The 2019 NASCAR season is only one month into the off-season and the new season is a mere two months away from its first race at Daytona International Speedway, the Daytona 500, scheduled for Feb. 16. Plenty of time to digest the new rules and schedule finalized by NASCAR in late October.
The most obvious change coming next season will have no impact on any technical aspect of racing, but it will be the one fans see first and foremost as NASCAR officially declined Monster Energy’s offer to remain the Cup Series sponsor. Entering 2020, the series will simply be known as the NASCAR Cup Series.
From a television prospective, the bundling of tracks, broadcast rights and sponsorship will come across as “the NASCAR Cup series brought to you by (insert sponsor)” and will likely change week to week.
Currently, every race with the exception of the Daytona 500 has an individual sponsor, as in the Ford EcoBoost 400 or the Geico 500, and those are expected to remain although the full details of how that will be done have yet to be released.
The rules changes that will have an impact on the teams are minimal and can mostly be attributed to cost saving measures as the circuit seems to be holding any major changes until after the introduction of the Next-Gen cars (Gen 7) in 2021.
Starting next season, teams will be limited to 12 active chassis at any given time in the season. Each team will be able to maintain an additional four chassis as inactive and will be limited to 10 unique designs. Once declared active, a chassis must be used in a minimum of three races before it can be inactivated unless it becomes unrepairable due to damage sustained in a crash. Previously, there was no limit to the number of chassis a team could keep on hand.
A second set of changes involving team vehicles centers around the number of races that must be run with sealed engines. Currently, a team must compete in three races with a full long-block sealed engine and 13 short-block sealed engines. The new rules set the number of races at eight in each category.
After collecting wind tunnel testing data from teams in 2019, NASCAR has announced specific rules in regard to wind tunnel testing. Teams will be limited to 150 hours per year at four designated facilities, three in North Carolina and the fourth in Indiana.
Manufactures will not be allowed to wind test current generation cars but will be able to conduct an unlimited amount of testing on next generation vehicles.
The final technical change in the 2020 rules package reduces the number of road crew personnel from 12 to 10 during race weekends. This does not affect the pit teams, but applies to spotters, crew chiefs, engineers and mechanics.
Furthermore, teams of three or four cars will be limited to three organizational level positions (i.e. technical director or competition manager) instead of the current four positions.
The most impactful changes announced do not involve the rules themselves but the schedule of races. More than a dozen differences exist between last year’s circuit and the upcoming 2020 season.
Not only will Daytona be the site of the opening race, it will also host the regular season finale with the Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Aug. 29. The Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis will move to the fourth of July weekend.
In a first for NASCAR there will be a double-header weekend on June 27-28 at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway. Driver’s will qualify on Friday for the first of two 325-mile races on Saturday. The results of the first race will be used as an inverse seeding chart for the second race that will take place Sunday afternoon.
Inverse seeding involves placing the cars that finish the first race on the lead lap into the grid in reverse order followed by any drivers not on the lead lap being placed at the rear of the pack. For example, if 23 cars finish on the lead lap on Saturday, number 23 will start on the pole on Sunday followed by number 22, number 21, etc.
The 2020 season will see the return of Father’s Day racing with the Camping World 400 at Chicagoland and the Mother’s Day race will be run for the first time under the newly revamped lights at Martinsville.
The playoffs also saw plenty of changes in the new schedule.
For the first time in 15 years the championship will not be settled at Homestead in Florida, but in Phoenix, Arizona at the newly remodeled ISM Raceway.
Each round will see a different starting track in 2020 as well, with Darlington starting the round of 16, Las Vegas moving to the round of 12 and Kansas taking over the opening of the round of 8.
The cutoff race for each stage will be different as well, with Bristol narrowing the field from 16 to 12, Charlotte’s Roval cutting four more, and a second night race at Martinsville producing the final four.