Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Keeping Up With 2020 NASCAR Driver Changes

Another busy offseason has come to a close. Let’s see what it’s wrought this time around.

After kicking off the season with this column in 2018 and 2019, we’re back yet again to try to provide some clarity on the driver and team changes that occurred in NASCAR’s three national series (the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series) for 2020.

Below you’ll find what we know for sure thus far, either because it’s been announced or because it’s, you know, on the Daytona International Speedway entry lists. Which is usually a pretty good source of information.

The only ground rules to remember: we’re talking only driver changes; if we discussed all the crew chief and other personnel moves, we’d be here all night (thanks, Team Penske!). We’re also really only discussing newcomers to a given seat; for example, JR Motorsports’ No. 8 has a new driver, but it also has two who are returning. We don’t need to talk about the other two.

There’s also much to be announced still in 2020; don’t take some of these as the set-in-stone rosters for a given team, especially in the lower series.

But for an easygoing primer, here’s what we’ve got.

NASCAR Cup Series

No. 8, Tyler ReddickAfter a pair of championships in a row in the Xfinity Series, Reddick is called up to the big leagues with his most recent Xfinity team, Richard Childress Racing. Stay tuned to find out if his stellar second-tier series results transfer to Cup, especially for a B-level team like RCR. A ninth-place finish in his second series start last year at Kansas Speedway is certainly encouraging.

No. 15, Brennan PoolePremium Motorsports puts its weight behind a tried-and-true rookie for 2020; the Daytona 500 will mark Poole’s maiden Cup start. Sponsorship woes forced him out of a full-time Truck Series run last year for On Point Motorsports, but given Premium’s penchant for occasionally running sponsorless, that probably won’t be an issue for him this time around. Despite strong lower-series results, don’t expect too much from him in his rookie season; he’s chartered, but the team isn’t A+.

No. 17, Chris BuescherBuescher returns to the team with which he won an Xfinity championship in 2015. A step up from Ricky Stenhouse Jr.? Remains to be seen, but hooking up with Roush Fenway Racing is certainly a vertical move for Buescher over JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 21, Matt DiBenedettoEveryone’s favorite underdog gets his best shot yet in the Cup Series thanks to Paul Menard’s retirement, hoping to score a season more like Ryan Blaney‘s with the organization than those of Menard. Perhaps it’ll translate to some Team Penske Xfinity races, too.

No. 36/53, David Ragan and more: Ragan’s done with full-time racing, but that doesn’t mean he can’t drive some one-offs here and there, including this year’s Daytona 500. Chances are the No. 36 won’t show up in this capacity the rest of the season, and if it does, it’ll be a non-charter ride; after Daytona, this car moves from Front Row Motorsports and becomes Rick Ware Racing’s No. 53, its drivers to be announced.

No. 37, Ryan PreeceSimilar situation as 2019, really — Preece just switched from JTG’s No. 47 to its No. 37, previously piloted by Buescher.

No. 38, John Hunter NemechekOur latest rookie contender on this list takes over Ragan’s full-time ride after a three-race audition with FRM at the end of last year in aid of Matt Tifft. If there’s anyone who can get more out of an underfunded ride than the average driver, it’s a Nemechek.

No. 41, Cole CusterThree successful seasons in the Xfinity Series finally paid off for Custer, who moves up with Stewart-Haas Racing to its No. 41 vacated by Daniel Suarez. Of the rookie contenders in 2020, Custer likely has the best chance of competing for wins early, given SHR’s prowess as one of the series’ top teams.

No. 47, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: First Stenhouse moved from RFR to JTG. Then he took over new teammate Preece’s old ride. The change resulted in a Daytona 500 pole, so… mission accomplished?

No. 49, Chad FinchumFor the Daytona 500, Finchum returns to the Cup Series (he ran a race at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2018) in a second MBM Motorsports car. Plans for the team haven’t been announced outside Daytona; its sister car, the No. 66, plans to be full time.

No. 51, Joey Gase: On top of a full-time run at the Xfinity championship, Gase’s Cup starts in 2019 were mostly for his then-Xfinity team, MBM, with one exception — a ride in RWR’s No. 53. In 2020, he joins RWR full time, driving the No. 51 for what will be his first full Cup season.

No. 77, Ross Chastain and more: For the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, Chastain joins Spire Motorsports in a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing. No word on who’s in the No. 77 for the rest of the year.

No. 95, Christopher BellIt may come as a surprise, but Bell’s never started a Cup race. That’ll change with this weekend’s Daytona 500, during which Bell will compete with his new team, Leavine Family Racing, who has a partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing in place for the season.

No. 96, Daniel Suarez: An 11th-hour deal puts Suarez in Cup full time for a fourth straight year, this time with Gaunt Bros. Racing, a team that’s never competed in the full schedule. Like MBM’s No. 66, the No. 96 plans to run all 36 races despite not having a charter, so keep an eye on Suarez and co. in the admittedly rare instances when the entry list climbs above 40 for a Cup race.

No. 00, Quin HouffStarCom Racing exchanges veteran journeyman Landon Cassill for a still fairly unseasoned newcomer in Houff, who drove 17 races last year in his maiden Cup affair, nearly all for Spire.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

No. 4, Jesse Little: Chad Little’s nephew makes his first foray into full-time national series competition after multiple years in the Truck Series (and the occasional Cup start), taking over the No. 4 for JD Motorsports with Gary Keller as one of the organization’s two full-time drivers.

No. 6, David StarrDespite expecting to return to Means Racing again for 2020, Starr made a late-offseason move to JDM and its renumbered No. 6, basically the No. 01 from previous seasons.

No. 8, Daniel Hemric: Jeb Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. return, but the bulk of the schedule — 21 races — will be driven by Hemric, who exchanges the Cup No. 8 for its Xfinity counterpart at JR Motorsports.

No. 13, Stephen Leicht and more: After a full-time Xfinity run in 2019 with JDM, Leicht moves to a part-time role with MBM in 2020, driving some races and reportedly parking during others. Finchum, who drove the No. 13 occasionally in 2019,

No. 15, Colby Howard, Robby Lyons and Jeffrey EarnhardtThe entire cast of JDM’s No. 15 is new this year. Lyons will drive the first three races, followed by swaps between Earnhardt and series rookie Lyons the rest of the year.

No. 16, AJ AllmendingerNot a sizable change; just imagine Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 from last season has become the No. 16 and is still running part-time, except neither Chastain, Joe Graf Jr. nor Elliott Sadler looks to be part of the equation this year.

No. 20, Harrison BurtonJGR teammate Riley Herbst is also moving up to the Xfinity Series, albeit with a team for which he drove part time last year, the No. 18. Burton’s got a new number entirely, piloting the No. 20 vacated by Bell in his first full-time Xfinity schedule.

No. 21, Anthony Alfredo and Myatt SniderRCR’s only Xfinity entry at the moment will be split among at least three drivers, two of which — Alfredo and Snider — are completely new to the series after previously competing in the Truck Series. A third, Kaz Grala, also drove part time for the team in 2019.

No. 36, Alex LabbeLabbe returns to a familiar number in the No. 36 after driving part time for DGM Racing’s No. 90 in 2019. Currently, his schedule only includes three races, starting at Daytona, and it’s unknown if the No. 36 will show up for any other events in 2020.

No. 44, Tommy Joe Martins2020 marks Martins’ latest attempt at a national series schedule with his own team, though this year seems more well-funded than in years past. Last year, he drove part-time schedules for both MBM and BJ McLeod Motorsports.

No. 47, Joe Nemechek and more: Mike Harmon Racing has two cars this year, after running a second entry part time in multiple races in 2019 as the No. 17. Nemechek is in the ride at Daytona, with others — some of them also likely new — expected to fill the seat the rest of the season.

No. 52, JJ Yeley and Kody Vanderwal: One of the latest Silly Season developments saw Starr move to JDM, opening up Means’ long-running No. 52. Yeley is the suitor for the first three races of the season, and then rookie Vanderwal will tag in for the rest.

No. 93, Myatt Snider and Joey Gase: In addition to his starts in RCR’s No. 21, Snider will make multiple starts with RSS Racing’s second car alongside returning competitor CJ McLaughlin. Gase is also scheduled for at least a race.

No. 99, Mason MasseyBMM’s No. 99 multi-driver lineup sees Josh Bilicki, Jairo Avila and newcomer Massey, who makes the leap from the Truck Series, driving for Reaume Brothers Racing in 2019.

No. 0, BJ McLeod and Jeffrey Earnhardt: Earnhardt’s other 2020 ride includes races in JDM’s No. 0 in addition to its No. 15, while McLeod returns to the team for 2020, albeit with a new number.

No. 02, Brett Moffitt and Andy SeussOur Motorsports is a true newcomer to the Xfinity Series after multiple years in the ARCA Menards Series. Moffitt’s driving the first four races, and Seuss is expected in some events as well.

No. 08, Joe Graf Jr.: SS Green Light Racing’s No. 08 loses Gray Gaulding but gains Graf, who moves over from RCR and Kaulig, as well as a full-time season in ARCA with Chad Bryant Racing.

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series

No. 4, Raphael LessardKyle Busch Motorsports got quite the overhaul with its full-time competitors in 2020, with Lessard taking the No. 4 vacated by Todd Gilliland after the Canadian drove multiple events for KBM and DGR-Crosley last year.

No. 18, Christian EckesThe other side of the full-timer coin at KBM, Eckes makes the jump after driving part time for the team previously, replacing Burton.

No. 21, Zane SmithGMS Racing’s No. 21 is now used for one of its full-time teams, and Smith gets the nod after a pair of part-time national series seasons, most recently with JRM in Xfinity.

No. 23, Brett Moffitt: No major change here except for the number, as Moffitt goes from the No. 24 to the No. 23 for GMS.

No. 24, Sam Mayer and David GravelGMS’ part-time truck is again piloted by Mayer, while dirt standout Gravel makes the transition to trucks with a similar multi-race schedule, including Eldora Speedway.

No. 26, Tyler AnkrumAnother GMS truck, this time driven by Ankrum, who will be looking for more stability after a 2019 season with DGR that saw him occasionally out of the truck due to sponsorship woes.

No. 32, Howie DiSavino IIIWin-Tron Racing returns to the Truck Series with rookie DiSavino, who’s driven for the organization in ARCA, with a part-time schedule beginning at Richmond Raceway.

No. 38, Todd Gilliland: FRM moves into the Truck Series in a DGR partnership, and Gilliland’s the driver for its maiden voyage.

No. 40, Ross Chastain, Ryan Truex and Carson HocevarNiece Motorsports’ No. 38 gets a number change and a few new drivers. Chastain’s in at Daytona, while Hocevar and Truex will drive a brief schedule each as well.

No. 44, Natalie Decker, Jett Noland and Carson Hocevar: Chastain’s back for some races, but Niece’s secondary truck has mostly new players otherwise, including Decker at Daytona and elsewhere, plus series rookie Noland.

No. 45, Ty MajeskiNiece actually has a full-time driver set up for 2020: Majeski, who debuted with the team in 2019 in its No. 44. This will also be Majeski’s first full schedule in a national series.

No. 49, Bayley CurreyRay Ciccarelli, who owns the team, will return for four of the first five races, but Currey will join the organization for Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A full schedule for the team is not yet set.

No. 56, Gus DeanBrothers Timmy and Tyler Hill are expected back at their No. 56 in 2020, and the team also gets a Daytona attempt under its belt courtesy of Dean, who’s partnering with Win-Tron for the event.

No. 96, Todd PeckPeck Motorsports returns to the Truck Series, and to its old number, for a limited schedule in 2020, beginning at Daytona.

No. 97, Jesse Little: Same number, same driver, different (new) team, which bought the equipment and points of Little’s old team. So… really not much of a change here, in theory. Still a part-time schedule, too.

No. 00, Angela RuchRuch plans to tackle the full Truck schedule after joining RBR. She ran a portion of the season in 2019 for NEMCO Motorsports and Niece.

No. 02, Tate FoglemanThe son of Jay Fogleman drove a few events for Young’s Motorsports in 2018, and now he’s back for the full season (now that he’s old enough for all races), replacing Tyler Dippel.

No. 03, Tim ViensMike Affarano Racing’s on-again, off-again Truck Series team (it ran once in 2019 at Eldora with Jake Griffin) planned the full schedule with Viens and a truck sponsored by a PAC to reelect President Donald Trump. Its Daytona plans have already fallen through, however.

About the author

Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.

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