With the Daytona 500 just 45 days away, I wanted to continue my early season racing predictions and give NASCAR fans something to mull over as the season inches closer.
Much like the one I did for Formula One, these predictions will be in no particular order and done with heart in hand.
1. Ford will have early season troubles
With much anticipation, the Ford Mustang will replace the Ford Fusion coming into the 2019 season, but it won’t be without its difficulties. Much like the Camaro this past season, I anticipate the Mustang having a slow start to this new campaign.
The due diligence of wind tunnels and computer simulations will not substitute on-track learning. Ford has put a lot of time and effort into getting this new body competitive, and now that they are the defending champions, a lot of pressure to be great out of the gate. We know the Yates engines will be strong but will that be enough to keep their cars upfront in the early stages of the season?
2. Martin Truex Jr. will become the new number one at Joe Gibbs Racing
I think it is safe to say that Kyle Busch is the current number one at JGR with eight wins and his fourth-place points finish in 2018 but this next season could look different for that M&M’s Toyota. With Martin Truex Jr. officially becoming part of Joe Gibbs Racing, he will be on even footing with his championship rival of the last several years.
Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr. have been a formidable foe for Kyle Busch over the last several years, and I believe these two will be competing in Homestead-Miami come November as teammates and rivals. Don’t forget; he did finish second overall with four wins in customer equipment from JGR…
3. Rockingham will be officially announced back onto the 2020 schedule
I WANT THIS.
The investors named Rockingham Properties LLC have been working tirelessly to restore the track to its former glory by saying racing will return and this time we can see progress toward this goal. Their approach to making the speedway more than just a race track and into a multi-entrainment facility is something that can sustain the track though non-race weekends and a blueprint for race tracks to follow in the future.
It brings a race track back to life. It gives a bit of nostalgia back to NASCAR. It allows for a shake-up to a slightly stale schedule, and it adds a short track.
IT ADDS A SHORT TRACK!
NASCAR has fallen away from their roots, and this could signal their way back into what made the sport fans fell in love with.
4. Kyle Larson becomes the force we have all thought he would be
No doubt that Larson has been fast but can he be consistent? Can he put together consistent drives to be that championship contender we’ve viewed him as for the last several years?
With 2019 being his sixth full-time season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, I genuinely think the time is now for him to assert his dominance. Chip Ganassi has given him a teammate that matches his style with Kurt Busch and their cars have progressively gotten better with Larson behind the wheel.
This year, he will be able to put the experience, knowledge, and speed together to get to the final four and show the world what he can do.
5. The racing will be better
Look, at times, the racing was less than spectacular. I can name two races off the top of my head, and they were both in my backyard at Texas Motor Speedway. Yes, I was at both.
With this being said, the new rules package is supposed to tighten up the pack and provide that side by side racing we’ve all been craving. This rules package has been two years in the making, and I am curious to see what kind of racing it will provide.
If it is as advertised, we could see some of the best racing since the 2014 and 2015 season. Let’s hope we don’t have to go back to the drawing board as soon as the season starts.