2020 Daytona 500 in just 78 days

Anthony Ballantoni
Rotoworld

The NASCAR 2019 XFINITY and Truck Series banquet and awards ceremonies are history. The CUP Series' banquet is this coming Thursday in Nashville. Time to 'Look Ahead'. During the off-season, we'll give a snapshot of where drivers finished in 2019 and what’s ahead for them in 2020. Drivers who finished in the top 20 in points for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series will be covered. Since many teams have yet to firm up their 2020 plans, follow NASCAR Headlines and "Player" News on this screen for the latest driver updates.
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With 78 days to go until the 2020 NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500, here are a few driver recaps followed by a tentative list of 2020 Cup Driver/Team lineups. Teams listed are full-time and plan on entering all events.

     Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (CUP)

2019: Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing #37 Chevrolet) - In 36 races, the Prosper, TX driver scored 4 top-tens, had a 21.6 average start, a 17.8 average finish, led 13 laps and closed out the season 20th in the standings. Buescher's best CUP season start was 7th at Richmond (4/13) and best finish was 6th at Charlotte (5/26). His last Cup win was August 1, 2018 at Pocono Raceway.
2020: Buescher left the #37 at the end of the season and will replace Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as the driver of the #17 Roush Fenway Ford. Luke Lambert will be his crew chief. Stenhouse will move to JTG Daugherty Racing, tentatively piloting Buescher's former #37 Chevy.
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2019: Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing #21 Ford) - In 36 races, the Eau Claire, WI driver scored 4 top-10s, had a 16.6 average start, a 16.6 average finish, led 11 laps and closed out the season 19th in the standings. Menards' best CUP season start was 2nd at Indianapolis (9/8), best finish was 6th at Bristol (4/7). His last CUP win was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 31, 2011. Menard also piloted Team Penske's #12 Mustang in 2 XFINITY Series races; best start pole, best finish 4th, both in the June 8th Michigan race.
2020: Menard has retired from full-time racing to spend time with family and, also, to get more involved in the family business (Menards). Matt DiBenedetto has been signed to drive the #21 Ford for the Wood Brothers.

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     NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS)

2019: BJ McLeod (JD Motorsports #4 and #15 Chevrolet) - In 30 races, the Wauchula, FL driver had a 25.9 average start, a 22.8 average finish and closed out the season 20th in the standings. His best NXS season start was 12th at Homestead (11/16) and best finishes were 16th at Dover (10/5) and Texas (11/2). McLeod also made 18 Cup starts for Rick Ware Racing with a best finish of 19th at Daytona (2/17). 
2020: McLeod will continue fielding his own McLeod Motorsports #5, #78 and #99 cars with several drivers. He will most likely return to JDM's #15 Chevy and he will also be one of the drivers in one of the three Rick Ware Racing cars entering CUP Series races in 2020.
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2019: Garrett Smithley (JD Motorsports #0 Chevrolet) - In 33 races, the Ligonier, PA driver had a 29.4 average start, a 23.6 average finish and closed out the season 19th in the standings. His best NXS season starts were 20th at Richmond (4/12) and Dover (10/5). His best finish was 12th at Talladega (4/27). He also made 14 Cup starts (all "start and park") for several teams with a best finish of 28th place.  
2020: No firm plans for Smithley at this point. JD Motorsports has yet to announce their driver lineup for next season. Smithley is also being considered for one of the three Rick Ware Racing CUP Series cars. 

     NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (GOT):

2019: Christian Eckes (Kyle  Busch Motorsports #51 Toyota Tundra) – In 8 GOT races, the Middletown, NY driver scored 3 top-fives, 4 top-tens, earned 3 poles, had a 4.8 average start, a 10.5 average finish, led 90 laps and closed out the season 20th in the standings. His best truck season starts were the poles at Daytona (2/15), Las Vegas (9/13) and Martinsville (10/26). His best finishes were 3rd at Las Vegas (9/13) and Homestead (11/15). Eckes also earned the 2019 ARCA Menards Series Championship title driving Venturini Motorsports #15 Toyota. He entered 19 of the 20 AMS races (illness for one event) averaging a 5.1 start (including 2 poles), a 4.8 average finish (including 4 victories), led 400 laps and closed out the AMS season 25 points ahead of 2nd-placed Michael Self for the championship.
2020: Kyle  Busch Motorsports announced that Eckes will be the full-time driver of KBM's #18 Toyota Tundra in the GOT series with Safelite as his primary sponsor.
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2019: Natalie Decker (DGR-Crosley #54 Toyota Tundra) – In 19 races, the Eagle River, WI driver had a 19.9 average start, a 22.2 average finish and closed out the GOT season 19th in the standings. Her best truck start was 11th at Daytona (2/15) and best finish was 13th at Las Vegas (3/1). 
2020: At this time, there are no firm 2020 plans announced for Decker or DGR-Crosley in the truck series.

         2020 Tentative Cup Teams

Car

Driver

Owner

Crew Chief

Sponsor

00 Chev

Quin Houff

StarCom

?

?

1 Chev

Kurt Busch

Chip Ganassi

Matt McCall

Monster Energy

2 Ford

Brad Keselowski

Team Penske

Paul Wolfe

Miller Lite/Discount Tire

3 Chev

Austin Dillon

Richard Childress

Justin Alexander

Dow

4 Ford

Kevin Harvick

Stewart-Haas

Rodney Childers

Busch Beer/Mobil 1

6 Ford

Ryan Newman

Roush Fenway

Scott Graves

Oscar Mayer

8 Chev

Tyler Reddick - R

Richard Childress

Randall Burdett

Caterpillar

9 Chev

Chase Elliott

Hendrick Mspt

Alan Gustafson

NAPA/Mountain Dew/Hooters/Kelley Blue Book

10 Ford

Aric Almirola

Stewart-Haas

John Klausmeier

Smithfield

11 Toyota

Denny Hamlin

Joe Gibbs

Chris Gabehart

FedEx

12 Ford

Ryan Blaney

Team Penske

Jeremy Bullins

Advance Auto Parts

13 Chev

Ty Dillon

Germain 

Matt Borland

Geico

14 Ford

Clint Bowyer

Stewart-Haas

Mike Bugarewics

Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation

15 Chev

?

Premium Mspt

Pat Tryson

?

17 Ford

Chris Buescher

Roush Fenway

Luke Lambert

Fifth Third Bank/SunnyD

18 Toyota

Kyle Busch

Joe Gibbs

Adam Stephens

M&M’s/Skittles/Snickers/ Interstate Batteries

19 Toyota

Martin Truex Jr.

Joe Gibbs

Cole Pearn

Bass Pro Shops/Auto-Owners Insurance

20 Toyota

Erik Jones

Joe Gibbs

Chris Gayle

DeWalt/Reser’s Fine Foods/Sport Clips/Stanley/Craftsman

21 Ford

Matt DiBenedetto

Wood Brothers

Greg Erwin

Menards/Motorcraft/Quick Lane

22 Ford

Joey Logano

Team Penske

Todd Gordon

Shell-Pennzoil/AAA So.Cal.

24 Chev

William Byron

Hendrick Mspt

Chad Knaus

Liberty University/Axalta/UniFirst/
Hertz

32 Ford

?

GoFAS Racing

Randy Cox

?

34 Ford

Michael McDowell

Front Row Mspt

Drew Blickensderfer

?

36 Ford

John Hunter Nemechek

Front Row Mspt

Seth Barbour

?

37 Chev

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

JTG Daugherty

Trent Owens

Kroger/Bush’s Beans

38 Ford

?

Front Row Mspt

Mike Kelly

MDS Trucking

41 Ford

Cole Custer -R

Stewart-Haas

?

Haas Automation

42 Chev

Kyle Larson

Chip Ganassi

Chad Johnston

?

43 Chev

Bubba Wallace

Richard Petty

Derek Stamets

?

47 Chev

Ryan Preece

JTG Daugherty

?

Kroger

48 Chev

Jimmie Johnson

Hendrick Mspt

Cliff Daniels

Ally Financial

51 Chev

?

Rick Ware

George Church

Jacob Companies

52 Chev

?

Rick Ware

?

?

77 Chev

?

Spire

Peter Sospenzo

?

88 Chev

Alex Bowman

Hendrick Mspt

Greg Ives

Axalta/Valvoline/Cincinati Inc

95 Toyota

Christopher Bell -R

Leavine Family

Jason Ratcliff

Procure/Rheem

 

R-Rookie of The Year

 

 

 

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