Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: Auto Club (Fontana)

Feels like last year—I’m dominating in the lower series but I’m sucking wind in the Cup Series!  Competing against last year is looking harder than I anticipated, but I’m always up for a challenge.
Speaking of challenges, I won the monthly sales challenge at work!  That gets me a free paid day off in March AND the preferred employee parking spot.  Plus I also got a nice commemorative pen, which is thoughtful.  Just goes to show you that you never know when an unexpected victory is coming your way.  Granted, I’m a little worried that I won a contest I didn’t even know was going on, but a win is a win.

CUP SERIES Auto Club 400: 2019 Winner (2 WINS) is Kyle Busch.  FAVORITE: Joey Logano—two straight for Joey gets me into the win column.  NEXT FAVORITE: Denny Hamlin—or maybe two out of three? DARK HORSE: Kyle Larson—the king of the two-milers defends his crown.

XFINITY SERIES (2 WINS) PAG 300: Austin Cindric—his team owner DID build this track.


Fred Lorenzen: Nascar Hall of Famer Retirements—Who Hung On Too Long?

Unlike other sports, Nascar can see drivers compete well into their 50’s.  While this allows for some pretty cool stories and added fan memories, it also can lend itself to some drivers staying active well past their prime.
With Jimmie Johnson being just the latest driver to announce his retirement from Nascar (effective the end of the 2020 season), I wanted to take a look at drivers who voluntarily retired from the sport to see if they hung on too long or left at just the right time (or maybe even a little too soon).  By “voluntary retirement” that means I’m not including anyone who was killed or seriously injured while driving.
Instead of looking at EVERY driver (even though interest in an analysis of Brett Bodine’s latter years could be quite high) I’m limiting it to Hall of Fame inductees—for now.

(Drivers listed in order of their Hall of Fame induction)

NOTE: Those inducted primarily or exclusively for achievements outside of driving (team ownership, crew chiefing, etc.) will not be considered.  Cup performance is all that’s considered for this piece.  Also, the more modern term “Cup Series” will be used instead of Grand National, Winston Cup, etc.

Fred Lorenzen

DRIVING ACCOMPLISHMENTS: “The Golden Boy”.  26 Cup Series wins despite never running a full schedule.  1965 Daytona 500 champion.  First driver to win over $100,000 in a single season.

LAST HURRAH: “The Elmhurst Express” returned to Nascar after a two-year hiatus in late 1970.  In 1971 Lorenzen posted six top-five race finishes in only fourteen starts.

FINAL YEAR(S): In 1972 Lorenzen again showed speed, posting three top-five race finishes in just eight Cup Series starts.  He would leave the sport after that season.

DID HE HANG ON TOO LONG?: No.  Lorenzen’s career is a bit tougher to judge since he never ran a full-season, but while he didn’t post any wins in his comeback, his excellent race finishes showed that he hadn’t lost much of anything.

Bounty—The Quicker Rowdy Wrecker-Upper

On the one hand, Nascar isn’t like pro wrestling.

On the other hand…

SCENE: A dimly-lit office.  A solitary figure sits behind a desk.  The desk is sparse with only a suitcase and a Jimmy John’s sub on it.

The lights brighten slightly revealing Kevin Harvick in a business suit behind the desk.

Harvick: (ominously, with barely contained anger) “Greetings fellow Cup drivers.  We all know why we’re here, but you don’t know why I’M here, now do you?  You see, I had a little talk with one of the money men, Marcus Lemonis. We pooled our resources, and we put together a little reward for all of you.”

Harvick picks up the briefcase, spins the numbers to unlock it, and it clicks open, revealing stacks of $100 bills.

“In this briefcase is $100,000.  All cash, tax-free, and you don’t even have to pay a licensing fee to Fanatics on it.  But if you want it, here’s what you’ll have to do.”

Harvick gets up and picks up the briefcase, holding it so the cash is visible.

“Our ‘good friend’ Kyle Busch is entering four more Truck races this year.  Think you can beat him?  All you need to do it win one of those four Truck races fair and square—no wrecks, no collusion, we don’t want the cops involved, or, worse, Chad Little *shudder*.”

Harvick quickly closes the briefcase.

“But if none of you can do it, Marcus gets his money back, and my half of the bounty goes to charity.  So—think you can do it?  Think you can beat Kyle Buschhhhhhhhhhhh—sorry, force of habit.”

Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: Las Vegas

While it was nice to get an Xfinity Series win, I’m already behind the eight-ball versus last year’s results with Denny Hamlin’s repeat win at Daytona.  Here’s hoping that Joey Logano has irritated enough drivers that he doesn’t get any help at Las Vegas!
Unfortunately I wound up missing most of the Daytona 500 this year due to work—had to get ready for inventory on Sunday, and then I was already scheduled to work Monday evening.  The retail management schedule is never fun, but at least it pays the bills.  It also gives me heartburn from time-to-time but thankfully I consider “antacids” one of my weekly bills.

CUP SERIES Pennzoil 400: 2019 Winner (1 WIN) is Joey Logano.  FAVORITE: Kyle Busch—the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas (so, the Toyotas then) are on a mission this year.  NEXT FAVORITE: Martin Truex Jr.—does this count as one of his home tracks?  DARK HORSE: Kurt Busch—hometown guy gets the win.

XFINITY SERIES (1 WIN) Boyd Gaming 300: Chase Briscoe—the single-team Xfinity focus at SHR pays dividends.

TRUCK SERIES Strat 200: Kyle Busch—and unlike last weekend my pick won’t DNQ.

Buck Baker: Nascar Hall of Famer Retirements—Who Hung On Too Long?

Unlike other sports, Nascar can see drivers compete well into their 50’s.  While this allows for some pretty cool stories and added fan memories, it also can lend itself to some drivers staying active well past their prime.
With Jimmie Johnson being just the latest driver to announce his retirement from Nascar (effective the end of the 2020 season), I wanted to take a look at drivers who voluntarily retired from the sport to see if they hung on too long or left at just the right time (or maybe even a little too soon).  By “voluntary retirement” that means I’m not including anyone who was killed or seriously injured while driving.
Instead of looking at EVERY driver (even though interest in an analysis of Chad Little’s latter years could be quite high) I’m limiting it to Hall of Fame inductees—for now.

(Drivers listed in order of their Hall of Fame induction)

NOTE: Those inducted primarily or exclusively for achievements outside of driving (team ownership, crew chiefing, etc.) will not be considered.  Cup performance is all that’s considered for this piece.  Also, the more modern term “Cup Series” will be used instead of Grand National, Winston Cup, etc.

Buck Baker
DRIVING ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Two-time Nascar Cup champion.  46 Cup Series wins.  Three-time Southern 500 winner.  Most Cup wins and poles in both 1956 and 1957.

LAST HURRAH: Buck’s last win came in the 1964 Southern 500, although he had stopped running the full-schedule several years prior.  In 1966 he posted seven top-five finishes.

FINAL YEAR(S): Baker’s race attempts were in the single-digits from 1969-1973, during which time he posted a single top-five at Bowling Green Stadium in ’71.  He made a brief comeback in 1976 which included a sixth-place finish at Darlington’s spring race but was most-notable in his retirement for operating his driving school.

DID HE HANG ON TOO LONG?: Possibly.  Baker showed in his 1976 comeback that he was still capable of running up front.  However, his lack of any other top-tens in the “Modern Era” (post-1971) showed that maybe the sport had passed him by.

Brad Keselowski Blocks Joey Logano on Twitter

Although it seemed like any tension in the ranks at Team Penske was diffused at Disney World, Brad Keselowski issued a subtle jab at teammate Joey Logano by blocking him on Twitter.
Always smiling
“Well (reporter’s name), it was something I felt I had to do”, Keselowski said when approached outside his motor coach this morning.  “Personally everything is cool between Joey and I, but professionally I had to show him that I wouldn’t just be pushed around.  Or, more accurately, I wouldn’t be held back by a slightly slower-moving car…or Twitter feed.  Huh, this metaphor isn’t really working out.”
The outspoken Keselowski was critical of his teammate after Logano’s blocking techniques knocked both out of the non-points Busch Clash Demolition Derby on Sunday.  Reports of a reconciliation—or at least agreeing to disagree—came from both drivers’ camps, but apparently more work needs to be done.
“I don’t know what Joey would have to do to get himself unblocked”, Keselowski explained.  “Maybe he could try being the pusher somewhere other than a short track for once.  It also wouldn’t hurt if he quit looking so giddy every time he gets knocked out of a race.”
The apparent feud has caught the attention of fellow Penske teammate Ryan Blaney, who said that “…I can see both sides of the story, but really I just want to prove to Joey that my ugly yellow car is uglier than HIS ugly yellow car.  Its a matter of principle.”

All three Penske drivers are expected to battle for the win today before contending next weekend at Las Vegas with the biggest blocker of them all—Aero Push.

Spade Racing: THE ROOKIES—Preseason Rakings

New for 2020, Spade Racing will take a monthly look at the heralded Cup Series rookie class to determine who’s hot and who’s not.  First off: Preseason Rankings

1. Christopher Bell (Leavine Family Racing).  Pedigree: Truck Series Champion.  16 Xfinity Series Wins.  7 Truck Series Wins.  Three-time Chili Bowl Champion.  Tends to win whenever Kyle Busch isn’t racing.  Team Strength Grade: B-  Sponsorship Grade: A  Overall Outlook Grade: A-

2. Cole Custer (Stewart Haas Racing). Pedigree: Two-time Xfinity Series Points Runner-Up.  9 Xfinity Series Wins.  2 Truck Series Wins.  Second-most famous driver named “Cole” and second-most famous human named “Custer”.  Team Strength Grade: A  Sponsorship Grade: B  Overall Outlook Grade: B+

3. Tyler Reddick (Richard Childress Racing).  Pedigree: Two-time (and defending) Xfinity Series Champion.  9 Xfinity Series Wins.  3 Truck Series Wins.  Already has a ninth-place Cup race finish and it wasn’t even due to a rainstorm!  Team Strength Grade: C+  Sponsorship Grade: B+  Overall Outlook Grade: B-

4. John Hunter Nemechek (Front Row Motorsports).  Pedigree: 1 Xfinity Series win.  6 Truck Series wins.  Son of Front Row Joe, running for Front Row Motorsports—that HAS to mean something, right?  Team Strength Grade: C-  Sponsorship Grade: C-  Overall Outlook Grade: C-

5. Brennan Poole (Premium Motorsports).  Pedigree: 6 ARCA Series wins.  37 Xfinity Series top-ten finishes.  Seems unusually adept at pissing people off.  Team Strength Grade: D-  Sponsorship Grade: C  Overall Outlook Grade: D

6. Quin Houff (StarCom Racing).  Pedigree: none really.  Unless you count “Seemed to come out of nowhere” and “Reminds people of Daria’s sister”.  Team Strength Grade: D  Sponsorship Grade: D-  Overall Outlook Grade: D-

Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: Daytona

OK, so here’s how its going to be this year—I’ll be picking against last year’s Cup Series winners with my favorites all year long.  So that means that I can pick ANY driver except whoever won last year’s race.  Xfinity and Truck picks will be picked as usual.
CLICK TO ENLARGE--this year's paint scheme
Without any further ado—or any further scams, MIKE—here’s my first picks of the year:

CUP SERIES Daytona 500: 2019 Winner is Denny Hamlin.  FAVORITE: Kyle Busch—he finally ticks off the last item of his Cup Series “bucket list” then disappoints us all by failing to retire.  NEXT FAVORITE: Chase Elliott—saving the sport or some such nonsense.  DARK HORSE: Bubba Wallace—don’t laugh, it came to me in a dream.

XFINITY SERIES Nascar Racing Experience 300: Noah Gragson—getting an early start on his campaign for the 48 Cup ride in 2021.

TRUCK SERIES NextEra Energy 250: John Hunter Nemechek—First On Race Day in his Ford truck debut.

Spade Racing 2020 Truck Series Preview: eNGROSsing Numbers

The Nascar Gander RV & Outdoor Series (NGROS if you’re running out of space) features a slightly new name and some new names behind the wheel as well.  Here’s a look at where you can expect the Keep on Truckers to finish in the regular season standings.

Special thanks to the resurgent Jayski for its immeasurable help in determining who’s gone where.


1. Matt Crafton (88—Menards): No reason to pick against the defending champion, who’s become about as steady as, well, Matt Crafton in the Truck Series.  The Numbers Game: Matt Crafton has averaged about 88 associate/partner sponsors on his Menards truck.

2. Tyler Ankrum (26—???): GMS Racing snaps up last year’s breakout racer.  Sponsorship is uncertain but we can safely say that ISM Connect and Allegiant Air will be involved.  The Numbers Game: Tyler has a 26-question FAQ on his website, most of which deal with “What exactly was Modern Meat anyways?”

3. Brett Moffitt (23—???): A slight number change for The Moffitt Man.  Sponsorship is uncertain but we can safely say that ISM Connect and Allegiant Air will be involved.  The Numbers Game: it takes about 23 days for Brett’s mustache to reach “peak mid-90’s Dale Jarrett”.

4. Christian Eckes (18—Safelite): Christian moves up as the defending ARCA Series champion.  The Numbers Game: It would take about 18 minutes to explain all the changes going on this year in the ARCA Series or division or whatever the heck it is.

5. Austin Hill (16—???): Austin’s back for Hattori Racing Enterprises after posting four wins last year.  Yeah, the move up from Young’s Motorsports looks pretty good.  The Numbers Game: There’s 16 different Austins involved in Nascar at any given moment.

6. Johnny Sauter (13—Tenda Heal): The Truck Series stalwart is back, hoping everyone will just agree to forget his terrible Cup career.  The Numbers Game: go to any short track in Wisconsin and you can expect to run into at least 13 Sauters.

7. Grant Enfinger (98—Champion Power Equipment): Sure, anyone can envision the future.  But it takes someone special to EnFINGER it.  The Numbers Game: 98% of race fans assume that “Champion Power Equipment” is a made-up company.

8. Sheldon Creed (2—???): The former Stadium Super Trucker returns to GMS Racing looking for his first race win.  Sponsorship is uncertain but we can safely say that ISM Connect and Allegiant Air will be involved.  The Numbers Game: Sheldon will let you make 2 Scott Stapp jokes before pushing you in the face—choose wisely.

9. Ty Majeski (45—???): Replacing Ross Chastain, the former Ford developmental driver finally gets a shot at a full-season in Nascar.  The Numbers Game: Ty Majeski’s face is 45% the size of the face of Ty Dillon.

10. Stewart Friesen (52—Halmar): The Canadian Connection switches to a Toyota/KBM alignment.  Can they break through in 2020?  Only time will tell, eh.  The Numbers Game: only 52 race fans worldwide have any idea what Halmar does.

11. Ben Rhodes (99—???): While sponsorship has yet to be announced, here’s hoping they run that awesome Havoline scheme again.  The Numbers Game: 99% of the time Ben Rhodes is asked if he’s related to Dusty Rhodes, he just says “yeah” and moves on with his life.

12. Zane Smith (21—???): The Z-man gets a full-time ride, while also running a few Xfinity races for JRM.  Sponsorship is uncertain but we can safely say that ISM Connect and Allegiant Air will be involved.  The Numbers Game: Zane figures he can get away with calling his team “ZMS Racing” about 21 times before he’s scolded.

13. Raphael Lessard (4—???): The Quebecois rookie gets a prime shot in KBM equipment.  The Numbers Game: it took Raphael about 4 seconds to realize it wasn’t cool to make “Stay in your f***ing RV” jokes to his new team owner.

14. Todd Gilliland (38—???): After winning his first Truck race last year Todd immediately ruined any momentum by spouting off about his team owner on the radio.  So this year he runs for a team set up by his dad.  The Numbers Game: most expects give this team about 38 races before it mysteriously shuts down.

15. Derek Kraus (19—Eneos/Napa): Longtime West Series team owner Bill McAnally moves up full-time to Truck competition in partnership with HRE.  The Numbers Game: Bill McAnally typically runs about 19 cars in each West Series race, all of them co-sponsored by Napa.

16. Jordan Anderson (3—???): The young owner/driver returns much the same as in 2019.  The Numbers Game: In the time it takes you to read this, Jordan Anderson will have published three press releases.

Spade Racing 2020 Xfinity Series Preview: Change Facts, Strange “Facts”

Fun fact—the Xfinity Series is the only one of the three Nascar national touring series to NOT have a new name for 2020.  Strange “Fact”—If you say “Venit ad me fillies meus” into your voice-activated Xfinity remote control, David Stremme will appear on your screen.  Let’s have a look at the 2020 Xfinity Series, shall we?

Special thanks to the resurgent Jayski for its immeasurable help in determining who’s gone where.

1. Justin Allgaier (7—Brandt): Not much change here for one of the most-consistent drivers in any Nascar series.  STRANGE “FACT”: Now that wrestler Jushin “Thunder” Liger is retiring from in-ring competition, he can reunite with Justin, his long-long biological step-son.

2. Austin Cincric (22—Moneylion): The Boss’s Son is back and looking to capitalize after a year of growth.  STRANGE “FACT”: Austin has little to no connection to Austin Dillon or Austin Cindric, but once tossed a beer to “Stone Cold” Denise Austin.  It didn’t go well

3. Ross Chastain (10—Nutrian Ag): “Nascar’s busiest driver” has “leveled-up” to the Xfinity Series, although he will continue to run in Trucks and Cup.  STRANGE “FACT”: Those races Kaulig Racing were disqualified from last year?  All due to AJ Allmendinger’s improperly applied hair gel.

4. Noah Gragson (9—Switch): Its a make-or-break year for Noah as he has the chance to prove he belongs in the 48 Cup ride in 2021.  And by “break”, I mean “will wind up doing something we all wish we could do for the next 20 years”.  STRANGE “FACT”: Suggested nicknames for Noah Gragson include “The Ark-Man”, “Aggro-Grag” and “Sweet Carolina Mustard”.

5. Harrison Burton (20—DEX Imaging): Don’t just assume that Harrison’s moving up from Trucks because of his famous last name—he did it the old-fashioned way, by finishing 12th in points in Trucks running for the series’ best team.  STRANGE “FACT”: Most of the images that DEX images are just blurry shots of Gary Bradberry.

6. Justin Haley (11—LeafFilter): Cup’s Flukiest Winner tries to become Xfinity’s solidest driver in 2020.  STRANGE “FACT”: “solidest” is somehow an actual word.

7. Brandon Jones (19—Menards): While Brandon’s at the bottom of the Menards Sponsored Drivers Performance Rankings with Paul having retired, he still has a legit shot to win every weekend.  So there’s that.  STRANGE “FACT”: If at any point this year you find yourself saying “I got a Jones for Brandon”, seek immediate medical attention.

8. Michael Annett (1—PilotFlyingJ): A season-opening win and a ninth-place points finish was a decent improvement for the driver inexplicably supported by the owner of the Cleveland Browns.  STRANGE “FACT”: Now that I think about it, Annett’s peripatetic racing career DOES match up pretty well with Browns leadership history.

9. Chase Briscoe (98--High Point): Chase issued some cryptic remarks about “racing for his job” in 2019.  In 2020 he could very well be doing just that if he doesn’t find a sponsor.  STRANGE “FACT”: Much like Chase Elliott, Chase is just a nickname for Thelonious Hebbadiah Briscoe.

10. Riley Herbst (18—Monster): Riley comes to Xfinity with the total package—youth, financial backing, and sponsorship both internal and external.  Oh, and I guess he’s a good driver too.  STRANGE “FACT”: If you ain’t first, you’re last.  And if you ain’t last, you’re Herbst.

11. Ryan Sieg (39—CMR Construction): Nascar’s Official Underdog hopes to parlay steady sponsorship into another Playoff run—and possibly a race win.  STRANGE “FACT”: Ryan likes to tell dates that if they play their cards right, later they’ll be “Under Sieg”.

12. Vinnie Miller (78—???): This BJ McLeod Motorsports driver has a shot to sneak his way into the Playoffs…unless a mid-major team decides to run an extra car.  STRANGE “FACT”: Vinnie’s hometown of Metamora Michigan has only 565 people in it…and one terrible secret no one must know.

13. Joe Graf Jr. (08—Eat Sleep Race): “Replacing Gray Gaulding” isn’t the ideal way to make a splash in Nascar, but hey—its a start.  STRANGE “FACT”: Joe considers being listed as one of the “Notable People” from Mahwah, New Jersey on Wikipedia to be his greatest accomplishment thus far.

14. Jeremy Clements (51—Repairable Vehicles): Another year, another season for Jeremy in his family-owned car, another few months of hoping he doesn’t say something stupid again.  STRANGE “FACT”: Jeremy calls his team’s garage “The 51st State”.

15. David Starr (6—???): What’s stranger—JDMwGK continuing to successful run a multi-car team with limited sponsorship, or realizing that they’ve managed to establish their red cars as an identifiable brand?  STRANGE “FACT”: The team’s drivers have never met Phil Swift, founder of Flex Seal/Tape/Glue/Gunk/Beer/Life.

16. Brandon Brown (68—Coastal Carolina): Double-B returns for his family-owned team, albeit in a re-numbered car.  Time will tell if this will result in anything remotely interesting.  STRANGE “FACT”: Brandon doesn’t even know who Jaromir Jagr IS.

17. Ray Black Jr. (07—ScubaLife): SS Greenlight continues its march towards an eventual 12th-place points finish.  STRANGE “FACT”: Every time Ray calls his sponsor, they reply with “Things are bad here—our business is UNDERWATER!”.  Every.  Single.  TIME.

18. Matt Mills (5—J.F. Electric): Thankfully they finally adjusted the “5” on the car so it doesn’t look like they just taped over another number.  STRANGE “FACT”: JF Electric honestly didn’t think their logo looked anything like the title card for E.T.

19. ??? (52—possibly Whataburger): Its impossible to hate on an underdog team, quirky sponsor, and iconic team owner (Jimmy…Means…Business!).  STRANGE “FACT”: Stare at the shade of orange on this car for too long and you’ll find yourself singing “Rocky Top".

20. Tommy Joe Martins (44—Diamond Gussett): Nascar really DOES need more three-named drivers, doesn’t it?  STRANGE “FACT”: Its perfectly acceptable to pronounce this car’s number as “foe-foe”.

21. Chad Finchum (?—???): The only thing confirmed about this MBM entry is that it’ll have Chad Finchum driving full-time.  STRANGE “FACT”: If you can’t beat ‘em, Finchum.

22. Jesse Little (4—???): Ross Chastain has fully-vacated his JGMwGK ride.  Hey Jesse—nooo pressure.  STRANGE “FACT”: Even Jesse wonders how Mark Rypien had that one good year.

23. Josh Williams (92—???): DGM Racing retains Josh Williams full-time in 2020.  STRANGE “FACT”: Why yes, I *am* running out of things to say—how’d you guess?

24. BJ McLeod (15—???): BJ owns a team while racing for another.  Its like Dale Earnhardt only much, much, much, MUCH lower-quality.  STRANGE “FACT”: BJ spends two hours every morning slicking his hair back.

25. Mike Harmon (74—???): Mike continues to bring up the rear amongst full-time drivers.  Oh well—its better than nearly getting sliced in two at Bristol.  STRANGE “FACT”: N/A—Mike Harmon is an enigma.

Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: The Preview

OK, let me get this off my chest right away: I’m pissed.
No, I’m not pissed because I got passed over for the promotion at work.
No, I’m not pissed because the rent for my townhouse is going up 10% next month.
No, I’m not pissed because my girlfriend of three months just broke up with me over “The Super Bowl Party Incident”.
I’m pissed because my very own nephew lied to me for two years.
For two whole seasons I thought I was picking against a trained Nascar handicapper in Mystery Picker.  And then I find out at the end of last season that it was my nephew rolling a freaking 60-sided die?!?
Well, revenge is in order.
This year I’ll be proving that I can beat the greatest prognosticator of them all—past performance.

Every week I’ll pick against who won last year in Cup and see how I do.  I’ll prove that my predictions can beat anybody, any system, AND any joke.

NBC Sports Sarcastically Apologizes for Innuendo-Laden Headline

Hours after posting the headline “Love is in the air among NASCAR drivers (and their sisters)”, NBC Sports’ website issued a sarcastic apology to anyone who pointed out the relatively obvious issues with the wording.
“Oh, for crying out loud”, the statement began, “people are actually upset about this?  We give better Nascar coverage than anyone this side of Jayski, and people STILL want to complain?!?
“OK, fine then—we’re sorry that we mistakenly published a headline that could be seen as perpetuating the stereotype that southerners engage in incest.  There—happy now?”
The headline apparently was made with no ill-will or malicious intent.  However, the story—about William Byron dating the sister of competitor Ryan Blaney—was quickly shared for its, in retrospect, poor choice of headline.
“Oh, so some of you think this is funny?”, the NBC Sports statement continued.  “Well, we publish dozens—even HUNDREDS—of online stories every day.  Fox (Sports’ website) barely does anything outside of videos anymore.  But noon—you’re not grateful, you’re just snickering like a bunch of 12-year-olds because our headline writer was having an off-day.
“Well you know what?  Our headline writer was having a bad day because his kid had food poisoning last night.  So he was up ALL NIGHT and is just a LITTLE sleep-deprived.  But that doesn’t matter to you, now does it?”
Attention on the sport is at a high as fans look forward to the Daytona 500 in a little over a week.  However, NBC Sport’s statement concluded with a rather negative outlook on the 2020 season.
“So, again, we’re SOOO sorry that we happened to make you offended or giggle like a schoolgirl.  Go back to focusing on the upcoming season by complaining about every little thing.  We just can’t win with you people!
“Then again, you’re STILL easier to deal with than IndyCar fans.” 

Spade Racing 2020 Cup Series Preview: Who Goes Where?

If you had to pick one word to describe the upcoming Nascar Cup season, that word would probably be “Transitional”, mostly because “Screwingoverdover” isn’t a real word.  With more changes in drivers, teams, and sponsors than in recent memory, here’s Spade Racing’s 2020 preview, recapping what’s new and what to expect:

Special thanks to the resurgent Jayski for its immeasurable help in determining who’s gone where.


THE CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS—these drivers will be everyone’s favorites going into the Playoffs.
1. Kyle Busch (18—M&M’s/Interstate): the more things change, the more they stay the same.  No, I’m not talking about Rowdy’s surprising consistency—I’m talking about him irritating me by contradicting my whole concept.  Look for The Candyman to have multiple wins and a healthy points lead early on.  CHANGES FOR 2020—none.

2. Brad Keselowski (2—Discount Tire/Alliance): its about time BKes stepped back into the championship fray—2020 is as good a time as any.  And if he doesn’t at least he can fool Austin Cindric into thinking he has a shot at this ride in 2021.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new crew chief.

3. Denny Hamlin (11—FedEx/SportClips): the time is now—the proverbial window of opportunity could be closing for Denny to win that elusive Cup championship.  And if it closes any further, he won’t be able to enter it thanks to his bad back.  CHANGES FOR 2020—none.

4. Kevin Harvick (4—Jimmy Johns/Busch): last year it was Kevin vs. The Toyotas.  Expect Harvick to have a bit more in-house competition this year, but keep putting up as many wins as Buschhhhh has H’s in their commercials.  CHANGES FOR 2020—none.

A WIN OR TWO—drivers who aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but could do so if they get on a roll late in the season.
5. Joey Logano (22—Pennzoil/AAA): its not so much any drop-off in performance or driving ability as much as it is being hated by a good chunk of the field.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new crew chief.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (19—Bass Pro Shops/Auto-Owners): in theory it should take a while to pick up where Martin and former crew chief Cole Pearn left off.  Hopefully it doesn’t require relocating the team to Colorado.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new crew chief.

7. Ryan Blaney (12—Menards/etc.): look for Ryan to continue to make incremental growth.  While he might seem a step behind “the elite” that’s partially because he has two championship teammates—I mean, if Stuart Kirby were his teammate, he’d be thought of as a generational talent.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new crew chief, Advance Auto Parts joins as a sponsor.

8. Kyle Larson (42—Credit One/McDonalds): the highest Chevy on this list, but that’s a compliment—last year you’d be hard-pressed to find a Bowtie anywhere NEAR the front.  Could Kyle have a bit of motivation, say from a possible future Ally?  CHANGES FOR 2020—Advent Health joins as a sponsor.

9. Chase Elliott (9—Napa/Hooters): an improving Chevrolet should only help the current leader of the Hendrick Motorsports team.  To use his father as an example, he seems to be at Junior Johnson 11 car level of performance.  CHANGES FOR 2020—none.

10. Erik Jones (20—DeWalt/SportClips): time to see how Jones responds to the internal pressure of having a bonafide talent in Cup waiting to take your ride.  I’m thinking he reacts quite well, thank you.  CHANGES FOR 2020—none.

CONTENDING FOR WINS—these are the kinds of drivers who regularly finish in the top-15, and aren’t exactly surprising if you see them in victory lane.
11. Aric Almirola (10—Smithfield): the quiet contender (well, compared to his teammates) could be the kind of driver to win a single race, then “point” his way deep into the playoffs.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new crew chief.

12. Kurt Busch (1—Monster Energy): kinda odd to think of a guy who debuted in 2000 as an “elder statesman”, but here we are.  CHANGES FOR 2020—increased sponsorship from Monster.

13. (R) Christopher Bell (95—Rheem/Procore): on the one hand there’ll be plenty of pressure on Bell to win in his rookie year, what with increased Gibbs backing of his team and his Xfinity Series performance.  On the other hand, he seems to have the talent to back it up.  CHANGES FOR 2020—rookie, team is now essentially a JGR satellite, Rheem joins as a primary sponsor.

14. Jimmie Johnson (48—Ally): the final year for Jimmie Johnson in Cup, so enjoy it while you can.  Well, unless a Hendrick driver gets injured in 2021 and they need a substitute.  CHANGES FOR 2020—final year in Cup.

15. Clint Bowyer (14—Haas/Rush): the pressure will continue to be on Clint to perform at the level of teammates Harvick and Almirola.  On the plus side, no one seems to be in the pipeline to take his ride, so back off, Chase Briscoe.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new crew chief.

THE MID-PACK MARAUDERS—expect these drivers to either outperform bad equipment or underperform good equipment.  Could compete for a win if the situation is just right.
16. Ryan Newman (6—Wyndham/Oscar Mayer): look for Ryan Newman to do the Ryan Newman thing and “point” his way into the Playoffs, continuing to get the best out of middling RoushFenway equipment.  Expect a little boost from the team not needing to repair as much wrecked sheetmetal as last year.  CHANGES FOR 2020—Castrol essentially replaces Acorns.

17. Alex Bowman (88—ChevyGoods/Valvoline): winner of the “ooh, so close” award for barely missing out on the Playoffs, it’ll continue to be an uphill battle for Bowman to make a splash.  CHANGES FOR 2020—Nationwide has left the team.

18. (R) Cole Custer (41—Haas): his own history has shown that Cole is a steady climber when he gets into a new series.  Expect to see a year of “building the notebook”, followed by a year of “building the notebook” for the new car.  CHANGES FOR 2020—rookie, crew chief moving up to Cup, status of additional sponsorship (if any) unknown at this time.

19. Matt DiBenedetto (21—Menards/Motorcraft): its put up or shut up time for Matty D as he has a ride in top-flight equipment.  For better or worse it might take a year to adjust.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new driver, replacing Paul Menard who retired.

20. William Byron (24—Axalta/Liberty): while people may have been hoping that William would be the next Kasey Kahne, instead its looking like he might turn out to be the next David Stremme.  CHANGES FOR 2020—none.

21. Austin Dillon (3—Dow/Bass Pro Shops): the highest ranking for an RCR or RCR-affiliated driver.  Here’s hoping the team has finally “bottomed out” and can start rebuilding.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new crew chief, unknown status of other sponsors.

22. (R) Tyler Reddick (8—Caterpillar): while Reddick comes in with a proven track record, unfortunately he’s not exactly coming up to a top-flight team.  Maybe give him a year to see what he can do.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new driver, new crew chief, additional sponsorship details unknown at this time.

23. Chris Buescher (17—Fastenal/FifthThirdBank): While RFR is a definite upgrade from JTG-D for Buescher, its not MUCH of an upgrade.  Then again, going from Chevy to Ford might be good enough for a few places each week.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new driver, new crew chief, some sponsorship info not confirmed.

THE LONGSHOTS—it’ll take a superspeedway and/or a fuel mileage gamble for these drivers to win a race—or even get a top five finish.
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (47—Kroger): Stenhouse will likely be a man on a mission to prove Roush management wrong.  But will he have a car capable to propel him out of the mid-pack?  CHANGES FOR 2020—new driver, new crew chief.

25. Ryan Preece (37—ClickList/Bush’s): Preece hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, and unfortunately there’s not much to say this year will be any different.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new car number.

26. Bubba Wallace (43—WorldWide Technology/Air Force): Bubba has shown he can contend when he has a decent car, but it’ll likely take the stars aligning for that to happen in 2020.  CHANGES FOR 2020—sponsorship uncertain, new crew chief.

27. Ty Dillon (13—Geico/Twisted Tea): is it the driver or the team?  Ty seems happy driving for Germain, so we might not know for years, if ever.  CHANGES FOR 2020—none.

28. (R) John Hunter Nemechek (38—SpeedyCash/CITGARD): JHN managed to escape an Xfinity team shutting down and landed in a Cup car.  Unfortunately its a team that tends to run back-of-the-pack.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new driver (replaced David Ragan, who retired), additional sponsorship not yet confirmed.

29. Michael McDowell (34—Love's): McDowell held onto his ride through Front Row’s downsizing, maintaining his position as a stalwart of the underfunded.  CHANGES FOR 2020—unknown sponsorship situation.

30. Corey Lajoie (32—Keenparts/Schluter): better equipment could mean better results for this small but scrappy team.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new crew chief, team has aligned with SHR.

31. Daniel Suarez (96—CommScope/Coca-Cola): out of a ride at SHR, Suarez has signed with Gaunt Bros. for what is expected to be a full-season run.  CHANGES FOR 2020—team going full-time with a new driver. (NOTE: CommScope is the parent company of Arris)

AND THE REST—sadly these teams are just filling out the field.
32. (R) Quin Houff (00—StarCom): while its nice to see this team slowly improve, we’d all like to see them contend for top-20s sometime THIS decade.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new driver, sponsorship and crew chief TBA.

33. Timmy Hill (66—RoofClaim): MBM plans to run the full season with Timmy in a Toyota, and that’s literally about all the info available on them.  CHANGES FOR 2020—virtually everything else is unknown at this time.

34. ???, Ross Chastain (77—???/AdventHealth): Premium Motorsports will likely run a few different drivers in 2020.  Ross will run at least two races in this car in partnership with Ganassi with AdventHealth sponsorship.  CHANGES FOR 2020—other than two races for Ross, nothing’s been announced.

35. Brennan Poole (15—Spartan Mosquito): Poole is in for the full season at Premium with Spartan sponsoring about half the year.  CHANGES FOR 2020—new driver, additional sponsorship TBD.

36, 37 & 38. Joey Gase, ???, ??? (51, 52, 53—???): Rick Ware Racing returns with three full-time rides.  Joey Gase has been confirmed for one of them.  JJ Yeley is expected to be involved.  CHANGES FOR 2020—who knows, who cares?

Spade Racing 2020 Cup Series Preview: What’s the Change, Kenneth?


In a welcome change of pace, Nascar isn’t introducing a bunch of changes all at once—instead its introducing them over a two year period!  While 2021 will see the debut of a brand-new generation of car and a post-Brendan Gaughan world, here’s what changes you can expect to see in 2020:

The new logo
The series is now officially known simply as the “Nascar Cup Series”, or NCS if you’re short on space.  Instead of one single series sponsor, there’ll now be four of them: Busch Beer, Coca-Cola, Geico, and Xfinity, which each of them getting or continuing a major additional sponsorship aspect (Busch Pole Award, Coca-Cola Regular Season Champion, Xfinity Best Service Interruption, etc.).  All four sponsors will be integrated heavily into broadcasts and online properties (READ: Four types of commercials you’ll be absolutely sick of by the All-Star Race).

The biggest difference from 2019 to 2020 in the cars themselves will be on short-tracks and road courses, where there’ll be a “low-downforce package” with a tiny spoiler.  Leave it to Nascar to come up with a new rules package that will only affect less than a third of the schedule for one year before everything changes completely.

Plenty has changed with when Nascar will be going to its usual cadre of tracks—here’s a quick rundown of the biggest moves:
Click to enlarge--the 2020 "Schedule Matrix"
Know who's racing where and when the whole season long!

—Phoenix is now the final race weekend of the year for all three national touring series. In response to Nascar moving its “Championship Weekend” to a literal desert, Mother Nature is planning on swamping Arizona with a monsoon.

—Homestead’s races will instead be held in March, taking it out of competition with the 800lb. elephant known as Football and into competition with the 500lb. rhino known as March Madess.

—Daytona and Indianapolis are switching summer race weekends—the Brickyard 400 will now be held in the scorching heat of summer (remember, they don’t have lights there) on Fourth of July weekend, while the Firecracker 400 will instead serve as the new regular-season finale.  Sure it seems dumb and unnecessary, but it DOES mean that we could see Quin Houff win his way into the Playoffs on the final weekend with a fluke win at Daytona.

—Oh, and Indianapolis’s Xfinity Series race will be held on the infield road course, which, as usual, is a fantastic idea and should be logistically possible…unless it rains.

—Martinsville’s spring race will be held Mother’s Day Weekend under the lights on Saturday Night.  Because nothing says “Happy Mother’s Day” like showing up for Sunday Brunch with mom sniffling and coughing from spending a night out in the 40 degree cold of the Virginia mountains.

—Dover’s fall race is now a mid-August race, allowing Delawarean race fans such as myself to experience sitting on a metal bleacher in searing heat.  Expectations are for attendance to rival that of the infamous Dover IRL race no one went to.  No, not that one, the other one.

—Darlington’s beloved “Throwback Weekend” will now also be the first race of the Playoffs.  So instead of “The calm before the storm” we’ll have a denouement of 16 guys on edge to advance and 24 guys depressed they might lose their rides next year.  Fun fun fun!

—Bristol’s night race moves into the Playoffs, giving an even bigger audience to wonder why broadcasters are going out of their way to avoid saying the title sponsor of the race.

—Of course arguably the biggest schedule change of them all will see Pocono host a “doubleheader” race weekend in late-June.  Basically it will feature a 325-mile race on Saturday (with normal qualifying procedures) followed by a 350-mile race on Sunday (with the field set by inverting the lead lap finishing order).  If someone manages to finesse the free-pass rule and wind up on the tail end of the lead lap on Saturday, Sunday could see the strangest pole sitter since the Loy Allen Jr. era.

—Finally, Nascar will take a two-week break in August to allow the NBC family of networks to air wall-to-wall Olympic coverage.  Yeah it stinks to have no racing for more than a week, but its worth it to see a five-minute vignette of Dale Earnhardt Jr. trying sushi.