First off, I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday and was able to spend quality time with friends and family. As we prepare to ring in the New Year, I wanted to put a final bookend on the 2019 season.
I’ve used this space recently to look at many of the major storylines that happened in our sport this season, such as Kyle Busch capturing his second career NASCAR Cup Series championship or the dominance of Joe Gibbs Racing.
While I’ve reviewed many of the intriguing things that happened in the Cup series this past year, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out some things from the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series as many of the series’ top drivers will be competing in the Cup series in 2020. The Xfinity series season was dominated by a trio of young drivers – Stewart Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick. These three drivers combined to win 21-of-33 races and all led the series in various categories.
Custer drove to Victory Lane seven times this year and led the series with six starts from pole position. Over the last couple of seasons, Custer has become a much improved driver. His first season in the Xfinity Series, he won only one race – the 2017 Ford EcoBoost 300 here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. To see him go out and dominate races from start to finish this past year has been really impressive as he led the second-most laps in the Xfinity series during the 2019 season.
For Bell, he wasn’t able to capture the title in 2019, but he replicated the success he found as a rookie in the Xfinity series in 2018. The last two seasons, Bell has won 15 NXS races and led nearly 3,000 laps. The two-year stretch was an unprecedented run for the Norman, Oklahoma native and turned a lot of heads. Many people have considered Bell NASCAR’s top prospect the last two seasons and rightfully so as he’s racked up the accolades to back it up.
And of course you can’t mention Bell and Custer without bringing up Reddick. Reddick joined elite company this year when he won his second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His accomplishment puts him on a list with guys like Martin Truex Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others. His championship drives have both been spectacular and watching him run along the wall at our track both years was a lot of fun.
After much talk about each of their success in the Xfinity series the past two seasons, all three drivers were able to land full-time rides in the NASCAR Cup Series for the 2020 season. It’s great for the sport to see these young talented drivers rise through the ranks and make it to NASCAR’s premier series.
It will be intriguing to see what kind of success each has in 2020 as they settle into the Cup series. Custer will be joining Stewart-Haas in the No. 41 car, Bell will head to the No. 95 car of Leavine Family Racing and Reddick will pilot Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 car.
While they’ll all be eager to score their first Cup series win, it’s unlikely that they’ll be competing for a championship right away like they did in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The will however get to go head-to-head for the 2020 Sunoco Rookie of the Year award.
That should be an exciting battle and one of the most competitive rookie of the year races we’ve seen in quite some time. Over the past couple of seasons, a ton of young talent has joined NASCAR’s premier series. Bell, Custer and Reddick will join guys like Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, William Byron and Chase Elliott – all of whom are 26 years old or younger and have enjoyed varying levels of success in the early stages of their careers.
NASCAR has seen many veterans such as Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart retire over the last few years, and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson announced 2020 will be his final season. With the absence of these popular drivers it’s key for the aforementioned drivers to build their own fan bases and make a name for themselves in the sport. So as we get ready for the 2020 season, keep an eye on the rookie class as they could one day be household names in their own right.
UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
Sports Car Club of America (SCCA)
Fast Lane Friday
Jan. 10-11 NASCAR Racing Experience
Florida Track Days
Jan. 17-18 24-Hour Ultra Skate
Fast Lane Friday
2020 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Race
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race
Dixie Vodka 400 NASCAR Cup Series Race