2019 NASCAR Preview

Patrick Gustavson, Sports Editor

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Sports fans across the country are reeling from the end of football season, but things are just getting revved up for racing fans. In just a mere few days, cars will be on the track at Daytona, marking the start of the 2019 NASCAR season.

The biggest storyline heading into the season in the new aero package. This package, which was used at the 2018 All-Star Race, significantly slowed down the cars, encouraging pack racing and effectively acted as an equalizer.

Some fans are excited to see close, competitive racing on the monotonous intermediate tracks. On the other hand, others believe the skill of the drivers will not matter and the reduced speed will create less exciting racing.

There are many faces in new places entering the season. After the shocking closing of Furniture Row Racing due to lack of funding, Martin Truex Jr. landed at Joe Gibbs Racing driving the number 19, where he will team up with Kyle Busch to create the most feared tandem in the sport. Though the 19 team failed to make the playoffs last season, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn will surely make them championship contenders.

Truex’s move to JGR left youngster Daniel Suarez out of a ride. But Suarez, along with sponsor Arris, moved to Stewart-Haas Racing to replace veteran Kurt Busch. The move drew some criticism as Suarez was not nearly as successful as his teammates at JGR. However, Suarez was thrust into a Cup ride too early due to unforeseen circumstances and is still learning. The situation is comparable to 2018 Champion Joey Logano, who struggled early in his career at Gibbs but rejuvenated his career at Team Penske. Suarez could see this type of improvement at SHR.

As for the elder Busch, he took sponsor Monster Energy to Chip Ganassi Racing, teaming up with Kyle Larson. Busch replaces Jamie McMurray, who is retiring from the sport. Busch is a clear upgrade from McMurray, who showed consistency but had not won a race since 2013. Busch has won at least one race each of the last five seasons and consistently runs up front and will surely be a boost for the struggling team.

Matt DiBenedetto was the driver that received the biggest promotion, moving from Go Fas Racing, who finished last in points for full-time teams, to Leavine Family Racing. LFR switched manufacturers from Chevrolet to Toyota and will now have an alliance with Gibbs, similar to what Furniture Row had. Though it can be expected for the team to have the same levels of success Furniture Row did, they will likely see a marked improvement, competing for top tens on a regular basis.

Though returning to Hendrick Motorsports for the 19th straight year, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson will be experiencing a change for the first time in his illustrious career. Long-time crew chief Chad Knaus has been moved to William Byron’s team, leaving Johnson with a new CC for the first time in his Cup career. Kevin Meendering will be atop the pit box for Johnson, who is coming off the worst season of his career. The question becomes if this change will revitalize the future Hall of Famer’s career.

While Logano will look to repeat, Kyle Busch, Truex and Kevin Harvick will try to dethrone him after to failing to win the championship last season despite winning at least five races apiece.