Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Award Show
The Date: Thursday, December 5
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
A look at the champ
Kyle Busch is being duly celebrated at the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Awards this week in Nashville, Tennessee, after claiming the 2019 Monster Energy Series championship and joining seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson as the only active multi-time Cup series champions in the sport.
Busch, 34, won five races in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota this year including the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway – marking the fifth consecutive year he has won at least four races in a season. He has equaled or exceeded that four-win mark nine times in his 15 full-time Cup seasons.
Busch tied an all-time best Cup Series mark with 11 consecutive top-10 finishes to open the season. His 27 top-10s was most in the series and marked the fourth consecutive year he’s had at least 22 top-10 finishes in the 36-race season.
He topped the series in laps led (1,582) – the 10th time he’s led at least 1,000 laps. He earned the most stage wins (12) and posted the best average finish (8.9) – marking the second consecutive year Busch has averaged a finish better than 10th. And his pole position at Phoenix in the next to last race of the schedule was good enough to extend his streak of winning a pole to 12 straight seasons.
Busch has finished fourth or better in the championship in six of the last seven seasons, including two Cup titles (2015 and 2019) and a championship runner-up in 2017.
Best of the rest
Team Penske’s Joey Logano set course all season to become the first back-to-back Monster Energy Series champion since Jimmie Johnson’s string of five-straight from 2006-2010. But a tough few weeks in the Playoffs for the 2018 champ unfortunately ended his hopes of securing a title and qualifying for the Championship 4 for the fourth time in the last six years.
Logano responded, however, by finishing the season as the highest-ranked driver not in the championship battle at Miami. He finished fifth in the standings, with a pair of victories (Las Vegas-1 and Michigan-1), 12 top-5 and 21 top-10 finishes in all. He earned three pole positions in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford and, in fact, won the Michigan race from pole. Logano challenged Kyle Busch for the regular season title and for the fifth time in his 11-year fulltime Cup career won multiple races.
“It was a strong year, it wasn’t a championship year,’’ Logano said after finishing fifth in the Homestead season finale.
“We want to be better, but we’ll move on.’’
Top non-Playoff contender
Stewart-Haas Racing driver Daniel Suarez rallied to claim 17th place in the final Monster Energy Series standings – best among those drivers who did not qualify for the 2019 Playoffs. He edged out 18th-place Jimmie Johnson by 11-points in a tough, back-and-forth battle between the two during the Playoff stretch.
Suarez, who drove the No. 41 Ford, missed qualifying for the 16-driver Playoffs by a mere four points, finishing the regular season ranked 17th.
Still, the 17th-place final points position is a career best in three full-time Cup seasons for Suarez, eclipsing his previous best season finish of 20th in 2017. He earned a career-high mark in top-5 finishes (four) and laps led (166) this year.
Stewart-Haas crew chief changes
Stewart-Haas Racing, which qualified three of its four cars for the 2019 Playoffs and had driver Kevin Harvick among the Championship 4, announced sweeping team changes on Wednesday.
Mike Shiplett was promoted to NASCAR Cup Series crew chief on the No. 41 Ford to be driven by incoming Cup Sunoco Rookie contender Cole Custer in 2020. Shiplett led Custer’s Xfinity Series team in 2019 which earned seven race wins and six pole positions and finished runner-up in the championship.
Crew chiefs John Klausmeier and Mike Bugarewicz will swap teams in 2020. Klausmeier will move from the No. 10 SHR Ford to the No. 14 SHR Ford driven by Clint Bower. Bugarewicz will move from Bowyer’s Mustang to Aric Almirola’s No. 10.
The veteran Harvick and his longtime crew chief Rodney Childers – who won the 2014 Cup title together – remained paired for 2020.
Johnson to go for eighth – and final – championship in 2020
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson made major offseason news, announcing on Nov. 20 that the 2020 season will be his final fulltime year of series competition. The 44-year old Californian’s seven titles ties him with inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for most all-time in the sport. He has 83 Cup victories and won multiple races every season between 2002-2017. His five consecutive championship runs from 2006-2010 is unmatched.
Johnson, who drives the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, said he had contemplated the decision for months and spoken with several retired NASCAR Hall of Famers before announcing his plans. But, he has reiterated several times since, he is retiring from fulltime competition only and is open to racing from time to time in NASCAR, IMSA or other series should the right opportunity present itself.
“There are a lot of other athletes that their time is called and they don’t have the opportunity to pick their own,’’ Johnson said when revealing his retirement news. “I feel very blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity. It just feels right.’
Bumper Sunoco Rookie class on-deck for 2020
While a few Cup Series teams are still looking to decide which drivers they will use for 2020 – three of the Xfinity Series championship contenders have already secured NASCAR Cup Series rides for next year presenting an intriguing Sunoco Rookie class for the new season.
Tyler Reddick, who won his second consecutive Xfinity Series championship, will remain with Richard Childers Racing, moving up to the No. 8 Chevrolet next season. The Xfinity Series championship runner-up the past two seasons, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, will move from that organization’s Xfinity Series program into the No. 41 Ford seat in 2020. And Christopher Bell, who won a series-best eight Xfinity races in 2019 and finished third in the title run, will drive the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota.
These “Big Three” drivers combined to win 21 of the 33 Xfinity Series races in 2019.
Most Race Wins – 7 – Martin Truex Jr.
Most Stage Wins – 12 – Kyle Busch
Most Playoff Points – 46 – Kyle Busch
Top Top-5 Finishes – 19 – Denny Hamlin
Most Top-10 Finishes – 27 – Kyle Busch
Most Pole Positions – 6 – Kevin Harvick
Most Laps Led – 1,582 – Kyle Busch
Best Average Start – 8.5 – Kevin Harvick
Best Average Finish – 8.9 – Kyle Busch
Top Driver Rating – 108.4 – Kyle Busch