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POLEPOSITIONMAG.COM

EXTENSIVE

PREVIEWS XFINITY + GANDER RV & OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES

6 Drivers to Watch

Driver Features: Brandon Jones, Harrison Burton, Jordan Anderson, Sheldon Creed, Austin Hill

@NPPMAG

20

2020 PREVIEW

Things to Watch For Previewing a Radically Revamped Schedule Fresh Faces & New Places

HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2020 I 2019 SEASON REWIND I HIGH-TECH TAILGATING I FEARLESS PREDICTIONS NASCAR DEBUTS NEW SPONSORSHIP MODEL I IT’S A DOG’S WORLD, THEY JUST RACE IN IT I BUCKET-LIST EVENTS


2020 PREVI EW

CONTE NT

20 Things to Watch for in 2020 and Beyond 24

2019 CUP SERIES CHAMP KYLE BUSCH P.14

2020 NASCAR CUP SERIES SEASON P.44

BUCKET-LIST EVENTS P.46

2020 FEARLESS PREDICTIONS P.64

WORLD OF NASCAR

02 Green Flag

18 Tailgating

49 Q&A with Brandon Jones

06 NASCAR Hall of Fame

20 Tailgating & Outdoor Gear

50 Harrison Burton

07 2020 Schedules

58 eNASCAR

08 Sponsor News

60 NASCAR Home Tracks

52 6 Drivers to Watch

10 Spotlight

62 2019 Series Standings

53 Q&A with Sheldon Creed

12 NASCAR Pets 16 Season in Review

XFINITY SERIES

48 6 Drivers to Watch

GANDER RV & OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES

54 Austin Hill 56 Jordan Anderson

NASCAR POLE POSITION AN OFFICIALLY LICENSED PUBLICATION OF NASCAR // ADDRESS: 11880 28TH ST. N, SUITE 101 • ST. PETERSBURG, FL 33716 • PHONE: (727) 209-0792 • FAX: (727) 209-1776 // WEB: POLEPOSITIONMAG.COM, AE-ENGINE.COM // PUBLISHER: CRAIG BARONCELLI // SALES VICE PRESIDENT, SALES: DAVID WATSON • NATIONAL ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES: PETER GILCHRIEST, JUSTIN HAND, MARK MORALES, DENNIS FASONE // PRODUCTION ART DIRECTOR: JASON TEDESCHI • GRAPHIC DESIGNER: JOE RABUCK • WEB DEVELOPER: NICOLE COOPER • COPY EDITOR: KEITH WALTZ • EDITOR: DAN GUTTENPLAN • WRITERS: JARED TURNER, KEITH WALTZ, BEN WHITE, JOSEPH WOLKIN, MATTEO MARCHESCHI • OFFICE MANAGER: DENNIS FASONE • SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATORS: AIDAN ANDERSEN, ETHAN ANDERSEN • PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES, NASCAR/GETTY IMAGES • SPECIAL THANKS TO: MICHAEL FORDE (NASCAR), GREG CARTY (NASCAR) // A.E. ENGINE SPECIFIES THAT POST-PRESS CHANGES MAY OCCUR TO ANY INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PUBLICATION AND TAKES NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR GOODS OR SERVICES ADVERTISED. NASCAR® IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR STOCK CAR AUTO RACING, INC. MAIL ORDER: TO RECEIVE A SUBSCRIPTION TO NASCAR POLE POSITION MAGAZINE, SEND A CHECK OR MONEY ORDER FOR $29.95 TO: NASCAR POLE POSITION, C/O A.E. ENGINE, 11880 28TH ST. N, SUITE 101, ST. PETERSBURG, FL 33716. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR RETURN MAILING ADDRESS AND AN EMAIL ADDRESS. ONLINE ORDER: SUBSCRIPTIONS CAN BE ORDERED ONLINE AT POLEPOSITIONMAG.COM/BUY. DISTRIBUTION: IF YOU ARE A BUSINESS OR AN ORGANIZATION INTERESTED IN DISTRIBUTING COPIES OF NASCAR POLE POSITION MAGAZINE, PLEASE CONTACT CRAIG BARONCELLI AT (727) 209-1750 OR CB@AE-ENGINE.COM. SALES INQUIRIES: IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ADVERTISING IN NASCAR POLE POSITION MAGAZINE OR WOULD LIKE TO BECOME A FIELD REPRESENTATIVE, PLEASE CONTACT DAVID WATSON AT (727) 209-0789, OR DKW@AE-ENGINE.COM. PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.


GREEN FLAG BILL SIMPSON REMEMBERED

TV TIME IN 2019

VETERAN DRIVER BILL

KYLE BUSCH LED ALL

Simpson, who made one

NASCAR Cup Series drivers

Indianapolis 500 start

in TV mentions last season,

and was renowned in

with Kevin Harvick, Denny

global motorsports for his

Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and

development of ground-

Joey Logano close behind.

breaking safety equipment, died Dec. 16 in Indianapolis

M O ST- M E N TI O N E D DRIVERS

due to complications from recent health problems. He was 79. Simpson competed as a

competition. He made

The fans have spoken, and the legacy lives on for another year. Hendrick Mo-

52 career Indy-car starts

torsports driver Chase Elliott was named the 2019 NMPA Most Popular Driver during the year-end NASCAR Champion’s Week banquet. The annual award is determined by fan voting, and Elliott, 24, topped the ballot for the second consecutive year. Elliott’s father, Bill, won the award a record 16 times, including 10 consecutive years from 1991-2000. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the award 15 times, consecutively from 2002-17 before his retirement, paving the way for Chase Elliott, who drives the No. 9 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, as the heir apparent. All told, the Earnhardt and Elliott families have held the award for 34 years, nearly all of them consecutively. Only Darrell Waltrip’s back-to-back honors in 1989-90 broke up a run that began in 1984 when Bill Elliott claimed the award for the first time.

between 1968 and 1977. He produced 11 top-10 finishes, including a career best of sixth in the 1970 Milwaukee 200. The Southern California native made his only career start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in the 1974 Indianapolis 500, finishing 13th.

BY DAN GUTTENPLAN

GETTING TO KNOW

CREW MEMBER MIKE MELTON

CHANGING CAREERS

BACK TO SCHOOL

MIKE MELTON,

IN 2010, MELTON

transporter driver for

attended a pit crew

Wood Brothers Racing and

school based in

driver Matt DiBenedetto,

Mooresville, North

attended his first NASCAR

Carolina. Knowing he was

race at Atlanta Motor

older than most coming

MELTON HAS BEEN

Speedway in 1990.

into the sport, he felt his

with Wood Brothers Racing

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

mechanical experience

since the start of the 2019

and a commercial driver’s

season. He shares driving

his family were involved in

license made him a viable

duties with fellow Wood

short-track competition

asset. He was hired by

Brothers driver Chad Kohn.

around the state while

the pit crew school before

growing up in Forest Hill.

moving into NASCAR’s

the country and going to all

garage area.

the places where we race,”

“I was 39 years old when I decided I wanted to do

“I relied on my background

“I do enjoy getting to see

Melton said. “It’s a long

something different,”

as a mechanic and always

year but that’s probably the

Melton said. “I had worked

had my CDL,” Melton said.

most enjoyable part of it.

as a machinist and

“That just kind of got my

Plus, we are all family here

mechanic.”

foot in the door.”

in the garage area.”

02

POLE POSITION 2020

“THIS IS NOT RETIREMENT FROM RACING; THIS IS STEPPING DOWN FROM THE 38 WEEKS A YEAR THAT IT TAKES TO BE COMPETITIVE.”

– JIMMIE JOHNSON

Louisiana native. He and

Racing wasn’t new to the

JOEY LOGANO 2,214

Elliott Named Most Popular Driver

MARTIN TRUEX JR. 2,436

SCCA and USAC Indy-car

DENNY HAMLIN 2,478

formula racing, including in

KYLE BUSCH 2,983

car racing and open-wheel

KEVIN HARVICK 2,591

driver in drag racing, sports


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GREEN FLAG

The Drive for Diversity Class

NASCAR and Rev Racing selected six drivers for this year’s NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program. The team includes:

1

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

At the combine, drivers were evaluated on and off the track. The 10 participants, chosen from over 100 applicants, endured fitness tests and were assessed on marketing and media skills. On the track, they were judged on their skills behind the wheel and proficiencies in Late Model Stock cars. For the media evaluation, each driver had to pretend they just won the Daytona 500 at a post-race news conference.

CHASE CABRE. The 22-year-old from Tampa, Florida, will be with Rev

Racing for his fourth sea-

•• From left to right: Loris Hezemans, Isabella Robusto, Brooke Storer, Ryan Vargas, Lavar Scott, Perry Patino, Nicholas Sanchez, Rajah Caruth, Chase Cabre, Gracie Trotter, NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine at New Smyrna Speedway on Oct. 23, 2019.

son and will compete in the ARCA Menards Series East.

2

RAJAH CARUTH. In just 42 starts, Caruth, 17, of Washington,

D.C., has twice won races in the eNASCAR IGNITE Series.

3

PERRY PATINO. The 20-year-old native of Montgomery,

Alabama, will join Rev Racing for the first time. He won a Limited Late Model championship in 2018.

4

ISABELLA ROBUSTO.

I feel like the (Drive for Diversity Development Program) is working well and making good drivers. It’s tough coming from a different country and a different culture, but I’m very proud to get the opportunity and represent the program in the Cup Series.” – DANIEL SUAREZ

PROCESS OF SELECTION THE DRIVERS were selected from a group of 10 invitees who competed in a two-day combine in October at Daytona International Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway.

The 15-year-old Fort Mill, South Carolina,

native was honored with the Young Racer award during the 2018 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards.

5

NICHOLAS SANCHEZ. The 18-year-old Miami native returns to Rev

Racing for his fourth season after winning at Myrtle Beach and Langley in a Late Model Stock Car in 2019.

6

GRACIE TROTTER. The Denver, North Carolina, native, 18,

returns to Rev Racing as a 2019 Winter Heat Series

•• Rajah Caruth, 17, has two series wins in the eNASCAR IGNITE Series.

champion.

04

POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


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NASCAR HALL OF FAME

CLASS OF 2020 Five Legends of the Sport

The Class of 2020 Induction Weekend is set for Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

BY DAN GUTTENPLAN

TONY STEWART

JOE GIBBS

Known for his blue-collar, hard-nosed style of competition,

Joe Gibbs has won throughout his life. The three-time Super

Tony Stewart won his first Cup Series championship in 2002 driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and answered that quickly in 2005. His versatility was on display throughout his 17-year NASCAR career. He tallied 49 victories in the Cup Series – winning on every style of track. In 2009, Stewart became a team owner, partnering with Gene Haas. He won 16 times as a driver/owner, including one of the most memorable championship pursuits in history in 2011 when he won five of the 10 playoff races.

Bowl champion football coach started Joe Gibbs Racing in 1992 and has led the organization to five NASCAR Cup Series championships and five Xfinity Series titles. Gibbs’ biggest career wins include three Daytona 500 victories and five Brickyard 400 triumphs. His Cup Series titles have come with three different drivers: Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and ’05) and Kyle Busch (2015 and ‘19). Referred to in NASCAR circles simply as “Coach,” Gibbs was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

BOBBY LABONTE

BUDDY BAKER

BOBBY LABONTE GOT HIS FIRST BREAK AS A

IN 1980, THE CHARLOTTE, NORTH

WILSON POWERED AND GUIDED CARS TO

full-time Cup Series driver at 28 years old in

Carolina, native won the Daytona 500 with an

some of the biggest victories in NASCAR history.

1993. His persistence paid off with a career

average race speed of 177.602 mph – a track

As an engine builder, he supplied the power that

highlighted by 21 trips to Victory Lane and the

record that still stands. That same year, Baker

helped David Pearson (1968 and ’69) and Benny

2000 Cup Series title. A winner in all three of

became the first NASCAR driver to eclipse the

Parsons (1973) to Cup Series titles. Wilson guided

NASCAR’s national series, Labonte was the first

200-mph mark on a closed course. He won 19

three cars to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 as a

of four drivers to win both Cup and Xfinity Series

races in the Cup Series, including a victory in the

crew chief, winning with Buddy Baker (1980) and

championships.

1970 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Cale Yarborough (1983 and ’84).

06

POLE POSITION 2020

WADDELL WILSON

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


2020 SCHEDULES

XFINITY SERIES Saturday, Feb. 15 Saturday, Feb. 22 Saturday, Feb. 29 Saturday, March 7 Saturday, March 14 Saturday, March 21 Saturday, March 28 Saturday, April 4 Saturday, April 25 Saturday, May 2 Saturday, May 23 Saturday, May 30 Saturday, June 6 Saturday, June 13 Saturday, June 20 Sunday, June 28 Saturday, July 4 Friday, July 10 Saturday, July 18 Saturday, Aug. 1 Saturday, Aug. 8 Saturday, Aug. 15 Saturday, Aug. 22

Daytona International Speedway Las Vegas Motor Speedway Auto Club Speedway ISM Raceway Atlanta Motor Speedway Homestead-Miami Speedway Texas Motor Speedway Bristol Motor Speedway Talladega Superspeedway Dover International Speedway Charlotte Motor Speedway Mid-Ohio Michigan International Speedway Iowa Speedway Chicagoland Speedway Pocono Raceway Indianapolis Motor Speedway Kentucky Speedway New Hampshire Motor Speedway Iowa Speedway Road America Watkins Glen International Dover International Speedway

NASCAR CUP SERIES Sunday, Feb. 9 Thursday, Feb. 13 Sunday, Feb. 16 Sunday, Feb. 23 Sunday, March 1 Sunday, March 8 Sunday, March 15 Sunday, March 22 Sunday, March 29 Sunday, April 5 Sunday, April 19 Sunday, April 26 Sunday, May 3 Saturday, May 9 Saturday, May 16 Sunday, May 24 Sunday, May 31 Sunday, June 7 Sunday, June 14 Sunday, June 21 Saturday, June 27 Sunday, June 28 Sunday, July 5 Saturday, July 11 Sunday, July 19 Sunday, Aug. 9 Sunday, Aug. 16 Sunday, Aug. 23 Saturday, Aug. 29 Sunday, Sept. 6 Saturday, Sept. 12 Saturday, Sept. 19 Sunday, Sept. 27 Sunday, Oct. 4 Sunday, Oct. 11 Sunday, Oct. 18 Sunday, Oct. 25 Sunday, Nov. 1 Sunday, Nov. 8

The Clash Duels at Daytona Daytona 500 Las Vegas Motor Speedway Auto Club Speedway ISM Raceway Atlanta Motor Speedway Homestead-Miami Speedway Texas Motor Speedway Bristol Motor Speedway Richmond Raceway Talladega Superspeedway Dover International Speedway Martinsville Speedway All-Star Race at Charlotte Charlotte Motor Speedway Kansas Speedway Michigan International Speedway Sonoma Raceway Chicagoland Speedway Pocono Raceway Pocono Raceway Indianapolis Motor Speedway Kentucky Speedway New Hampshire Motor Speedway Michigan International Speedway Watkins Glen International Dover International Speedway Daytona International Speedway Darlington Raceway Richmond Raceway Bristol Motor Speedway Las Vegas Motor Speedway Talladega Superspeedway Charlotte Motor Speedway Kansas Speedway Texas Motor Speedway Martinsville Speedway ISM Raceway

Friday, Aug. 28 Saturday, Sept. 5 Friday, Sept. 11 Friday, Sept. 18 Saturday, Sept. 26 Saturday, Oct. 10 Saturday, Oct. 17 Saturday, Oct. 24 Saturday, Oct. 31 Saturday, Nov. 7

Daytona International Speedway Darlington Raceway Richmond Raceway Bristol Motor Speedway Las Vegas Motor Speedway Charlotte Roval Kansas Speedway Texas Motor Speedway Martinsville Speedway ISM Raceway

GANDER OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES Friday, Feb. 14 Friday, Feb. 21 Saturday, March 14 Friday, March 20 Friday, March 27 Saturday, April 18 Friday, May 1 Friday, May 15 Saturday, May 30 Friday, June 5 Friday, June 12 Friday, June 19 Saturday, June 27 Thursday, July 9 Thursday, July 30 Saturday, Aug. 8 Friday, Aug. 21 Sunday, Sept. 6 Thursday, Sept. 17 Friday, Sept. 25 Saturday, Oct. 3 Friday, Oct. 30 Friday, Nov. 6

Daytona International Speedway Las Vegas Motor Speedway Atlanta Motor Speedway Homestead-Miami Speedway Texas Motor Speedway Richmond Raceway Dover International Speedway Charlotte Motor Speedway Kansas Speedway Texas Motor Speedway Iowa Speedway Chicagoland Speedway Pocono Raceway Kentucky Speedway Eldora Speedway Michigan International Speedway Gateway Motorsports Park Canadian Tire Motorsports Park Bristol Motor Speedway Las Vegas Motor Speedway Talladega Superspeedway Martinsville Speedway ISM Raceway

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES

POLE POSITION MAG.COM

07


SPONSOR NEWS

NASCAR Debuts New Sponsorship Model BY DAN GUTTENPLAN

I

n a historic shift for the sport, this season NASCAR’s premier series will be known as the NASCAR Cup Series and will feature four cornerstone brands as Premier Partners – Busch Beer, Coca-Cola, GEICO and Xfinity.

In addition to the establishment of the Premier Partner positions, this significant shift will provide many strategic benefits to the industry, including greater activation opportunities for brands across the sport. NASCAR’s inaugural grouping of Premier Partners will play a key role in consumer marketing and fan development initiatives moving forward. The new model includes premium assets for each Premier Partner to engage the most brand-loyal fans in sports throughout the season. Premier Partners will collectively own a presence connected to the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race and NASCAR All-Star Race. Additionally, all four partners will be prominently featured in multiple platforms across the sport, including integrations in broadcast, NASCAR digital and social channels, event entitlements, in-market promotions and at-track activations. Busch Beer returned as a NASCAR Official Partner in 2018. The deal provided the beer brand exclusive

sponsorship of the Busch Pole Award, a position it will continue to maintain throughout its Premier Partnership. Additionally, Busch Beer will sponsor a NASCAR Cup Series event this year. Coca-Cola has been involved with stock car racing for 50 years and became a NASCAR Official Partner in 1998. As a Premier Partner, Coca-Cola will continue its sponsorship of both NASCAR Troops to the Track and NASCAR Salutes, the portion of the season focused on highlighting industrywide appreciation of the U.S. Armed Forces. Coca-Cola will also continue to own race entitlements at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway. Additionally, Coca-Cola becomes the presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season championship trophy. GEICO’s involvement in NASCAR spans more than a decade and the company became the Official Insurance Provider of NASCAR last season. As one of the most fully integrated brands in the sport, GEICO will enhance its existing assets through its Premier Partnership and become the presenting partner of a season phase. Comcast’s Xfinity brand entered the sport with a landmark 10-year partner agreement in 2015, positioned as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Official Entertainment Partner of NASCAR. As a Premier Partner, Xfinity will maintain its Xfinity Series sponsorship. Xfinity will also sponsor the Championship 4 elimination race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Martinsville Speedway.

Let’s Make a Deal

NASCAR ADDS OFFICIAL BRAND SPONSORS

NASCAR AND DIXIE VODKA AGREED TO A

NASCAR INKED A MULTI-YEAR PARTNERSHIP

NASCAR AND MARS, INC. AGREED TO A

multi-year official partnership, designating the

with HotelPlanner, designating the company

multi-year extension, continuing the iconic candy

American-made craft spirit brand as the Official

as the Official Online Booking Partner of

manufacturer’s long-standing partnership and

Vodka of NASCAR. Central to the agreement,

NASCAR. As a key part of the sponsorship,

designation as the Official Chocolate of NASCAR.

Dixie Vodka will sponsor the NASCAR Cup Series

HotelPlanner will have a customized hotel

The renewed agreement ensures Mars’ various

race at Homestead-Miami Speedway this

booking platform on NASCAR.com, enabling

brands remain a race-day staple. Central to Mars’

season, celebrating the track’s 25th anniversary.

the industry and fans to conveniently book

2019 activation was its first M&M’s Glampground,

Dixie Vodka is the largest premium craft vodka

hotels for upcoming race weekends at the

an experiential marketing platform that set a new

produced in the Southeast.

lowest available price.

standard for lifestyle brands in NASCAR.

08

POLE POSITION 2020


•• NASCAR Cup Series Premier Partners

BLUEGREEN VACATIONS CORP., A LEADING

ADVANCE AUTO PARTS AND TEAM PENSKE

HERTZ, ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST

vacation ownership company, will be the

agreed to a multi-year partnership that

vehicle rental companies, extended its

entitlement sponsor for the 150-mile qualifying

will begin in the 2020 season. Advance will

sponsorship of 12-time NASCAR Cup Series

races for the Daytona 500 at Daytona

be featured as the primary sponsor on the

champions Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 24

International Speedway. The races will be known

No. 12 Ford Mustang driven by Ryan Blaney

Chevrolet Camaro team of driver William Byron.

as the Bluegreen Vacations Duel At Daytona.

at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 15,

As part of the new two-year agreement, Hertz

Scheduled for Feb. 13, the pair of 150-mile

Richmond Raceway on April 19, Watkins Glen

will continue as a primary sponsor of Byron’s

qualifying races will finalize the starting lineup for

International on Aug. 16 and at Bristol Motor

No. 24 team in four points-paying Cup Series

the 62nd annual Daytona 500.

Speedway on Sept. 19.

races annually.

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES

POLE POSITION MAG.COM

09


SPOTLIGHT

Fresh Faces and New Places

Want to know the secret to having a ride in the NASCAR Cup Series? Winning. Want to be replaced? Go a whole year without winning. BY JARED TURNER Such was the formula that shaped the 2019-20 “Silly Season,” as all 12 of the full-time NASCAR Cup Series drivers who went to Victory Lane in 2019 will return with their respective teams. Meanwhile, four drivers who were winless – Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, Daniel Suarez and Daniel Hemric – were dismissed at season’s end. DiBenedetto’s seat at Leavine Family Racing will be filled by rookie Christopher Bell, who won eight races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last season. Suarez’s old seat at Stewart-Haas Racing will belong to rookie Cole Custer, who rang up seven Xfinity Series victories in 2019. Hemric’s former seat at Richard Childress Racing will be occupied by rookie Tyler Reddick, who captured six victories on the way to the 2019 Xfinity Series championship. Stenhouse is being replaced at Roush Fenway Racing by Chris Buescher, who, coincidentally, did not win a race in 2019 with JTG Daugherty Racing. Stenhouse managed to land on his feet, though, essentially swapping rides with Buescher when JTG Daugherty named him the driver of Buescher’s old car. DiBenedetto was equally fortunate, being tapped to fill the seat of Wood Brothers Racing’s No. 21 Ford after Paul Menard retired at the end of 2019. As of press time, however, Suarez was looking for work, while Hemric had secured only a part-time Xfinity Series ride with JR Motorsports.

•• Daniel Hemric will drive select NASCAR Xfinity Series races for JR Motorsports.

Fab Four

When it comes to old or new faces in new places for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, four drivers stand out above the rest.

10

POLE POSITION 2020

COLE CUSTER: The

MATT DIBENEDETTO:

TYLER REDDICK: If any

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.:

biggest winner of “Silly

No one is more thankful

driver is ready to move

Stenhouse endured a roller-

Season” was Custer,

for their 2020 ride than

up, it’s Reddick, a winner

coaster ride over his decade

who will take over the

DiBenedetto, who in

of back-to-back Xfinity

at Roush Fenway Racing,

No. 41 Stewart-Haas

spite of less-than-elite

Series titles the past two

once even getting benched

Racing car driven last

equipment last season

years – the first with JR

by team owner Jack Roush

season by Daniel Suarez.

recorded three top-five

Motorsports and the sec-

for tearing up too much

Custer, who won nine

and seven top-10 finishes.

ond with Richard Childress

equipment. He won Xfin-

races over three full

DiBenedetto is thrilled to

Racing. Reddick, whose

ity Series titles for the

seasons in the Xfinity

be joining a Wood Brothers

2019 championship season

company in 2011 and 2012.

Series, moves up with an

group that is NASCAR’s

was far more dominant

That led to a promotion to

organization that has won

longest continuously

than the one he enjoyed in

NASCAR’s top series where

two premier series titles

operating team. “I don’t

2018 with JRM, strategi-

he spent seven seasons

in the past 11 years and

even have the words to

cally positioned himself for

but won only twice before

become a staple of the

describe how thankful I

this opportunity by joining

being let go and joining JTG

Championship 4.

am!!” DiBenedetto tweeted.

RCR’s Xfinity program.

Daugherty Racing.

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


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NASCAR PETS

It’s a Dog’s World

RYAN BLANEY AND STURGILL

THEY JUST RACE IN IT BY JOSEPH WOLKIN

WE ALL KNOW NASCAR DRIVERS LOVE THEIR dogs. Let’s meet some of their four-legged best friends. ■■ Ryan Blaney’s dog, Sturgill, decided to join the fun during a photo shoot for Team Penske sponsor BODYARMOR. (Photo: Ryan Blaney’s Twitter) ■■ Daniel Hemric’s dog Millie is full of personality but small enough for Hemric to take her on the road each weekend to the race track. ■■ Kyle Busch’s son, Brexton, poses on Halloween with the family’s dog, Piper. Brexton originally wanted to name the dog Optimus Prime. (Photo: Kyle Busch’s Instagram) ■■ Jimmie Johnson has a new family member. Meet Charlie, a Jack Russell Terrier, who Johnson calls “Charles Meatball.” (Photo: Jimmie Johnson Foundation’s Twitter) ■■ Team owner and former NASCAR champion Tony Stewart takes a selfie with his pet pig, Porkchop. (Photo: Tony Stewart’s Twitter) ■■ Shogun the Labradoodle works closely with the NASCAR Pole Position staff.

JIMMIE JOHNSON AND CHARLIE BREXTON BUSCH AND PIPER

DANIEL HEMRIC AND MILLIE

12

POLE POSITION 2020

TONY STEWART AND PORKCHOP

SHOGUN


■■ A photo of Chase Briscoe’s dog, Ricky, was on his No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford last season thanks to sponsorship from Nutri Chomps. (Photo: Chase Briscoe’s Twitter) ■■ Good luck finding a driver in NASCAR today who is more into pets than Alex Bowman. Here he poses with his Lab, Finn. (Photo: Chris Stanford / Nationwide)

ALEX BOWMAN AND FINN RICKY PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES

POLE POSITION MAG.COM

13


Kyle Busch: Second Cup Series Championship Overcomes Mid-Season Slump to Win 2019 Title

An old adage holds that it’s not how you start but how you finish. For Kyle Busch in 2019, it was both. BY JARED TURNER

k

yle Busch started the year on fire, amassing top-10 finishes in each of the first 11 races and going to Victory Lane four times in the first 14 events. In the process, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned enough playoff points to all but guarantee his entry into the season-ending Championship 4, regardless of what happened the rest of the way. As it turned out, Busch needed every point he earned. That’s because after cruising to a commanding victory at Pocono Raceway on June 2, he went surprisingly winless over the next 21 races. Stage wins were hard to come by during that stretch, too. It wasn’t until the season’s final race, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, that the driver of the No. 18 Toyota ended his dry spell. And with that win came his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Talk about picking a good time to break out of a slump. “To have the beginning part of the season that we had and then to kind of lose whatever we lost through the last third and save

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POLE POSITION 2020

the best for last and to come into Homestead and score the win and score the championship, that’s what it’s all about,” Busch said. Did Busch really save his best for last? The answer is mostly a matter of perspective. Compared to the first three-and-a-half months of the season, Busch’s performance at Homestead was par for the course and practically to be expected. But compared to the four-and-a-half months leading up to Homestead, Busch certainly raised his game in the season-ending event, where he raced Kevin Harvick and teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. for the championship. “It’s not, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ It’s, ‘What can you do for me now?’” Busch said, referring to his clutch performance at Homestead, which turned out to be the site of his only victory in the playoffs. Had Busch not come out of the gate swinging in 2019 and piled up so many playoff points for race wins and stage wins over the season’s early months, the lengthy drought that he endured from PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


early summer to late fall might have stood in the way of him even making the Championship 4. However, Busch not only made it to Homestead to compete for a championship; he won it – and now everyone gets to spend the short offseason pondering how Busch somehow managed to bring home NASCAR’s biggest prize in a season that featured one of the most frustrating stretches of his career. All this goes to prove that when it comes to NASCAR’s premier series, a championship can be won by both starting well and finishing well. If there’s a bit of a hiccup somewhere in between, it can be overcome. Or so it was, at least, for Busch and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team, whose five wins on the season were fewer than the number of victories recorded by JGR teammates Truex (seven) and Hamlin (six). “There’s not a number of wins that makes your season successful,” Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens said. “What makes your season successful is winning the championship. Unless you win every single race, you left something on the table, because we have the tools at our disposal to go out and win on any given weekend. “You have to keep that kind of stuff in stride or in mind that it’s not always going to go your way, and it might go for a stretch and make it seem easy, kind of like it did at the beginning of the year, and it might go for a stretch and make it seem hard.”

A Chat with the Champ

I

It’s not, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ It’s, ‘What can you do for me now?’”

– KYLE BUSCH

For Stevens, the hardest part of not winning from early June to mid-November was knowing there were times when Busch had cars capable of going to Victory Lane. Good fortune wasn’t on their side, however. “It wasn’t because we weren’t fast,” Stevens said. “It wasn’t because we weren’t prepared. They just didn’t go our way. And there were some things that we could have done better and some circumstances that happened. It’s just the way that racing is. It felt a little bit like that.” Now, as the short winter awaits the NASCAR world, Busch and his No. 18 bunch couldn’t be feeling any better about what they accomplished in 2019 – even if there were a few bumps in the road.

going to be a while until I get there.

I’ve been teammates to Denny

I need to get to the likes of Darrell

Hamlin and some other great race

Waltrip and Tony Stewart, who have

car drivers. It’s continued to evolve

t’s rare for Kyle Busch, the man

WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH

three, and Jeff Gordon with four.

my game and make me better.

who won the 2015 NASCAR

YOUR MIND WHEN YOU CAME

Nobody has five or six besides the

WHEN YOU MADE THE MOVE TO

Cup Series championship

TO THE CHECKERED FLAG AT

guys who have seven, so it would be

JGR AND TOYOTA, WERE YOU A

HOMESTEAD?

pretty cool to get within that window

BIT CONCERNED SINCE IT WAS

and close that gap.

THE FIRST YEAR OF THAT DEAL?

after missing 11 races, to enter any battle as an underdog. But

It was just a relief, as well as some

that’s what happened during the

excitement. Knowing how much

HOW HAVE YOU GROWN SINCE

2019 Championship 4 battle at

work and effort it takes, and the

YOUR DAYS AT HENDRICK

and worried about the situation.

Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Yeah. You’re always a little hesitant

success we’ve had, you always

MOTORSPORTS AND WHEN YOU

Everybody thinks the grass is

In a year of highs and lows, with

dream of these moments and

WERE A ROOKIE?

always greener on the other side.

wife Samantha and son Brexton by

being able to accomplish them.

his side, Busch secured NASCAR

Sometimes, when you do accomplish

to grow, learn, evolve and mature

We had some early success at JGR,

Cup Series championship No. 2.

them, it’s a little bit of a shock at

through every experience of every

some issues and success again. We

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO KNOW THAT

first. You have to take it all in.

day, month and year. From my

strive to get better.

YOU AND BREXTON WILL NEVER

YOU GET COMPARED TO JEFF

early days, we had limited success,

WHAT ARE YOU UP TO THIS

FORGET THAT RIDE AROUND

GORDON, DALE EARNHARDT

but we did have some success at

WINTER?

THE TRACK AT HOMESTEAD-

AND JIMMIE JOHNSON QUITE

Hendrick Motorsports. I had some

MIAMI SPEEDWAY?

OFTEN. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO

fun racing with Jeff and Jimmie. I

and the banquet in Nashville. I’m

BE IN THOSE CONVERSATIONS?

felt like I was the outcast and the

fortunate to spend some downtime

Those guys are way ahead of me.

young guy who wasn’t winning as

with Samantha and Brexton. It’s

I’m certainly hoping he can remember all of that. I’m trying

I’ve grown a ton. You continue

Sometimes, it is. Sometimes, it isn’t.

It’s a little busy with the trips

to think back to when my earliest

I don’t think it’s time for me to be

much as those guys. It was a bit

such a busy year and there’s so

memories were. Hopefully, this

entered into their conversation. Dale

intimidating being with them. Once

many things going on. It’s nice to

sticks with him. If not, there’s plenty

Earnhardt, Richard Petty and Jimmie

I moved over to Joe Gibbs Racing,

chill and relax to have that family

of cool videos that we’ll be able to

Johnson all earned seven. They’re

I felt comfortable and was able to

time together.

show him.

the top echelon of our sport, and it’s

race with Tony Stewart for a year.

BY JOSEPH WOLKIN POLE POSITION MAG.COM

15


SEASON REWIND

2019 SEASON IN REVIEW Action Across the Board in NASCAR Series BY JOSEPH WOLKIN

T

he various tiers of NASCAR racing – from the Xfinity Series to the international divisions – had plenty of action-packed competition during the 2019 season.

From young guns trying to make a name for themselves to seasoned veterans returning to the top of their respective divisions, it was a memorable year for NASCAR racing at every level. NASCAR Xfinity Series: For the first time, three Xfinity Series regulars won three or more races. The “Big Three,” as they became known, were preparing to move to the Cup Series, but before they made the jump Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer battled as hard as any trio in series history. When all was said and done, Reddick, piloting the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, won at HomesteadMiami Speedway to claim the title. He became the first driver to win the championship with different teams in consecutive seasons.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series:

When Matt Crafton crossed the finish line at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, he couldn’t help but trash talk former series champion Todd Bodine, who

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POLE POSITION 2020

said the No. 88 team was an underdog. But Crafton, who failed to find Victory Lane in 2019, proved Bodine and just about everyone else wrong, defeating a hardcharging Ross Chastain, Brett Moffitt and Stewart Friesen to pick up his third Truck Series title. ARCA Menards Series: Christian Eckes showed his raw talent during the ARCA season, adding to Venturini Motorsports’ impressive history by winning four races and the series championship. While teammate Michael Self came close to edging Eckes, it was the 18-year-old who came out on top of the title fight. NASCAR K&N Pro Series East: GMS Racing continues to be the team to beat in the Pro Series East. This time around, it was Sam Mayer who dominated the schedule in the team’s No. 21 Chevrolet. The action-packed season also included impressive performances by Joe Gibbs’ grandson, Ty Gibbs, as well as former NHRA champion Tanner Gray. NASCAR K&N Pro Series West: Derek Kraus and his Bill McAnally Racing team were in a league of their own, and simply took control of the Pro Series West. BMR teammate and sophomore sensation Hailie Deegan also had an impressive season.

NASCAR Whelen Modified Series: Doug Coby returned to the top of the Modified division, earning series championship No. 6. He held off Justin Bonsignore by a mere eight points, enough to stop car No. 51 from winning two straight titles. NASCAR Whelen Euro Series: Alon Day entered the 2019 campaign looking to break the Euro Series record for victories. While he was close and will likely top the mark this season, it was Dutchman Loris Hezemans who captured the championship thanks to four victories and a late-season charge. NASCAR Pinty’s Series: Andrew Ranger captured his first Pinty’s Series title in a decade on the strength of four series victories. L.P. Dumoulin and Jason Hathaway each earned a pair of wins, but they were no match for Ranger. NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series: Heading into the Dec. 1 season finale, two-time series champion Ruben Garcia Jr. had won four races and held a 30-point lead over two-time race winner Salvador de Alba Jr. in the championship chase.

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


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TAILGATING

Tailgating Goes High-Tech

Tailgating at a NASCAR event used to mean parking, popping open the trunk and grabbing a cooler full of snacks to indulge in before heading inside the track. There really wasn’t a lot more to it. Boy, how times have changed.

BY JARED TURNER

Thanks to modern advancements in technology over the past few years, tailgating – at least for many NASCAR fans – has become a high-tech, interactive experience that requires significant preparation and far more than a cooler, a canopy and a charcoal grill to be successful. “Technology, the products, the ease of products, the mobility of products has all changed even in the last three to five years,” said Tailgater Magazine publisher Craig Renfro, who has attended and observed numerous tailgates at NASCAR tracks over the past twoand-a-half decades. “And you throw in the technology of Wi-Fi. They have these pellet grills now that you can control through an app on your phone that will turn it on, turn it off, set the temperature, give you an alert if you need to go check on your pellet. Unlike back in the old days where you had to stand there and watch the fire and make sure everything’s going smooth with it, you can sit there and visit with your friends and have a couple of cocktails and be watching the game on your satellite TV or whatever and get an alert on your phone that makes you go, ‘Oh, I’m getting an alert on my phone. I need to go add pellets, because my brisket’s been cooking for about seven hours and it still shows we’ve got a couple hours to go but we’re running low on fuel here.’ That is one thing that has been very big as far as how the technology has come along with tailgating.” While some old-school fans still prefer to keep their tailgating simple, Renfro has found that the vast majority of NASCAR fans now prefer to utilize the most up-to-date technological innovations in their tailgating experience. Take, for example, the satellite TV. “I know that it’s been around for a few years now but the

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POLE POSITION 2020

affordability of some of these products has changed,” Renfro said. “DISH just came out with a product called, ‘The Tailgater,’ and it is your basic affordable satellite TV dish that you can take and go anywhere as long as you’ve got the DISH equipment with it. They actually have a plan called your ‘Tailgater RV Pay as You Go.’ You can say, ‘Hey, we’re going to be out at the race track for the weekend and we know the race is Sunday, but we want to have the college games on Saturday and whatever else we want to be watching the rest of the time out there.’ You just call DISH up, get it set up, they plug you in and you’re set for 30 days. And then when you’re ready to cancel it, you say, ‘I don’t need it for the next 30 days,’ and it sits there dormant until you’re ready to reactivate it.” Renfro calls such modern-day tailgating amenities “your basic creature comforts.” “It’s like taking your backyard to the parking lot, because with the mobility of these products, these pellet grills that weigh 40 or 50 pounds that you can put in the back of your truck or your RV or whatever, technology sets it up where you really just plug and play and you don’t have to pay any attention to it,” Renfro explained.

What makes NASCAR tailgating unique is it gives you the ability to kind of camp out there on the premises and literally make it like a three- or four-day vacation. That is not conducive for the other sports where tailgating occurs.”

– CRAIG RENFRO


TAILGATING MUST-DOS

The six things NASCAR Tailgaters must do, according to Craig Renfro.

1

“FIRST AND FOREMOST, YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE A FLAG FOR YOUR DRIVER AND YOU’VE GOT TO BE SPORTING THAT FLAG

IN WHATEVER VARIETY OR FORM THAT YOU HAVE. They have these things called the flagpole

buddies – you don’t have to attach it to anything. Sporting the true colors for your favorite driver is one thing that you absolutely have to do.”

2

“YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE YOUR CHECKLIST OF ITEMS THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE BRINGING AND A GO-TO

BOX THAT HAS MY TONGS, MY SPATULAS, MY PAPER PLATES, NAPKINS, PAPER TOWELS. Preparation is what is key to doing

any tailgate. You need a supply bag, and a trash bag is certainly going to be key, because your mother doesn’t work there and she’s not going to be there to pick up after you.”

5

“WHILE YOU’RE SITTING THERE COOKING AND DRINKING ALL DAY, ANY TRUE TAILGATER – IF YOU’RE

CONSUMING ALCOHOL – YOU’VE GOT TO BE CONSUMING WATER, TOO. Stay in control,

stay in the game. Yeah, we all like to have a good time but be responsible, because at the end of the day, the worst thing you want to do is get out of control and impede someone else’s fun.”

3

“I ALWAYS TELL PEOPLE: ‘YOU’VE GOT TO

6

“BE RESPECTFUL OF THOSE AROUND YOU. You’re going to have all types in NASCAR. To me, it’s a good melting pot,

but be respectful of the people around you.

BRING SOME TYPE OF GAMES WHETHER

Don’t play your music full blast at 3 o’clock in

IT’S CORNHOLE BOARD, A FRISBEE, RING

the morning. Use common sense and treat

TOSS, HORSESHOES, WHATEVER THE CASE

people like you’d like to be treated and you can

MAY BE.’ If you’re going to be out there all day,

get around pretty good with everyone.”

people are going to want to get up after sitting and chewing the fat for a while. They want to have some fun and do some things.”

4

“DO AS MUCH WORK AS YOU CAN AT HOME BEFORE YOU GO OUT TO THE TAILGATE. For instance, if you know

you’re going to be cooking burgers one of the nights, have your burgers already preformed, have your lettuce chopped, your onions sliced, your tomatoes sliced. That way, you’ve got it all put up in storage bags ready for ease of use and you don’t have to sit there at the event itself and be doing all that.”

POLE POSITION MAG.COM

19


PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT

Gear for Tailgating and the Outdoors The key to any successful tailgate is having the right gear. Whether it’s equipment for cooking, sitting, sleeping or just enjoying the racing scene, the right gear can do wonders to enhance the experience. Your friends at NASCAR Pole Position have some recommendations to take your tailgate to the next level. CHAMA CHAIRS INTRODUCING CHAMA, THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY’S first premium All-Terrain Swivel Chair. CHAMA quietly swivels 360 degrees, levels to any un-level terrain, converts

BUZZBOX

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ELEVATE YOUR

Finally, it’s the durable, lightweight high-performance

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CHAMA is making other outdoor chairs obsolete. CHAMA

to-drink cocktails

chairs are constructed of premium materials that make

in single-serving

them extremely lightweight (unbelievable 8 lbs.), incredibly

boxes. They are made

durable, remarkably compact and amazingly quiet.

with top-quality spirits, handcrafted ingredients and real fresh juices. Each cocktail is 12-14% Alcohol by Volume. Just Shake it Baby!™ and pour over ice or sip through the spout or attached straw. Six delicious cocktail choices. Sold in singles, 4-packs and cases of 24. Find your closest retailer on our website – buzzbox.com. TIMBERLEAF TRAILERS TIMBERLEAF TRAILERS, BASED IN WESTERN Colorado, is a company building premium Teardrop Trailers for camping in luxury and style. Available in three different suspension outfits from mild to wild, the trailers can be outfitted for any adventure or road that lay ahead. Starting at $12,800, with customizable exterior colors and countertops, each trailer is hand-built just for you. Visit timberleaftrailers.com for more information. W I N E G A R D D I S H P L AY M A K E R THE DISH PLAYMAKER IS ALWAYS READY TO PLAY FOR you. From Daytona to Las Vegas, race fans will never miss any pre-race or race coverage with this portable satellite TV antenna. Powered by Winegard, it offers pay-asyou-go programming or can be added to your current service for crystal clear, coast-to-coast viewing. The lightweight antenna easily sets up with a DISH HD Solo receiver for instant race action. Manufactured in the USA, the DISH Playmaker offers race fans the best of tailgating. winegard.com/playmaker

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POLE POSITION 2020


B E A R PA W S M E AT S H R E D D E R BEAR PAWS ARE A LONGTIME FAVORITE OF GRILL masters! These are the original ultra-sharp and heatresistant, nylon, meat-shredding claws. Stop shredding with forks and go ahead and channel your inner grizzly. Experience the power and ease of Bear Paws to lift, carry, and shred your favorite meat, cleanly and quickly. Food-safe, dishwasher-safe and ready to rock-and-roll whenever and wherever you are! Made with pride in the USA. TA I L G AT E R T I R E TA B L E WHEN EVERY INCH OF SPACE IN YOUR RIG MATTERS, the Original Tailgater Tire Table is a must-have for when you need an extra surface for your cold drinks or hot pans. It attaches to any of your vehicle’s tires, including the spare, and comes fully assembled with all pieces secured. Weighing 12 lbs., it is easily maneuvered and can be tucked away and stored flat for your next adventure without wasting valuable space. Works regardless of flat or uneven ground, holds up to 50 lbs. and creates a sturdy, usable surface area anytime you need it. There’s also a retractable leg for extra support. Learn more and see photos in action at TailGaterTireTable.com. V I N TA G E O V E R L A N D T U C O VINTAGE OVERLAND CURRENTLY OFFERS THREE models of caravans and several additions. 2020 will bring a few new exciting items and features so stay tuned for that! The Tuco, named for Eli Wallach’s character in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, is the smallest. It features a UV aluminum exterior, LED lights, solar panel, vintage-style details, memory-foam mattress and Baltic birch interior (that’s where the Danish design comes in).

TA N K T I R E TANK TIRE IS A FLEXIBLE RUBBER RING that easily fits on to the bottom of propane tanks to prevent rust rings and surface damage caused by rusty propane tank foot rings. Tank Tire is a safe, easy-to-use solution to prevent propane tanks from damaging every surface they come into contact with.

POLE POSITION MAG.COM

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PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT P O R TA B L E B U D DY THE PORTABLE BUDDY IS A PATENTED, radiant 4,000-9,000 BTU Propane heater that connects to a 1 lb. cylinder and is the perfect solution for heating enclosed spaces like large tents up to 225 square feet, as well as ice-fishing shelters, tailgating and workshops. With the Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) and accidental

GET MORE USE OUT OF YOUR TIRES. Perfect for Tailgating, Camping, Motorhomes, Trailers, Overland Excursions, & 4 Wheeling

tip-over safety shut-off, you can be sure that you will enjoy years of comfortable safe heat. EZ FLAME BBQ EZ FLAME BBQ HAS REINVENTED THE Charcoal Chimney. The EZ Start® eliminates lighter fluid, which is smelly and dangerous. Instead of newspaper, insert the EcoStart® disk into the chimney, load your charcoal and light the disk. When fully ignited simply lift the chimney up and the coals drop out into a uniform pile leaving no newspaper ashes to blow around. This is perfect for tailgating venues that do not allow lighter fluid. FLAME BOSS 500 WIFI SMOKER CONTROLLER

Tailgater Tire Table is a steel, durable, portable travel table that uses a vehicles tire or trailer tire for its main support.

THE FLAME BOSS 500 WIFI SMOKER CONtroller monitors up to three meat temperatures and includes a large LCD display with four lines of cook details. It can be comfortably viewed on a table/counter or when mounted on a vertical surface. Includes base magnet for mounting without

 STABLE REGARDLESS OF GROUND CONDITIONS

fasteners. Monitor meat temps and control your

 RETRACTABLE LEG FOR EXTRA SUPPORT

Boss mobile app for iOS & Android.

 STEEL POWDER COATING

grill adapters, (1) high-temperature meat probe,

 ATTACHES TO ALL TIRES, INCLUDING REAR SPARE

organizers and a power supply.

pit temp from anywhere using WiFi and the Flame Kit Includes: WiFi controller with blower and (1) high temperature pit probe, (2) probe cord

 EASILY HOLDS UP TO 50 POUNDS  ALL PARTS ARE STORED ON TABLE  FITS TIRES 13” UP TO 46” G R AT E C H E F G R I L L W I P E S GRATE CHEF GRILL WIPES ARE DESIGNED TO BE used on a hot grill grate by being preloaded with the same high temperature cooking oil used in restaurants across the U.S. Grate Chef Grill Wipes are available in the following stores nationwide – The Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, Publix, Albertson’s, Safeway and more. Grate Chef Grill Wipes sell for $3.29 and are a one-time use/disposable wipe, and there are six wipes in each pack. Once you Grate Chef Grill Wipes, you will never grill without them again. Visit us at gratechef.com to learn more.

TailgaterTireTable.com


Top brands.

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THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020 AND BEYOND

A Look Ahead

No one can predict the future. That’s especially true in the wildly unpredictable world of NASCAR, where it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen from one season to the next. Then again, it’s fun to speculate! In fact, at least 20 things are almost certain to be major topics of discussion during the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series campaign. Following is a countdown to what will likely be the biggest story of the season to come. BY JARED TURNER

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


20

Talk about Trimming the NASCAR Schedule.

Thanks to Pocono Raceway taking the unconventional step of hosting two NASCAR Cup Series races on the same weekend, the 2020 season will feature one less travel weekend for drivers and teams. This is certainly a welcomed change for just about everyone in the sport – especially the men and women responsible for driving the big rigs that transport the race cars to and from tracks. If Pocono’s twin bill is deemed successful, look for more tracks to experiment with hosting two NASCAR Cup Series races in the same weekend. The twin-bill concept would save teams a lot of travel time and money, with the only potential downside being its adverse economic impact on the tracks that move from two race weekends a year to only one.

19

Buzz About Additional Night Races. After years of

planning and anticipation, Martinsville Speedway will host its first NASCAR Cup Series night race on May 9. The race, which will be run under the lights on the Saturday night of Mother’s Day weekend, has been a longtime coming for the Virginia short track, which for years has widely been considered an ideal place for a Saturday night showdown. Now the question becomes whether other tracks that have lights – but that don’t currently host a Saturday night race – will follow suit. Texas Motor Speedway, ISM Raceway and Kansas Speedway have all hosted night races in the past but won’t this season. As much as drivers and fans enjoy Saturday night racing, perhaps it’s time that every track with lights actually utilizes them.

POLE POSITION MAG.COM

25


20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020

An Aging Cast of Team Owners. Look around the NASCAR Cup Series garage and one thing becomes quickly obvious: NASCAR’s most accomplished and well-known team owners are getting up in years. Rick Hendrick is 71, Richard Childress is 74, Jack Roush is 77, Joe Gibbs is 79 and Roger Penske is 82. All of these men are NASCAR Hall of Famers, but it would be shortsighted to assume any of them will still be in their current roles in another five to 10 years. What happens then to their respective organizations? Hendrick Motorsports is in good hands with Hendrick’s son-in-law, team president Marshall Carlson, ready to assume the reins. Hendrick has also stated that he envisions Jeff Gordon someday running Hendrick Motorsports. But what about the other teams? For them, the succession plan is a bit murkier.

18

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


16

Anticipation Surrounding the Arrival of the Gen7. For the past seven years, NASCAR Cup Series

drivers have raced a style of car commonly known as the Gen-6. That will change in 2021, however, when NASCAR rolls out its next generation of race car – the appropriately dubbed Gen-7 – for the sport’s premier series. While the Gen-7 won’t turn an official lap until the opening race of the 2021 season, initial reviews and shakedowns of the new model have been overwhelmingly positive. The most encouraging news of all is that it’s believed the Gen-7 will help alleviate the passing difficulties that have plagued the sport’s top series on and off now for several years and that were particularly problematic with the move to a high-downforce 2019 aero package that will remain in place for 2020.

17

Chatter about Midweek Races. For the past several

years, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series schedule has featured two midweek races – one at Bristol Motor Speedway and another at Eldora Speedway, the popular half-mile dirt oval in Rossburg, Ohio. By all accounts, both races – Eldora, in particular – have been quite successful. So, is it plausible for the NASCAR Cup Series to add a midweek race or two in the foreseeable future? Back in the earliest days of the sport, midweek races were common. But as the sport grew bigger and travel became more complicated and expensive, a move to explicitly weekend events became inevitable. But now that Bristol and Eldora have proven they can be successful at hosting a midweek truck race, what’s to stop some tracks from considering a midweek NASCAR Cup Series race?

POLE POSITION MAG.COM

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20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020 Manufacturer Games. Last year, “teamwork” at the sport’s two superspeedways – Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway – went to a whole new level and took on a broader definition as drivers aligned with the same manufacturer worked together in the draft just as real teammates – drivers who compete for the same organization – have often done in past years. Instead of Hendrick Motorsports cars drafting mainly with Hendrick Motorsports cars, for example, Chevrolets worked with Chevrolets and Fords worked with Fords regardless of their particular team affiliation. This new strategy caused quite the stir and even garnered some criticism. Manufacturer battles have always been a part of NASCAR, so the alliances formed at the superspeedways in 2019 likely won’t suddenly fall by the wayside when the series returns to Daytona and Talladega.

15

The Next Wave of Young Guns. Just when it seemed like the drivers in NASCAR’s top series couldn’t get much younger, think again. Looking past the ultratalented 2020 rookie class for the NASCAR Cup Series, there’s another crop of youngsters already waiting in the wings and looking for their big opportunity to make a splash in NASCAR’s premier series in the years to come. Remember these names: Riley Herbst, Harrison Burton, Christian Eckes, Tyler Ankrum, Todd Gilliland, Austin Hill and Ross Chastain – just to name a few. While most of these drivers are not yet well known to the broader NASCAR world, all of them have displayed enormous potential at NASCAR’s lower levels and look poised to eventually wind up in NASCAR’s premier division in the nottoo-distant future.

14

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


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20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020

13

The Return of the Fights and Feuds. The

2019 NASCAR season had no shortage of driver feuds, with one of the more memorable ones coming late in the season when championship hopefuls Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano engaged in an all-out fisticuffs on pit road following the Round of 8 playoff race at Martinsville Speedway. As is typical for just about any season, Kyle Busch made his share of enemies along the way, and it felt several times throughout the season as if Ricky Stenhouse Jr. couldn’t get out of his own way, much less anyone else’s. One of the season’s more surprising spats came early on when mild-mannered Michael McDowell came to blows with Daniel Suarez during a qualifying session at ISM Raceway. So, who’s ready to fight in 2020? Stay tuned.

12

NASCAR’s Next Female Sensation. NASCAR’s quest to

find its next female superstar looks to be settling down. By all indications, that driver is 18-year-old Hailie Deegan, who has turned heads the past two seasons as a full-time competitor in the ARCA Menards Series West where she’s won three races and commanded quite the following thanks not only to her skills behind the wheel but her outgoing nature and affable personality. As of early December, the Temecula, California, native had more than 532,000 Instagram followers and over 67,000 on Twitter. While Deegan’s 2020 plans had not been finalized as of press time, many in the NASCAR world expect her to quickly move up through the ranks and possibly land a NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series ride as early this year.

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020

Driver/Team Realignments. While the 2020 season will feature its share of fresh faces in NASCAR’s premier series, the season will also showcase a number of familiar faces who have landed in new places. Chief among them are two-time Xfinity Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who moves from Roush Fenway Racing to JTG Daugherty Racing, while 2019 JTG Daugherty driver Chris Buescher takes over Stenhouse’s old ride. Another familiar face in a new place will be Matt DiBenedetto, who assumes driving duties of Wood Brothers Racing’s fabled No. 21 Ford after spending last season at Leavine Family Racing where he enjoyed his best season to date. Meanwhile, Front Row Motorsports will field entries for two yet-to-be named drivers, after losing David Ragan to retirement and parting ways with Matt Tifft, who is taking time away to deal with health issues.

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PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020

9

More First-Time Winners. While the 2019 season fea-

tured no dearth of compelling storylines, the campaign was largely bereft of first-time race winners. The only full-time driver to score his first career victory in 2019 was Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman, who had been knocking on the door to Victory Lane for a couple of months before smashing it completely in with a commanding triumph at Chicagoland Speedway in late June. One driver who challenged for his first career victory but came up short in 2019 was Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, second-year NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron, along with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Daniel Suarez and Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto. Both Suarez and DiBenedetto have moved on from their 2019 teams, making Byron the most likely among the trio to score a breakthrough win.

10

A Hotly Contested Rookie-of-the-Year Battle.

This season’s rookie-of-the-year battle figures to be one for the ages as youngsters Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer engage in what’s almost certain to be a close three-way fight for top rookie honors. Reddick, Bell and Custer collectively ruled the Xfinity Series in 2019, combining to win 21 of 33 races. Reddick ultimately came out on top, capturing his second consecutive championship with a victory in the season finale at HomesteadMiami Speedway where he raced Bell, Custer and Justin Allgaier straight up for the title. While Custer, who moves to NASCAR’s top series with Stewart-Haas Racing, will likely be the rookie with the best opportunity to win, Reddick (Richard Childress Racing) and Bell (Leavine Family Racing) could also make some noise.

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020

8

Chase Elliott’s Continued Rise in Popularity. Since

Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired from full-time driving at the end of 2017, no NASCAR Cup Series driver has been as beloved as Chase Elliott, who was voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver in 2018 – the first year after Earnhardt called it quits. Listen to the fan reaction during driver intros on any given weekend, and you will realize Elliott – at the young age of 24 – has a massive following. Elliott’s rise in popularity isn’t surprising, of course, when considering that his father, 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, still holds the record for most NASCAR Most Popular Driver Awards with 16. Chase, who has won three races in each of the past two seasons, seems to have successfully won the hearts of his father’s fans and added many of his own supporters, too.

7

A New Sponsorship Model for NASCAR’s Premier Series. While the particulars of the arrangement

were just being revealed (see page 6) at press time, NASCAR is moving to a new sponsorship model this year whereby the sport’s premier series will not have a single entitlement sponsor as it has for several decades. Instead, the newly branded NASCAR Cup Series will rely on numerous sponsors to carry the financial load of what a single entitlement sponsor traditionally would. The new model, while certainly different from what fans of the sport are accustomed, will be good in that it will bring added exposure to sponsors that historically wouldn’t be featured so prominently. As these sponsors benefit from more TV time, they can then invest money back into the sport. The big question is whether fans will need some time to adjust to the new model.

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POLE POSITION 2020

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20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020

6

Denny Hamlin’s Continued Pursuit of a Championship. Before 2019, Mark Martin was almost univer-

sally viewed as the best driver in NASCAR history to never win a NASCAR Cup Series championship. But by the time 2019 ended, Denny Hamlin was making a strong case for that distinction. Despite entering the final race with considerable momentum, Hamlin fell short in his quest to capture his first series championship and finished last among the Championship 4 participants. For Hamlin, who had gone to Victory Lane one week prior, the outcome was a bitter pill to swallow – especially considering this was the third time he had entered the final race with a shot at the championship, only to fall short. For that reason, 2020 will undoubtedly be a year when Hamlin is hungrier than ever to lock down the championship that’s so narrowly eluded him.

Possible Retirement Announcements. The NASCAR Cup Series has seemingly experienced more than its share of driver retirements in recent years, as the likes of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all hung it up from full-time driving for one reason or another. This will continue in 2020, which will be seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson’s final season in NASCAR’s top series. Who will be the next big name to announce plans to call it quits? Kevin Harvick, 44, is the second oldest active full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver (Johnson is the first), while Ryan Newman (42) and Kurt Busch (41) aren’t too far behind. Once Harvick, Newman or Busch retires, the other two big names in the 40-and-over crowd likely won’t be too far behind.

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020 Some Challengers to Joe Gibbs Racing. Joe Gibbs Racing put a good old-fashioned butt-whoopin’ on the competition in 2019, winning 19 of 36 NASCAR Cup Series races and placing three of its four drivers in the Championship 4. Not surprisingly, one of those drivers – Kyle Busch – walked away with the championship hardware after winning the season finale at HomesteadMiami Speedway where he raced straight up for the title against teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., as well as Kevin Harvick. JGR will feature the same driver lineup this year, but will the organization be just as strong? JGR’s most formidable challenges in 2019 came from Team Penske, which got off to a strong start, and Stewart-Haas Racing, which came on strong late. Expect Team Penske, SHR and Hendrick Motorsports to all give JGR their best shot.

4

3

The Naming of Jimmie Johnson’s Successor. Who’s

going to replace Jimmie Johnson in 2021? That question will be on everyone’s mind until the day team owner Rick Hendrick formally taps someone as Johnson’s successor behind wheel of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Speculation is rampant that Hendrick will go with a relatively young driver to replace 44-year-old Johnson, but who that youngster might be – if it’s a youngster at all – is a mystery. One driver who could get some consideration is soon-to-be second-year NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson, who is competing for the JR Motorsports organization that Hendrick co-owns along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Or, Hendrick could pluck a more experienced driver from a rival NASCAR Cup Series team or have another young buck in mind. Stay tuned. This is going to get interesting.

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


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20 THINGS TO WATCH IN 2020

2

Kyle Busch’s Quest for Championship No. 3. Love

or loathe him, Kyle Busch has unequivocally asserted himself as one of the best drivers of his generation – perhaps ever. What Busch accomplished in 2019 was nothing short of spectacular as he rose to the occasion when it mattered most and managed to win the championship in a year when he often did not have the fastest car and often had to play second or even third fiddle to his own Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. But when the dust settled on the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch had his second NASCAR Cup Series title in five seasons and became just the 16th driver in NASCAR history to claim multiple titles at the sport’s premier level. One of only two active drivers with more than one championship, Busch hopes to wrangle a third title this season.

1

Jimmie Johnson’s Farewell Tour. Jimmie John-

son hasn’t won a NASCAR Cup Series race since June 4, 2017, but don’t expect the seventime champion to go out quietly in 2020 – his final season as a NASCAR driver. Johnson, who announced shortly after the 2019 season that 2020 would be his last, has some unfinished business. His first order will be getting back to Victory Lane and breaking the tie he’s held for two-and-a-half years with NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough as an 83-time premier series winner. With one more victory, Johnson will eclipse Yarborough and move into a tie with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth on the all-time win list. Johnson’s goals for his final season are clear: Score an 85th victory to move into sole possession of fourth-place in wins and capture a record-breaking eighth series championship.

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


NASCAR CUP SERIES

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Season

A RADICALLY REVAMPED ITINERARY BY JARED TURNER

S

ince NASCAR introduced a playoff for its top series in 2004, the schedule has remained largely untouched. All of this changes drastically this year as the newly branded NASCAR Cup Series will follow a radically revamped itinerary that hardly mirrors the schedule from 2019 and other seasons in the relatively recent past.

While the season will begin in traditional fashion with Daytona Speedweeks and the running of the sport’s most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, the scheduling facelift begins in earnest during Week Two and lingers all the way through the final race, which will be run at a track other than Homestead-Miami Speedway for the first time since 2001 when it was held at New Hampshire. Other notable differences include a new venue for the regular season finale, the opening race of the 2019 playoffs and all three playoff elimination races (now held at Bristol, Charlotte’s ROVAL and Martinsville, respectively). Forget continuity. The 2020 season marks the dawn of a new era where NASCAR’s premier series schedule is concerned. “The fans and the industry as a whole have been vocal about the desire for sweeping changes to the schedule, and the 2020 slate is a reflection of our efforts to execute against that feedback,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “These changes are a result of unprecedented consensus-building with our race tracks and broadcast partners; something we look to continue into 2021 and beyond.” The competitors, while not always the biggest proponents of change, seem overall pleased with the retooled schedule, which includes three off-weekends – two of them coming back-to-back in late July and early August. The first noticeable difference in the 2020 schedule from 2019 is placement of the appropriately nicknamed “West Coast Swing” the weekend after the Daytona 500. Instead of Atlanta Motor Speedway’s annual race preceding the “West Coast Swing,” it will now fall immediately after. “Overall, I think the schedule is really good,” Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson said. “It just adds a lot of excitement to the year. I think going to the West Coast before Atlanta is good. I think all the cutoff races in the playoffs are really intense, exciting places that the points can change a lot throughout those events. Yeah, I think it was good. Having a two-week break is nice. Overall, I think the schedule is really exciting.”

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POLE POSITION 2020

ISM RACEWAY

DARLINGTON RACEWAY

MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY


THE SIX BIGGEST SCHEDULE CHANGES COMING IN 2020

1

ISM Raceway replacing Homestead as the final race. After hosting the penultimate race on

2

Daytona becoming host to the regular-season finale. For the first time, the regular season

3

Darlington hosting the first race of the playoffs. Since NASCAR unveiled a playoff

4

Indianapolis Motor Speedway moving to July 4 weekend. One of the staples of NASCAR’s

5

Martinsville Speedway moving to Mother’s Day weekend. While this in itself represents a

6

Pocono Raceway hosting a double-header weekend. Yes, you read that correctly. In per-

the NASCAR schedule for the past 15 years, ISM Raceway in Phoenix will finally be the place where NASCAR crowns its champion in a winner-take-all finale for its top three series. ISM, which recently underwent a $178 million modernization project, has been part of the premier series schedule since 1988. Now, it will host three Championship 4 races on the same weekend.

DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

will begin and end at Daytona International Speedway – a radical change, when considering that prior to 2018, the regular season had always concluded at Richmond Raceway. After two years of Indianapolis hosting the regular season finale, it moves to Daytona – a 2.5-mile superspeedway known for some of the most electrifying racing the sport has to offer.

for its premier series, Darlington Raceway has only once hosted a playoff race – and that was all the way back in 2004 when the track “Too Tough to Tame” was the site of the season’s penultimate event. This year, the playoffs will begin on Labor Day weekend at the famed egg-shaped oval in South Carolina.

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

premier series schedule over the past several decades has been the July 4 week race at Daytona International Speedway. Now, this spot on the calendar belongs to IMS – another history-rich facility – as the two tracks essentially swap dates.

significant changeup for the Virginia short track, which is having its spring date pushed back by roughly a month-and-a-half, the bigger deal is that the race will be held on a Saturday night under the lights. This will be the first time Martinsville has hosted a night race for NASCAR’s premier series in the track’s more than 70-year history.

POCONO RACEWAY PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES

haps the most blockbuster, outside-the-box adjustment to the schedule, the track known as the “Tricky Triangle” will no longer host two NASCAR weekends. Instead, Pocono will play host to two premier series races on back-to-back days on the same weekend in late June. This twin bill is the first of its kind in NASCAR’s modern era. POLE POSITION MAG.COM

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FAN EXPERIENCE

Bucket-List Events Get Your Tickets – Don’t Miss These Races! BY KEITH WALTZ

T

he NFL season ends with the Super Bowl, the World Series brings down the curtain on the Major League Baseball schedule and the basketball season concludes with the NBA Finals. Almost every professional sports league ends the

season with its marquee event. NASCAR takes a slightly different approach as the NASCAR Cup Series, America’s premier form of motorsports entertainment, kicks off the season with the biggest and most prestigious race on its 38-event schedule – the Daytona 500 at legendary Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Daytona 500 is definitely a bucket-list event for any race fan, but don’t let your list be a one-hit wonder. This season, NASCAR will sanction 94 races across its trio of national series – the NASCAR Cup Series (38), NASCAR Xfinity Series (33) and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (23). The schedules run from Feb. 9 to Nov. 8. The NASCAR Cup Series’ regular season is comprised of 26 points-paying races and 10 playoff races that decide the series champion. The Xfinity Series has 26 regular-season races with seven playoff races, while the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series regular season has 16 races and there are seven playoff events.

While the race tracks vary greatly in size and shape, each track operator who hosts a NASCAR national series event does it with one goal – to provide each and every race fan with the best possible race experience. So how do you know which NASCAR events to place on your bucket list? We consider the following six events to be must-see. You can also use the following tips to help compile your own list: •• If you are a big fan of road racing, there are numerous options such as California’s Sonoma Raceway, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Wisconsin’s Road America and the legendary Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. •• Also consider the length of the track, as some people prefer the rough-and-tumble racing at short tracks like Martinsville Speedway or Richmond Raceway, while others enjoy the high speeds of Talladega Superspeedway or Michigan International Speedway. •• Talk to friends and use social media for input and suggestions as to which NASCAR races should be on your bucket list. The NASCAR experience is unmatched, and now is the time to comprise your bucket list so you can purchase tickets and start checking off races.

BANK OF AMERICA ROVAL 400 The newest addition to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL combines a high-banked superspeedway and a world-class road course to provide the ultimate challenge for both man and machine. The frontstretch grandstands offer a view of the entire 2.28-mile circuit and the drama of being a cutoff race in the playoffs is unparalleled.

BOJANGLES’ SOUTHERN 500 The “granddaddy” of all NASCAR races, the Southern 500 was first run at South Carolina’s iconic Darlington Raceway in 1950, and stock car racing’s original paved superspeedway still produces some of the best action on the schedule. This Labor Day weekend tradition also features a throwback theme, which takes race fans on a trip down memory lane.

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ELDORA DIRT DERBY The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series’ annual visit to Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, is a must-see event. Since purchasing the dirt track in 2004, Stewart has maintained its antiquated charm while adding modern amenities. In addition, the track’s concessions menu is among the best in the industry, and the prices are extremely fan friendly.

BASS PRO SHOPS NRA NIGHT RACE Racing a NASCAR Cup Series car at Bristol Motor Speedway has been compared to flying a fighter jet in a gymnasium, and the annual Night Race is traditionally action-packed from start to finish. There will be even more drama and intensity this year as the marquee event concludes the opening round of the playoffs.

NASCAR ALL-STAR RACE This special NASCAR Cup Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway has generated several of the most memorable moments in the sport’s history since it was introduced in 1985. The unique format and short stages are designed to provide race fans with the ultimate in on-track entertainment, while the winning team takes home a check for $1 million.

CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND After 18 years of ending its season at Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship will be decided at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. The 55-year-old, one-mile track is now a motorsports showplace after undergoing a $178 million renovation that focused on elevating the fan experience. Make sure to reserve your seat early for this one. PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES

POLE POSITION MAG.COM

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NASCAR XFINITY SERIES

6 Drivers to Watch

The “Big Three” of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer have graduated, but these six NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers will be fun to watch.

BY KEITH WALTZ

VETERAN JUSTIN ALLGAIER EYES FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP

EXPECT BIG THINGS FROM FORMER DIRT RACER BRISCOE

DON’T OVERLOOK UNDERDOG RYAN SIEG

COMING OFF A

ROSS CHASTAIN COULD DEFINITELY SHAKE THINGS UP IN 2020

A FORMER DIRT-

DANIEL HEMRIC,

AT 33 YEARS OLD,

track sprint car

who earned the

successful

ROSS CHASTAIN

enjoys cheering for

Justin Allgaier is the

driver with limited

elder statesman

pavement experience,

NASCAR Cup Series

sophomore season in

moves from the

the underdog should

Rookie-of-the-

which he won twice

NASCAR Gander RV

of the NASCAR

keep an eye on Ryan

24-year-old Chase

Year title in 2019,

and posted 24 top-10

& Outdoors Truck

Sieg this season. The

Xfinity Series as he

Briscoe is coming off

is returning to the

results, 21-year-

Series and will drive

32-year-old drives for

continues to chase

an impressive Rookie-

NASCAR Xfinity

old Austin Cindric

the No. 10 Chevrolet

a family-run opera-

his first series title.

of-the-Year effort in

Series this year and

should be among the

for Kaulig Racing. The

tion that has secured

The driver of No. 7

which he won a race

is scheduled to make

Championship 4 when

27-year-old racer has

primary sponsorship

JR Motorsports

and scored 26 top-10

21 starts in the No. 8

the series arrives

158 series starts, but

from CMR Construc-

Chevrolet has 11

finishes. His results

Chevrolet for Dale

at ISM Raceway in

this will be the first

tion & Roofing. The

series wins and has

should be even better

Earnhardt’s team.

November. Cindric is

time he’s chased the

increased support

finished among the

this season and he’ll

The 28-year-old

an experienced road

title with a well-

should result in in-

top seven in the

be a strong contender

won’t be in the title

racer who has quickly

funded team capable

creased performance

standings each year

in the championship

hunt, but he should

adapted to the art of

of winning multiple

and don’t be surprised

since 2009.

battle.

win some races.

oval-track racing.

races.

if he wins a race.

48

POLE POSITION 2020

HEMRIC JOINS JR MOTORSPORTS FOR LIMITED 2020 RUN

PENSKE DRIVER AUSTIN CINDRIC A TITLE FAVORITE

ANYONE WHO

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


Q&A with Brandon Jones

It took Brandon Jones 133 races to visit Victory Lane, but once the Joe Gibbs Racing driver got there, his confidence skyrocketed. Jones scored his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win in October at Kansas, and the Georgia native heads into the new season among the championship favorites.

BY JOSEPH WOLKIN

Is it a big relief to have a win in the books? Anybody who followed along with my season saw that we started out strong. We had a streak of races that went really well. But we hit the second half of the year, and it seemed like everything was going wrong for us. All the stuff happening was when we were having good runs, but it was just stuff out of our control. Kansas was always one of my favorites, and we’re good at restarts. After that, I proved to myself that I can do this. The win going into next year helps. How do you maintain the momentum? I talked to my crew chief Jeff Meendering and he brought up some points that might help us to be a serious contender for the championship. Over the offseason, we’re going to run some races, like dirt cars. Earlier this year, I got into a micro gokart/sprint-type car right before Bristol. It shows you’re out of control and it helps when you get in the bigger, slower car. We’re also going to have some more data, so we can watch the races on edge. How does the data help you? It’s a live GPS feed of the whole field. Right after practice, we can look at the data and say, “This guy is faster than us in the exit of the corner or center of the corner.” You can pinpoint areas that need the most work. Sometimes, as a driver, you get a perception of where you’re losing too much time, but you look at the data and see everyone’s struggling there. I can figure out where I’m losing time and how to make corrections. Is 2020 the opportunity you’ve been looking for to compete for a title? I’ve already talked to multiple people at Joe Gibbs Racing, and we discussed goals for the year. That’s one of them. We have the team to do it. I’ve been in the series long enough. I know what it takes to get a

win and what it takes to get to the end of the season. I look at the series and I think we’re going to be fighting for this thing. We’ve proved ourselves and taking away a few of those guys makes us a big force. How does becoming the elder statesman at JGR help you on and off the track? It’s going to be a different role for me. I’m going to be the senior driver of the group. I’m going to help the other two (Harrison Burton and Riley Herbst) get going. That’s going to be somewhat of a role of mine. I want to offer as much as I can to them.

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NASCAR XFINITY SERIES

‘My Passion is Racing’ Harrison Burton Graduates to the Xfinity Series

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POLE POSITION 2020


Born into a well-known racing family, Harrison Burton knew long ago that he wanted to make a living racing cars. This year, he’ll get the chance. BY JARED TURNER Burton, who drove the full 2019 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports, is moving to a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series ride with Joe Gibbs Racing after making select Xfinity starts for the organization last season. Burton, 19, will campaign JGR’s No. 20 Xfinity Series car as a rookie in pursuit of the series championship. The son of 21-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner turned NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Jeff Burton couldn’t be any more excited about his new gig, which follows a solid first full season in trucks that produced 11 top-10 finishes – including seven top-five results – in 23 starts. The younger Burton will carry primary sponsorship from Dex Imaging on his Toyota Supra. The sponsor has been with him since his earliest days in racing. “Next year is going to be a really cool opportunity for me because I grew up watching my dad race in the Xfinity Series,” said Burton, whose father drove 306 races in NASCAR’s No. 2 division. “Making my first start at Bristol this year was really surreal. I remember being a little kid and watching him race there and now, I will have the opportunity to compete for the Xfinity Series championship. On top of that, I’ve got Dex Imaging continuing their support of me for a majority of races. That’s really cool, because I’ve had them as a sponsor since I was 13 and to bring them from Pro-Late Models all the way to the Xfinity Series is pretty wild. I’m excited to get 2020 started.” As Burton embarks on a new venture with one of NASCAR’s most successful organizations, he’s bound to lean on his father for some advice. After all, who could he possibly glean more wisdom from than a guy who is nicknamed “The Mayor” for his ability to speak authoritatively on virtually any topic related to the sport of stock car racing? Jeff Burton has clearly already wielded a huge influence on Harrison, based on the younger Burton’s thoughtful, wiser-than-his-years way of expressing his thoughts. “From an early age, he spoke well and presented himself well, but I think some of it’s just from PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES

confidence,” Jeff Burton said. “I’m not talking about race car driver confidence; I just think he believes in himself and he’s comfortable with who he is and knows the things he’s not good at, and he’s willing to laugh at himself and he’s inquisitive. When he was a little guy, he was always asking a bunch of questions, and he still asks a bunch of questions. I think the main thing is he’s just comfortable in his own skin and knows who he is and he’s not worried about messing up or making a mistake.” That’s not surprising in light of what the younger Burton considers to be the most sage-like piece of advice he’s received from his father up to this point. “Just be yourself,” Harrison said. “That might sound kind of strange to hear, but that taught me so much as far as being able to talk to people and being able to be involved with sponsorship meetings and just having more fun. If you’re not yourself and you’re imitating someone else, it’s not going to be as fun, and you’re not going to enjoy it as much.” Burton, who made 15 Truck Series starts over three seasons prior to joining the series full time in 2019, owns three USAC Quarter Midget championships, multiple Pro-Late Model victories, three ARCA Menards Series victories and five ARCA Menards Series East wins. His best finish in a truck is third. Burton made nine Xfinity Series starts with JGR last season that yielded five top-10 finishes, including a fourth-place effort at Iowa Speedway. All of Burton’s top-five results – be it his lone top-five in Xfinity or his multiple top-five finishes in a truck – came prior to his 19th birthday. “Harrison is mature beyond his age on the track, and it’s impressive the resume he has already put together,” said two-time and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, Harrison’s truck team owner last season. “He comes from a racing family and doesn’t have to look very far to find a role model that can show him what it takes to be successful both on and off the track.” As the son of Jeff Burton and nephew of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, Harrison had little trouble choosing a career path, which he looks forward to continuing down as a full-time Xfinity Series driver. “When I was young, I was just racing for fun,” he said. “It wasn’t serious. Then it got a little more serious, and it continued to get a little more serious. In some ways, that takes some of the fun out of it. It’s less of a hobby and more of a job. But, at the end of the day, it’s what I love. “My passion is racing. People that get to do it every weekend are the luckiest people in the world, in my opinion. Full-time Cup drivers are the luckiest people in the world. There’s no question at all that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” POLE POSITION MAG.COM

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NASCAR GANDER RV & OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES

6 Drivers to Watch

The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will once again feature a group of seasoned veterans battling a handful of dazzling young guns. BY KEITH WALTZ

CRAFTON CHASES FOURTH SERIES TITLE

18-YEAR-OLD ANKRUM MOVES TO GMS RACING

ARCA CHAMPION CHRISTIAN ECKES JOINS KBM

HRE DRIVER AUSTIN HILL A TRUCK SERIES TITLE FAVORITE

JOHNNY SAUTER SHOULD LEAD THE VETERANS

MODIFIED MAVEN FRIESEN MAKES STEADY IMPROVEMENT

MATT CRAFTON

TYLER ANKRUM

CHRISTIAN ECKES,

enters his 20th

turned heads during

the 2019 ARCA

AUSTIN HILL WON

JOHNNY SAUTER’S

STEWART FRIESEN,

season of Truck

a Rookie-of-the-Year

Menards Series

four NASCAR Gander

sixth-place finish last

a 36-year-old

Series racing looking

season in which

Champion, will drive

RV & Outdoors Truck

year in the No. 13

Canadian who honed

to defend his title and

he won a race and

one of the potent

Series races last year

ThorSport Racing

his skills racing dirt

add a fourth series

recorded eight top-10

Toyotas fielded by Kyle

in his first season

Ford was his worst

modifieds in the

championship trophy

finishes en route to

Bush Motorsports as

driving the No. 16

in the Truck Series

Northeast, has made

to his collection. The

an eighth-place finish

he takes the next step

Toyota for Hattori

standings since 2012.

steady improvement

43-year-old Crafton

in the standings. The

in the developmental

Racing Enterprises.

The 41-year-old,

since making his first

went winless en

18-year-old racer

ladder. The 19-year-

This will be Hill’s

second-generation

Truck Series start in

route to last year’s

from San Bernardino,

old from Greenville,

third full-time Truck

driver has his sights

2016. Expect him to

crown and that won’t

California, has a

New York, has seven

Series effort and

set on a second series

improve on his 2019

happen again to

legitimate shot at the

top-10 finishes in a

anything short of an

championship, and

season in which he

the driver of No. 98

championship now

dozen Truck Series

appearance in the

he and his team are

won two races and

ThorSport Racing

that he’s moved to

starts. He’s definitely

Championship 4 will

more than capable of

earned a spot in the

Ford.

GMS Racing.

one to watch.

be a disappointment.

achieving their goal.

Championship 4.

52

POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


Q&A with Sheldon Creed

While GMS Racing’s Sheldon Creed ended the 2019 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season just outside of the playoff hunt, the new year looks promising for the sophomore sensation.

BY JOSEPH WOLKIN

The driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet earned seven top-10 finishes during the final nine races, and, thanks to crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz, he’s ready to chase a championship. What were the strong points of your 2019 season? I learned really well. It took me a while because, early in the season, I was too aggressive. I was putting myself in bad positions. I got a pair of seconds, at Eldora and Michigan, and I got some top-five finishes. We had a shot at winning, so that was cool.

What did you do on the track to improve as the year progressed? I was racing smarter. At the beginning of the season, all I wanted to do was win. At the end, if I was in a bad position or in a position that I thought I’d get pulled around while being too aggressive, I started putting myself in a better position. What are your expectations for the new year? As an organization, GMS started working a lot better in 2019. The (No.) 24 (with Brett Moffitt) and even the (No.) 52 (with Stewart Friesen) shared a lot of notes with us. Instead of working with two trucks every week, we’ll be working with four, so that will be nice. We have Bono Manion coming over. We’re getting some new stuff that will help us find speed. We’re learning as much as we can over the offseason. Next year as a whole – if we keep going to the race track to not just beat our teammates – we need to unload as the fastest truck all year and see where it goes. I’d like to run top-five every week. We need to be as consistent as possible, get wins at the beginning of the season to get playoff points and go for the regular season championship. Then, we can see where it goes. What tracks do you have circled entering the year? We had Atlanta circled last year, but we weren’t good there. I’m going to be optimistic about that one, because I like the rough surfaces. I like Dover and I’ve never been to Richmond, but I like watching it. Bristol and Eldora are cool, but Eldora is extremely difficult. I like to be at a track that’s fast and there’s a lot of passing opportunities. What can you do to be successful and stand out in 2020? To stand out in the Truck Series, you need to get six wins, maybe even eight. If you’re in the top-five every week and get four or five wins, that’s hard to beat. That’s something everyone would look at.


NASCAR GANDER RV & OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES

Hill Back in the Saddle at HRE

When Hattori Racing Enterprises named 24-year-old Austin Hill as its new driver for the 2019 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season, some in the NASCAR world questioned the wisdom of such a move. BY JARED TURNER

54

POLE POSITION 2020


To make room for Hill, HRE had to part ways with Brett Moffitt, who had just won six races and the 2018 Truck Series championship for the organization in impressive fashion. Moreover, Hill was a largely unproven talent, having recorded no wins and just one top-five finish in one full season of truck competition. Yet team owner Shigeaki Hattori – a former open wheel and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series driver – knew he wanted Hill to take the reins of the team’s No. 16 Toyota truck. Turns out the move – as bold or risky as it may have seemed at first – didn’t prove to be half bad. While HRE didn’t repeat as Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champions in 2019 with Hill behind the wheel of the organization’s lone truck entry, the young driver from Winston, Georgia, proved to be quite the wheelman. In his first start with the company, Hill won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway to punch an automatic ticket into the truck playoffs. He went on to win three more races (Michigan, Las Vegas and Homestead), finish fifth in the standings and only narrowly miss out on the Championship 4. No matter how you slice the proverbial pie, it was an impressive season for Hill, who entered 2019 as an underdog but quickly emerged as a legitimate contender – even more so than he necessarily expected to be. “I’ve always said growing up that I wanted to get a chance to be in good equipment just to see what I could do and see if I could compete at the highest level and win races and race against all these guys,” Hill said. “I’ve always had a good amount of confidence in myself. I know there are areas that as a driver you can improve on and get better at every day. There are race tracks that I struggle at that … I’ve got to work on. “I did feel like I could win races, and I kind of had a little checklist at the start of the season, and one of those checklists was just to win a race. It wasn’t to go light the world on fire and win 10 races; it was just to win a race. We checked that off early, and then the next boxes that I wanted to check off was obviously make it to the Round of Six and just make it to the Round of Four and give ourselves a chance. And that was the only box I didn’t get to check off throughout this season.” After falling short in his attempt to be one of the four drivers with the opportunity to race straight up for the championship in the final event, Hill promptly went out and PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES

won that final race – doing so in rather convincing fashion by leading 56 of the 134 laps at HomesteadMiami Speedway. Hill’s Homestead performance put an exclamation mark on an already stellar season and further cemented his status as a pre-season title favorite in 2020. A couple of weeks before the final race of 2019, HRE announced that Hill would return as the team’s driver next season. Everyone involved couldn’t be happier about the decision to keep the team intact. “I’m really proud of what Shige Hattori has allowed us to build at HRE over the years and the people we’ve assembled,” said Hill’s crew chief, Scott Zipadelli. “We have some big goals for 2020, and Austin showed what he’s capable of this past season. We have another level we want to get to next season, and the people on this race team are absolutely capable of getting there to run for another championship.” Hill, for his part, is amped to be back in the saddle of the No. 16 truck. “This is such an awesome group of guys, so it’s a relief we can keep this team intact for next year,” he said. “We started off well winning at Daytona, obviously, but we definitely got better the longer the season went. We have a good direction of things we want to do in the offseason and areas to improve, and this group is going to be ready when we show up for Speedweeks in February.” Hattori, who founded HRE in 2008 and has fielded entries in multiple NASCAR series, certainly has no regrets about what initially seemed like perhaps a somewhat radical decision to bring Hill on board at the expense of losing a more experienced, championship-winning driver. “Austin has done a good job this year, and we’re looking forward to improving even more next season,” Hattori said. Hill, who recorded seven top-five finishes in 23 starts in 2019, readily admits that both he and his team have room for growth. And he looks forward to the challenge, just like he did the challenge of following in the footsteps of a more proven driver who had just won a championship. “There are areas we could have gotten better at throughout 2019 that we struggled, tracks that we struggled at,” Hill said. “But we’ll build over the offseason and just get better.” POLE POSITION MAG.COM

55


NASCAR GANDER RV & OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES

EMBRACE THE JOURNEY Running a NASCAR Race Team in 2020

NASCAR Pole Position goes inside Jordan Anderson Racing for a peek into what it takes to build your own NASCAR team from the ground up. BY JOSH MULL

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POLE POSITION 2020


HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Say you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, and you’ve decided you want your business to be racing against some of the fastest people on the planet. In other words, you want your own NASCAR team. What lessons do you need to learn in order to make it as a team owner? What kind of decisions will you face every day? And what kind of unique advantages do you bring to distinguish yourself among all the others? Let’s imagine for a moment you are that owner. You’re conferring with your team after a hardfought battle on the track, when some of your competition comes over to you. “Hey, we noticed you’re struggling a little bit,” they say. “Your toe’s out.” How do you respond? “We both looked at our feet,” says Jordan Anderson, laughing. “That’s how far out of water we were.” Today, Anderson is the owner and driver for Jordan Anderson Racing. But back in the day, he was just a kid with a passion and a dream. “I remember to this day, 10 years old at Concord Motorsport Park,” Anderson recalled. “They had a quarter-mile track, and my dad and I would race our champ kart. We were making a lot of mistakes back then. There was no manual and no guidebook. They didn’t exist. “But the best lessons come from those mistakes.” MANY MOVING PARTS Last season, Anderson completed his 100th race for Jordan Anderson Racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. The season also marked the second year of his five-year business plan. As he prepares to enter year three, he faces an all new set of lessons. “We’re moving shops,” Anderson noted. “Five days of packing and putting everything together. Five days of moving everything over. And five more days of settling in. “What do we need to keep? What do we get rid of? How do we streamline everything so it can fit together really well,” Anderson asked? This streamlining process is crucial to the operation. Far from the days of champ karts on lawn trailers, the modern-day Jordan Anderson Racing team has to operate with precision and urgency. “We’re figuring out the flow of the new shop.” he said. “Do we have the right materials ordered, the right parts to build the trucks? There’s scheduling to do for the body shop, which trucks need body work or fabrication work. “On the operations side,” Anderson continued, “I have to keep the checkbook balanced, keep track of the motor mileage, handle payroll for the week.” PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES

One of the most critical decisions that falls to Anderson as owner is, of course, personnel. “That’s what makes this sport,” he said. “The team can make or break you.” Thankfully, these decisions aren’t always difficult. This year, Jordan Anderson Racing has Wally Rogers as a full-time crew chief. The winning NASCAR veteran demonstrated the importance of personnel already at several races with Anderson in 2019. “He came on board for the Kentucky race,” Anderson said. “First time out of the box, we posted our best career qualifying.” How do we know about this important personnel decision by the way? True to the Jordan Anderson Racing brand, Rogers tweeted it. ALWAYS ONLINE Jordan Anderson is known among the new generation of NASCAR fans for his huge social media presence. Every day his fans are treated to photos and videos of intimate peaks into his life and behind the curtain of Jordan Anderson Racing. As owner, Anderson is responsible for the operations, the competitions, sponsorships, and let’s not forget, driving in the races. But when it comes to the marketing as well, he’s also responsible for that social media success. “It gives the sponsors a marketing platform 24/7 basically,” Anderson explained. “It’s taking on a new face with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Not just the hospitality, the business opportunities, the exposure (of the truck), but part of a program of nonstop promoting. “I’m on the NASCAR subreddit 10 to 15 times a day, just to see what’s going on,” Anderson added. “The more knowledge you have, the better decisions you can make. “I see a post about something a fan or somebody in the sport shares what they’re feeling about something. That makes me think about, ‘Oh, maybe I can do this or that better.’ “I’ve joked about it since I was in college,” he continued, “everything you ever wanted to know or do is on Google. At the office or at home, there’s always something going on in the background. Just to stay in the loop.” From the mechanics of the race equipment to the personnel decisions of the crew to the social media content, these are the building blocks of what goes into a NASCAR race team in 2020. “We started small,” Anderson said. “But year one, year two, going into year three, we’re right on track, right where we wanted to be.” POLE POSITION MAG.COM

57


ENASCAR

Guariglia Balances College and eNASCAR BY JOSH MULL

I

f you watch the eNASCAR iRacing Series or the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series, you’ve probably heard of Michael Guariglia, but it’s unlikely you’ve seen his face until now. Guariglia competed in last year’s eNASCAR iRacing Series as an independent for the first 10 races

before joining Jim Beaver eSports for the remainder of the schedule alongside teammate Eric Smith. Currently, Guariglia competes in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series. He’s also a senior journalism major at UNC Charlotte, with aspirations of becoming a NASCAR journalist and photographer. Guariglia has been sim racing for about 15 years, since the NASCAR Thunder era. “I used to play nonstop with my brother; we would race for hours on end,” he said. As the 2000s turned into the 2010s, this interest grew, through the EA Sports era and until Eutechnyx took over the NASCAR license in the early 2010s. However, once iRacing came into the limelight with publicity from a certain NASCAR driver in 2014, Guariglia knew he had found his home. “I started seeing videos of Dale Earnhardt Jr. talking about the sim and that led me (down) a rabbit hole of videos of iRacing and it got me interested pretty quick,” he explained. “I joined the service in 2015 and reached the DWC (eNASCAR iRacing) Series in 2019.” Clearly, his previous sim experience helped him hone his racecraft, which set the foundation for future success.

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POLE POSITION 2020

However, iRacing was a whole new beast to Guariglia, who explained, “I got into the pro level of competition (by) doing numerous races and perfecting my craft. iRacing takes a lot of time to enhance your driving ability. The advancements that iRacing has in place, from the Street Stocks to the Cup Series, really give the experience of racing in real life.” This level of realism hadn’t been seen in the sim racing world before, but Guariglia came in with experience from previous racing sims. He climbed through the ranks, making the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series in 2018 and the eNASCAR iRacing Series last year. Having been through the Road to Pro, Pro and eNASCAR iRacing Series (equivalent to the Truck, Xfinity and Cup Series), Guariglia has seen it all in terms of top-tier eNASCAR iRacing competition. The differences between each series are fairly striking. Whereas in the eNASCAR iRacing Series and the Pro Series, the competitors are the same every single race, the Road to Pro Series is a bit of a tossup, since the barrier to entry is much lower than the other two: a driver only needs to have an “A” license, which involves driving safely through each level of competition. Thousands of drivers have achieved this, and many attempt to make the Pro Series through Road to Pro, with only about 40 succeeding each season. “With the Road to Pro series, there would be different drivers every week … (which) makes things challenging because you might not race with others often and (they) may be more unpredictable. With the truck, the field is a lot closer so there is a higher chance for issues to occur. In the Pro Series, you’re racing around the same guys and it makes it easier to understand how to race the field. … (It) has a more competitive feel, with everyone understanding they have to perform each week or start over in Road to Pro.” Only the top 20 in points at the end of the Road to Pro season make Pro, and Guariglia was one of them in 2018. By finishing eighth in the 2018-2019 Pro Series points, Guariglia made his first eNASCAR iRacing Series campaign, where he finished 24th in the standings. That sends him back to the Pro Series for this fall and winter. While Guariglia has been incredibly successful since he entered iRacing only a few years ago, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. “I did fail to make the Pro Series numerous times and faltered on road-course races,” he noted. However, these concerns are small potatoes compared to those of most iRacers. Most never make the Pro Series, or even have a legitimate shot. Guariglia is certainly a professional in the world of iRacing. Life for Guariglia isn’t just about iRacing, though. He’s living the college life, which means balancing his priorities, and that isn’t always easy. “Honestly, it can be a struggle,” Guariglia admitted. “It’s difficult to work around five classes at UNC Charlotte and a job while finding time to race and practice for said race. I don’t know how I manage to do it sometimes, but it has worked out so far. I tend to lean away from iRacing and focus more on my schooling. Getting my degree and creating job opportunities is way more important than finding time to practice that little bit extra.” While it is fun watching Guariglia round the track on Tuesdays, his dedication to his schoolwork and his skillful balance of his priorities is very respectable. Sometimes his worlds collide, like in the case of his teammate at Jim Beaver Motorsports, Eric Smith. “I actually met Eric on campus, which led to us becoming friends and roommates,” Guariglia elaborated. Both are currently competing in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series in an effort to make the eNASCAR iRacing Series once again. In the iRacing world and in real life, the future is bright for Michael Guariglia.


NASCAR HOME TRACKS

A New Beginning

T

he start of the 2020 racing season marks the dawn of a new era in NASCAR racing as the sanctioning body continues three historic regional series and introduces a new fourth championship, all under the ARCA Menards Series banner.

The revamped structure was finalized after NASCAR completed its purchase of ARCA, a Midwest sanctioning body that has organized a variety of racing series since it was founded in 1953 by John and Mildred Marcum. The four series provide an integral developmental step for young drivers who aspire to move up to one of NASCAR’s three national series, and they also offer a highly competitive professional level for short-track veterans. The four 2020 championships are: ARCA Menards Series East and West: These two series continue the traditions established by the Busch North Series (founded in 1987) and Pacific Coast Late Model Series/Winston West (1954). They were most recently known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West. Each series will feature an annual schedule of six to eight races and crown separate regional champions. ARCA Menards Series: The 20-race ARCA Menards Series offers a mix of national-series combination events at venues such as Daytona International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, as well as short tracks like Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin and the Illinois and DuQuoin State Fairgrounds dirt tracks. ARCA Racing Series Showdown: Ten races within the larger ARCA Menards Series will showcase the best of the three series coming together to crown a Showdown champion. “We cannot be more excited about 2020,” said Brandon Thompson, managing director, NASCAR Touring Series. “Both NASCAR and ARCA have worked extremely hard over the last year to provide a rules package and schedule that will serve as the foundation for the preeminent series for racing at this level. It was important for us to move the series forward while creating an environment inclusive for both the current long-term owners and drivers in the series as well as aspiring competitors.” “What first started as a friendship between Bill France Sr. and John Marcum nearly 70 years ago took a momentous step forward today,” said ARCA President Ron Drager. “The amount of history and

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POLE POSITION 2020

SPECIAL CONNECTION IN A MOVE DESIGNED TO strengthen a relationship that dates back more than 60 years, NASCAR announced in April 2018 that it was acquiring the Automobile Racing Club of America. NASCAR and ARCA share a long history as ARCA founder John Marcum raced against Bill France Sr. and worked as a NASCAR official. More recently, the ARCA Menards Series has provided a valuable platform for talented drivers looking to make it to NASCAR’s national series. “Our NASCAR family has long had a special connection with our friends at ARCA, and this is a logical step in demonstrating our commitment to the next generation of racers,” said Jim France, vice chairman and executive vice president of NASCAR. “We are proud of the history and tradition of the ARCA Racing Series and the relationship we’ve built over six decades with NASCAR,” said Ron Drager, ARCA president and grandson of John Marcum. “We look forward to the opportunity to be more fully integrated.”

tradition these series are bringing together to form four elite championships for drivers is an amazing testament to the strength of this sport.” NASCAR also announced if an East, West or current ARCA Menards Series car owner has a car that meets the 2019 rulebook, there will be a rules package that will allow them to compete this season. In addition, ARCA and MAVTV have extended their telecast rights agreement for select ARCA Menards Series races. This partnership, together with events covered by FOX Sports, ensures all 20 ARCA Menards Series races will be available live, including the 10-race Showdown. NBCSN will continue to carry the ARCA Menards Series East and West races as part of its extensive NASCAR coverage. The ARCA Menards Series season will begin on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Daytona Int’l Speedway with the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire. It will mark the 57th annual ARCA visit to the legendary 2.5mile Daytona track. The Showdown will take the green flag with ARCA’s inaugural visit to ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., on March 6 as part of the national series’ event weekend, while the West will kick off the Las Vegas weekend with a return to the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. West dates also include traditional races at Irwindale Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and AllAmerican Speedway in Roseville, Calif., and the series will crown its champion at ISM Raceway in November. The East will race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., as well as Toledo Speedway, Watkins Glen International, and again be part of New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s annual Full Throttle Fall Weekend. The East season will culminate with the championship race at Dover International Speedway. In addition to Daytona and Charlotte, the ARCA Menards Series schedule will include Talladega Superspeedway, Michigan International Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Pocono Raceway, and the season will conclude Oct. 16 at Kansas Speedway. The 10-race Showdown schedule features Indiana’s historic Salem Speedway, Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Minnesota’s Elko Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and will crown its first Showdown champion at Memphis International Raceway on Sept. 26.


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2019 SERIES STANDINGS NASCAR CUP SERIES

NO. DRIVER 1 Kyle Busch 2 Martin Truex Jr. 3 Kevin Harvick 4 Denny Hamlin 5 Joey Logano 6 Ryan Blaney 7 Kyle Larson 8 Brad Keselowski 9 Clint Bowyer 10 Chase Elliott 11 William Byron 12 Alex Bowman 13 Kurt Busch 14 Aric Almirola 15 Ryan Newman 16 Erik Jones 17 Daniel Suarez 18 Jimmie Johnson 19 Paul Menard 20 Chris Buescher

PTS. WINS POLES TOP 5 TOP 10 5040 5 1 17 27 5035 7 0 15 24 5033 4 6 15 26 5027 6 3 19 24 2380 2 3 12 21 2339 1 1 11 18 2339 1 1 8 17 2318 3 3 13 19 2290 0 1 7 18 2275 3 4 11 15 2274 0 5 5 13 2257 1 0 7 12 2237 1 0 6 18 2234 0 1 3 12 2219 0 0 3 14 2194 1 0 10 17 846 0 1 4 11 835 0 1 3 12 777 0 0 0 4 729 0 0 0 4

NO. DRIVER PTS. WINS POLES TOP 5 TOP 10 21 Austin Dillon 700 0 3 0 6 22 Matt DiBenedetto 699 0 0 3 7 23 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 679 0 0 1 3 24 Ty Dillon 613 0 0 1 3 25 Daniel Hemric 530 0 1 1 2 26 Ryan Preece 507 0 0 1 3 27 Michael McDowell 485 0 0 2 2 28 Bubba Wallace 437 0 0 1 1 29 Corey LaJoie 401 0 0 0 2 30 David Ragan 388 0 0 0 0 31 Matt Tifft 352 0 0 0 1 32 Reed Sorenson 118 0 0 0 0 33 Quin Houff 77 0 0 0 0 34 Jamie McMurray 19 0 0 0 0 35 Austin Theriault 17 0 0 0 0 36 Andy Seuss 9 0 0 0 0 37 Drew Herring 8 0 0 0 0 38 Blake Jones 6 0 0 0 0 39 Stanton Barrett 2 0 0 0 0 40 Casey Mears 1 0 0 0 0

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XFINITY SERIES

NO. DRIVER 1 Tyler Reddick 2 Cole Custer 3 Christopher Bell 4 Justin Allgaier 5 Chase Briscoe 6 Austin Cindric 7 John Hunter Nemechek 8 Noah Gragson 9 Michael Annett 10 Brandon Jones 11 Ryan Sieg 12 Justin Haley 13 Gray Gaulding 14 Jeremy Clements 15 Brandon Brown 16 Ray Black Jr. 17 Josh Williams 18 Stephen Leicht 19 Garrett Smithley 20 B.J. McLeod 21 Matt Mills 22 David Starr 23 Vinnie Miller 24 Joey Gase 25 Zane Smith 26 Chad Finchum 27 Timmy Hill 28 Tommy Joe Martins 29 Jeb Burton 30 Alex Labbe 31 Josh Bilicki 32 Jeffrey Earnhardt 33 Landon Cassill 34 Ryan Truex 35 Shane Lee 36 Ronnie Bassett Jr. 37 Mike Harmon 38 Kaz Grala 39 Stefan Parsons 40 AJ Allmendinger 41 Dillon Bassett 42 Jeff Green 43 Tyler Matthews 44 Will Rodgers 45 Joe Graf Jr. 46 J.J. Yeley 47 CJ McLaughlin 48 Elliott Sadler 49 Chris Cockrum 50 Ryan Vargas

PTS. WINS POLES TOP 5 TOP 10 4040 6 5 24 27 4035 7 8 17 24 4032 8 6 20 21 4023 1 0 16 24 2302 1 2 13 26 2294 2 4 14 24 2253 0 0 6 19 2246 0 0 9 22 2239 1 1 6 19 2207 1 0 6 16 2171 0 0 2 12 2155 0 0 4 20 713 0 0 1 4 699 0 0 1 4 574 0 0 0 1 547 0 0 0 0 527 0 0 0 1 449 0 0 1 1 443 0 0 0 0 425 0 0 0 0 372 0 0 0 1 364 0 0 0 0 358 0 0 0 0 339 0 0 0 0 322 0 0 2 7 250 0 0 0 0 242 0 0 0 1 206 0 0 0 0 201 0 0 2 6 195 0 0 0 1 193 0 0 0 0 187 0 0 1 3 175 0 0 0 2 169 0 0 1 4 133 0 0 0 1 131 0 0 0 0 129 0 0 0 0 120 0 0 1 1 106 0 0 0 0 105 1 1 2 2 102 0 0 0 0 85 0 0 0 2 83 0 0 0 0 58 0 0 0 0 55 0 0 0 0 55 0 0 0 0 55 0 0 0 0 52 0 0 0 1 51 0 0 0 1 50 0 0 0 0

GANDER RV & OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES

NO. DRIVER 1 Matt Crafton 2 Ross Chastain 3 Brett Moffitt 4 Stewart Friesen 5 Austin Hill 6 Johnny Sauter 7 Grant Enfinger 8 Tyler Ankrum 9 Ben Rhodes 10 Sheldon Creed 11 Todd Gilliland 12 Harrison Burton 13 Tyler Dippel 14 Austin Self 15 Gus Dean 16 Jordan Anderson 17 Spencer Boyd 18 Brennan Poole 19 Natalie Decker 20 Christian Eckes 21 Jennifer Cobb 22 Anthony Alfredo 23 Josh Reaume 24 Chandler Smith 25 Norm Benning 26 Jesse Little 27 Cory Roper 28 Dylan Lupton 29 Codie Rohrbaugh 30 Joe Nemechek 31 Angela Ruch 32 Raphael Lessard 33 Ray Ciccarelli 34 Korbin Forrister 35 Timothy Peters 36 Myatt Snider 37 Mason Massey 38 Spencer Davis 39 Jesse Iwuji 40 Clay Greenfield 41 Parker Kligerman 42 Tyler Hill 43 Derek Kraus 44 Riley Herbst 45 Tony Mrakovich 46 Tanner Gray 47 David Gilliland 48 Bayley Currey 49 Kyle Benjamin 50 Sam Mayer

PTS. WINS POLES TOP 5 TOP 10 4035 0 3 7 18 4033 3 1 10 19 4032 4 3 13 17 4026 2 2 12 16 2298 4 4 7 13 2238 1 0 4 11 2236 0 2 10 18 2182 1 0 3 8 773 0 0 7 13 726 0 0 4 11 723 1 1 6 14 707 0 0 7 11 454 0 0 1 3 442 0 0 1 3 413 0 0 0 0 397 0 0 0 0 338 1 0 2 2 300 0 0 1 4 281 0 0 0 0 271 0 4 3 4 268 0 0 0 0 240 0 0 0 2 179 0 0 0 1 171 0 1 3 4 171 0 0 0 0 149 0 0 0 0 146 0 0 0 1 145 0 0 1 3 144 0 0 0 1 144 0 0 0 0 139 0 0 0 1 135 0 0 0 2 130 0 0 0 1 107 0 0 0 0 98 0 0 0 2 94 0 0 0 2 94 0 0 0 0 81 0 0 0 1 80 0 0 0 0 73 0 0 0 0 72 0 0 0 1 68 0 0 0 0 64 0 0 0 1 61 0 0 1 2 60 0 0 0 0 59 0 0 0 0 56 0 0 0 0 54 0 0 0 1 54 0 0 0 0 54 0 0 0 0

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


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NASCAR CUP SERIES

2020 Fearless Predictions Every new NASCAR season brings surprises. Look for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series campaign to be no different. Following are five fearless predictions for the upcoming season.

BY JARED TURNER

Kyle Larson will sign with Hendrick Motorsports. At some point this year, Rick Hendrick has to name a successor to Jimmie Johnson, and no one would be a better fit to replace the retiring driver than Larson, who, at age 27, is entering the prime of his career. Larson knows Chip Ganassi Racing can’t provide him the kind of consistently quality equipment that Hendrick can, and securing a ride like the No. 48 is just the kind of break Larson has needed. Two rookies will win at least one race. Although it’s quite rare these days for a rookie driver to go to Victory Lane in NASCAR’s top series, the 2020 rookie class is a rare breed. This year’s rookies – Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer – combined to win a whopping 21 races last season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. They’re all so accustomed to winning that continuing down this path in year one as NASCAR Cup Series drivers won’t be a problem. Joe Gibbs Racing won’t dominate like it did in 2019. Last year, the organization placed all four of its drivers in the playoffs, made up three-fourths of the Championship 4 and won the title with Kyle Busch. JGR drivers Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones combined to win an astonishing 19 of 36 races. While JGR will remain one of NASCAR’s top-performing organizations in 2020, it’s unrealistic to expect the company to replicate its 2019 dominance.

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Jimmie Johnson will enjoy a resurgence in his final season. While the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series

champion has gone more than two-and-a-half seasons without a win and is coming off arguably his worst season ever, anyone who knows Johnson knows he’s going to stop at nothing to end his legendary career on a positive note. Look for Johnson to not only return to Victory Lane but to win multiple times and be a serious threat for a recordbreaking eighth series championship. More tracks will announce plans to host night races. It’s no secret that just about everyone in NASCAR loves racing on Saturday night – for multiple reasons – and there are multiple tracks that have lights, but for whatever reason, continue to host all daytime events. Texas, Atlanta, ISM Raceway, Kansas and Homestead all have lights, so there’s no reason those tracks couldn’t host a night race in the near future – even if it necessitated a little schedule shuffling.

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POLE POSITION 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES


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NASCAR Pole Position 2020 Season Preview Edition  

Published as a NASCAR lifestyle magazine, NASCAR Pole Position provides readers with original content and information on their favorite driv...

NASCAR Pole Position 2020 Season Preview Edition  

Published as a NASCAR lifestyle magazine, NASCAR Pole Position provides readers with original content and information on their favorite driv...

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