1. Manufacturer moves

NASCAR hopes to woo a fourth or fifth car manufacturer into the sport in the next few years. NASCAR dropped the horsepower of its engines from 900 to 550 with the idea of getting some interest from several foreign car makers. And, of course, Dodge has an open invitation to come back whenever the mood strikes. Dodge came back in 2001. Bill Elliott sat on the Daytona 500 pole. It left in 2012 with a championship.


The new NASCAR, which now owns International Speedway Corp., is working furiously to piece together the 2021 Cup Series schedule, which will be released in April. As the process unfolds, look for clues in the offseason. Are they putting a new coat of paint on the Nashville short track? Are they adding/subtracting seats at Dover? Is there a new hire at COTA in Austin who says “y’all” a lot? Eyes open during the offseason.

3. Even Stevens

Kyle Busch won the Cup Series championship for the second time with Adam Stevens as his crew chief. Stevens will be working most of the offseason on making the No. 18 Toyota even better for 2020. The mission never ends. “As a team, our goal is to win the championship,” he said. “Our goal next year is to win the championship, and we damn sure want to be the guy that has the most stage points.”

Godwin Kelly, godwin.kelly@news-jrnl.com

Chase Elliott, left, and his father Bill Elliott share a moment at the race track. Elliott led Dodge back into NASCAR in 2001. NASCAR hopes to see the car manufacturer return one day.

[AP/Julie Jacobson]


1. Goodbye Jimmie

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson announced the 2020 season will be his last. The 44-year-old driver made the announcement over his social media accounts. “Next year is not a ‘mail-it-in’ year,” Johnson said. “We’re going to win races; contend for a championship.”

2. Rookie field

Next year’s rookie field has the talent to win races. The top-three drivers in the 2019 Xfinity Series standings are graduating to Cup in 2020. Christopher Bell (Toyota), Tyler Reddick (Chevrolet) and Cole Custer (Ford) will be racing with elite teams capable of victory.

3. Big announcement

NASCAR president Steve Phelps is expected to outline the company’s new business model for the marquee Cup Series. Monster Energy, which was the Cup’s entitlement sponsor for three years, will be replaced by multiple sponsors. Monster is expected to stay in the sport.

Godwin Kelly, godwin.kelly@news-jrnl.com

Christopher Bell will be among the Cup Series rookies to watch in 2020. [AP File]

Speed freaks

A few questions we had to ask ourselves

Where would you rank Jimmie Johnson, all-time?

GODSPEAK: Going by the numbers, he would be right behind Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, or simply fifth.

KEN’S CALL: It’s obviously impossible to compare eras, but using my officially licensed decoder ring, I’d put him around seventh, between Jeff Gordon and Junior Johnson.

Who’s next out the door?

GODSPEAK: If he doesn’t win in 2020, look for Ryan Newman to make the grand exit from the sport.

KEN’S CALL: Of the big stars, it’s gotta be Harvick, right? Unless Kurt Busch beats him to the exit within a couple of years.

Feud of the YEAR

DENNY HAMLIN VS. JOEY LOGANO: Former teammates, remember? In the heat of the playoffs, Logano approached Hamlin on pit road about their contact at Martinsville. Logano shoved Hamlin, causing a pit road scuffle.

GODWIN KELLY’S TAKE: Logano said Hamlin pushed his car into the wall on purpose. “We were having a discussion, everything was civil, and then like Joey does, he does a little push and then runs away,” Hamlin said.

Godwin’s picks for daytona 500

WINNER: Chase Elliott

REST OF TOP 5: Matt DiBenedetto, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick

FIRST ONE OUT: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

DARK HORSE: Jimmie Johnson

DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: Elliott’s Daytona 500 victory takes him to the next level of popularity in the sport.


It’s getting oddly quiet in the Pod. Can it last?

Tune in online at www.news-journalonline.com/daytonamotormouths

Questions & Attitude

Compelling questions ... and maybe a few actual answers

Jimmie Johnson says he won’t mail it in next year. You buying that?

Yes and no. I believe he’d dearly love to win another race (or more) and give himself a puncher’s chance at that eighth championship. But human nature is stubborn, and it’s hard to be up to full speed when you have one foot pointed toward the exit. However, under the modern championship procedure, there’s precedent for Jimmie’s desires.

Jeff Gordon in 2015?

Yes, but Jeff was coming off a four-win season in 2014 when he entered his final year with optimism. He ended up having a sub-par year by his historic standards, yet ran well in the playoffs, got his one win in the third round, and went to Homestead as one of the final four with a chance. So, if Jimmie’s timing is right, yes, he can make a run at No. 8.

Ken Willis, ken.willis@news-jrnl.com


1. Kyle Busch 5040

2. Martin Truex Jr. 5035

3. Kevin Harvick 5033

4. Denny Hamlin 5027

5. Joey Logano 2380

6. Ryan Blaney 2339

6. Kyle Larson 2339

8. Brad Keselowski 2318

9. Clint Bowyer 2290

10. Chase Elliott 2275

11. William Byron 2274

12. Alex Bowman 2257

13. Kurt Busch 2237

14. Aric Almirola 2234

15. Ryan Newman 2219

16. Erik Jones 2194

17. Daniel Suarez 846

18. Jimmie Johnson 835

19. Paul Menard 777

20. Chris Buescher 729

What’s on tap

Dec. 3-5: Champions Week and banquet in Nashville

Jan. 25-26: Rolex 24 at Daytona

Speedweeks at Daytona

Feb. 8: ARCA 200

Feb. 9: Daytona 500 pole qualifying; Clash at Daytona

Feb. 13: Duel at Daytona qualifying races for Daytona 500

Feb. 14: Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250

Feb. 15: Xfinity Series NASCAR Racing Experience 300

Feb. 16: Daytona 500

2020 vision: predicting next year’s top 10


Until further notice …


When is he NOT a major factor


Had an uneven 2019, won’t repeat that


Mr. Hunch thinks he might pop in 2020


Probably ranked too low here


Brings zero momentum into next year


Gets the most out of every ride


Was 2019 his last great chance?


Banking on Hendrick engineers


Takes over the #41, and he’s capable

2020 cup series Schedule

Feb. 9: Clash at Daytona

Feb. 16: Daytona 500

Feb. 23: Las Vegas

March 1: Fontana

March 8: Phoenix

March 15: Atlanta

March 22: Homestead-Miami

March 29: Texas

April 5: Bristol

April 19: Richmond

April 26: Talladega

May 3: Dover

May 9: Martinsville

May 16: All-Star Race at Charlotte

May 24: Charlotte

May 31: Kansas

June 7: Michigan

June 14: Sonoma

June 21: Chicagoland

June 27: Pocono

June 28: Pocono

July 5: Indianapolis

July 11: Kentucky

July 19: New Hampshire

Aug. 9: Michigan

Aug. 16: Watkins Glen

Aug. 23: Dover

Aug. 29: Daytona

Sept. 6: Darlington

Sept. 12: Richmond

Sept. 19: Bristol

Sept. 27: Las Vegas

Oct. 4: Talladega

Oct. 11: Charlotte

Oct. 18: Kansas

Oct. 25: Texas

Nov. 1: Martinsville

Nov. 8: Phoenix