Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Our Storylines of 2020, Revisited

For the fourth year in a row, the final NASCAR 101 before the NASCAR season finale takes a look back at the columns written here throughout the year to see if any updates to the storylines tackled are warranted.

It’s a bit of an odd one this year, given the lack of columns for a multi-week stretch early in the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there still is some ground to cover, from all-time debut lows to some of the winningest seasons in Cup Series history.

Here are the 2020 columns worth revisited, written by Frontstretch‘s Kevin Rutherford, Zach Gillispie and Luken Glover.

Previous years: 2019 | 2018 | 2017

Drivers With Starts in Parts of 4 (or More) Decades (Feb. 20): With the new decade came the opportunity to update this list, and at the time, eight drivers had extended their start streak to four decades, while two (Joe Nemechek and Norm Benning) boasted five. Three added their names to the list of four-decade drivers with starts later in the year: Matt Kenseth, Carl Long and Stanton Barrett, while one — Mike Wallace — did so for the five-decade folks.

Cup Invaders on the Truck Level (Feb. 27): No drivers added their names to the list of racers who’ve won in the Xfinity or Gander RV & Outdoors Truck series while running full time in Cup. In fact, regulars or non-Cup part-timers were largely the winners of races in their respective series this year, with the Truck Series seeing three Kyle Busch wins and a victory apiece for Brandon Jones and Chase Elliott, while in Xfinity, Busch won a single race — and was the only such victor in 2020. We’ve come a long way in the last decade, folks.

Xfinity Debuts Off to Strongest Start in 6 Years (March 5): A formidable start had the air knocked out of it by COVID-19; by season’s end, just 13 drivers made their Xfinity debuts in 2020, nearly half the amount of 2019 and by far the lowest in series history. In fact, none showed up to the track for the first time after the event at the Daytona International Speedway road course, all the way back on Aug. 15. Rough year if you like newcomers.

Here Are the Drivers Participating in the Kyle Busch Truck Series Bounty (So Far) (March 12): This was the last column written before the pandemic started postponing the schedule, and Elliott ended up the victor once the series came back, ending the bounty as soon as it was made available.

Who’ll Benefit the Most from Doubling Up at Charlotte & Darlington (May 14): Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Elliott — four different drivers — won the four double-up events at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway. The column posited that Hamlin, Harvick and Keselowski could indeed make some gains in the points thanks to that four-race stretch.

Most Wins by Series Without a Championship (June 11): Nothing’s changed per se, of course, since the season isn’t yet over. But Hamlin’s got a shot to change his narrative as he’s still in the hunt for the championship at Phoenix Raceway this weekend.

8 Veteran Drivers Who Would Make Great Truck Competitors (June 18): David Ragan ended up starting two Truck races in 2020, but the real story from this column ended up being Trevor Bayne, who came out of nowhere to run eight Truck events toward the end of the season for Niece Motorsports, with one top five and two top 10s entering Phoenix.

Drivers Still Searching for Wins in All 3 NASCAR National Series (June 25): Two updates here, as William Byron and Cole Custer scored their maiden Cup wins, giving them victories in all three series.

Analyzing NASCAR’s First-Time Winner Count in 2020 So Far (July 16): As of this one’s writing, six drivers had earned their first wins in a national series in 2020. Byron made seven with his first Cup victory, and Zane Smith added his premiere Truck victory to make eight, followed by Sam Mayer and Raphael Lessard in the same series. That’s one less than 2019’s 11 first-timers, but there are still three races left this year.

How Rare Is Austin Cindric’s 3-in-a-Row Win Streak? (July 23): Austin Cindric‘s three-race win streak ended the next weekend, and no driver has won three straight since — though Harrison Burton, should he score the victory at Phoenix, would then boast three in a row.

Recent Double-Duty IndyCar & NASCAR Drivers (Aug. 6): No drivers have been added to this list since RC Enerson did so in early August, though Conor Daly‘s blurb is slightly outdated, as he ended up running his first Truck race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway later that year.

Drivers Racing in Lower Series Than They Have in Years Past (Aug. 20): One driver from this list can be taken off, as Josh Reaume ended up appearing in the Xfinity Series before season’s end. In terms of those who could be added, Long drove an Xfinity race at Martinsville Speedway and has former Cup starts, and on the Truck side, Greg Biffle, Bayne, Camden Murphy, Timothy Peters, Daly and James Buescher raced in lower series than those in which they have starts in previous season.

Active Drivers Who Returned to NASCAR After Long Absences (Aug. 27): Add a few more to this group in Bayne, Daly, Buescher and Cody Erickson.

First-Time Cup Winners at Richmond (Sept. 11): No first-timer this year; Keselowski came out on top.

Most Wins in a Cup Season in the Modern Era (Sept. 18): At the time of this column’s writing, Harvick had nine wins. He’s… still at nine. Barring a Phoenix victory, the streak of Cup seasons without someone with at least 10 wins, which dates back to 2007, extends even further.

Xfinity, Truck Debuts May End Up the Worst They’ve Ever Been in 2020 (Oct. 8): And indeed they are; in addition to the aforementioned Xfinity debut count, the Truck Series boasted just eight first-timers in 2020, with Hailie Deegan the only driver who was added after the column first posted. The previous low was 19, in 2017. Comparatively, last year had 31 newcomers — almost four times the amount of 2020. At least three debuts across the national series are already confirmed for 2021: Chase Briscoe and Cindric in Cup and Mayer in Xfinity. A few others in the Truck Series, mind you, are expected based on initial reports and interviews, including Howie DiSavino III, Keith McGee, Bret Holmes, Chris Hacker and Justin Carroll.

NASCAR’s Racing Women of the Last Decade (Oct. 15): No one joined Deegan after her Kansas Speedway Truck debut.

The Youngest Active Owners in NASCAR (Oct. 22): Nothing new to report just yet, but the offseason hasn’t even begun.

Who Didn’t Return to NASCAR in 2020? (Oct. 29): No one comes off the list; at the time of the column’s writing, it was already known that Stan Mullis would be running the Xfinity race at Phoenix.

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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