecutive seasons highlighted first-time winners was from 1994-2003.
Jimmie Johnson is seven top fives away from tying Lee Petty for 10th on the all time list with 231.
Kevin Harvick is nine away from achieving 200 top fives.
With four top 10s, Clint Bowyer will become the 37th driver to crack the 200 mark.
Kurt Busch is 20 away from achieving 300 top 10s, which will make him the 21st driver to do so.
Jimmie Johnson has the most top 10s among active drivers with 352 (11th on the all-time list). With nine top 10s he will tie Terry Labonte in 10th.
Kevin Harvick (336) could become the active driver with the most top 10s if he earns 16 more than Johnson.
Since winning his first pole in the spring Bristol race of 2010, Joey Logano has earned at least one per year. In 2019, he looks to extend his streak to 10 consecutive seasons. Last year, he earned only one pole at Kansas in the fall.
Chase Elliott has won at least one pole in his first three full-time seasons at the Cup level, but he has never earned more than two in a year.
Kurt Busch has 648 starts, which places him currently 23rd on the list. If he makes all the races in 2019 he will pass Dale Earnhardt Sr. and move to 18th on the list.
Kevin Harvick (646), Ryan Newman (620) and Jimmie Johnson (615) also have more than 600 starts.
Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman each have 612 consecutive starts to start the season, which ties them for ninth on the list. If they make nine more consecutive starts they will catch Mark Martin. With 16 more consecutive starts, they will catch Jeff Burton. If both Johnson and Newman make all of the races in 2019, they will end the season tied for sixth with Dale Earnhardt Sr. (648).
Assuming the following drivers make all of the races, this is when they should reach their respective milestones:
The 2019 NASCAR season is now within view as we have entered the month of January.
That means a lot of highly anticipated changes in the sport will be visible on track.
Before we get to what to expect from each team specifically, here’s what Cup teams will be dealing with in 2019.
Inspired by what was used in the 2018 All-Star Race, the new rules package will feature a tapered spacer to control the engines instead of a restrictor plate. Teams will have 550 horsepower at tracks 1.33 miles and larger and 750 horsepower at tracks shorter than 1.33 miles.
Some crew chiefs, including Cole Pearn, have said the new package could result in racing that resembles what is seen in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
One team that will not be present this year is Furniture Row Racing, which ceased operations on its No. 78 Toyota after 2018 due to a lack of sponsorship.
Rick Ware Racing will field two cars with two charters. It has not announced drivers for either car.
Spire Sports + Entertainment will field the No. 77 with a charter purchased from Furniture Row Racing. A driver has not been announced.
Obaika Racing will field rookie Tanner Berryhill in the No. 97 in its first full-time season.
(Drivers are listed in order of their car number with where they finished in the points last year)
What’s new: Cassill is slated to compete full-time for StarCom Racing, which bought a charter from Richard Childress Racing. Cassill, with 29 starts, is the only driver with more than seven for the team.
What’s the same: StarCom will again compete with a Chevrolet model in its second full season of competition.
What’s new: Kurt Busch moves from Stewart-Haas Racing to replace Jamie McMurray, who drove the No. 1 for nine years. McMurray will be an analyst for Fox Sports. CGR will be the sixth team Busch has competed for in Cup.
What’s the same: Matt McCall is back to crew chief the No. 1 after four years with McMurray.
What’s the same: Crew chief Paul Wolfe and Keselowski enter their ninth season together. With the separation of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, that makes Wolfe and Keselowski the longest-tenured driver/crew chief pairing in the series.
What’s new: Dillon will have Danny Stockman Jr. as his crew chief, replacing Justin Alexander. Stockman is Dillon’s fourth crew chief in six full-time seasons in Cup. Dillon won a Xfinity and Truck Series title Stockman. Dillon will also have a new teammate in Daniel Hemric.
What’s the same: Dillon’s scheme for the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona will be a tribute to Dale Earnhardt’s scheme in the 1998 All-Star Race.
What’s new: Will enter his sophomore season under the guidance of Chad Knaus, the most successful active crew chief in NASCAR. This will be Byron’s first season in NASCAR without rookie stripes after previously competing in Xfinity and the Truck Series for just one season each.
What’s the same: Jeff Gordon is still the last (and only) driver to win in the No. 24.
What’s the same: Greg Ives returns as Bowman’s crew chief on the No. 88 Chevrolet.
No. 95 Matt DiBenedetto (29th)
What’s new: DiBenedetto replaced Kasey Kahne at Leavine Family Racing after two years at Go Fas Racing. LFR will compete under the Toyota banner after being a Chevrolet team. Mike Wheeler will crew chief the No. 95.
What’s the same: 2019 will be LFR’s fourth full-time season in Cup. The team is winless since it first went Cup racing in 2011.
Now we’ve gone through and tallied up their totals 12 months later.
These numbers come with a bit of an asterisk. In July, Twitter undertook a campaign to purge the social media platform of bot accounts and the accounts of NASCAR drivers and teams were not left untouched.
On Jan. 2, Jimmie Johnson led all full-time Cup drivers with 2,636,014 followers. According to Kickin’ the Tires, Johnson lost roughly 60,000 followers in the purge, putting him at around 2.6 million. At press time on Dec. 31, his follower count had risen to 2,645,151. He’s the only active Cup driver with more than a million followers.