The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season is in the record books complete with a newly crowned champion – Chase Elliott. The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports raced his way into the Championship race at Phoenix and won! Becoming the second Elliott to be crowned Cup Series Champ!
His father, Bill Elliott, won what was then named the Winston Cup Series, in 1988. The elder Elliott also piloted the No. 9 car – only for the former Melling Racing team.
If you look back to the start of the season you’ll see that oddsmakers were not that far off. Elliott, while not the outright favorite to win the 2020 title, was in the mix. Several sportsbooks had him listed in the top-five or top-ten favorites.
Here are some bullet points of the 2020 season to remember starting with how Vegas saw things heading into the start of the season.
Early 2020 Championship Odds
It’s fair to say that the top-three drivers listed by many oddsmakers to win the 2020 Championship at the beginning of the season were Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. Behind them was Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski. Chase Elliott was also a favorite – but always behind the others.
Looking back, oddsmakers were right on target. Every driver listed found his way into the Cup Series Playoffs and was eligible to race at Phoenix at the NASCAR Season Finale 500 for the crown. Here’s how they ended the season.
When COVID-19 forced NASCAR to shut down the season heading into the Atlanta race weekend the sanctioning body immediately started working on plans that would make participants safer. Everyone knows about masks and testing as well as limited, or no, fans in the stands.
The incredible fact that is lost in many discussions is that NASCAR fundamentally changed the way a race weekend worked. It was also done for safety – eliminated as much time people spent at the track working on cars and getting ready for the race.
All race practice was eliminated, qualifying was eliminated, teams were ordered to cut the number of race day crew and essential personnel, and more. The thinking was to limit the spread of the virus by limiting people and the time those people could spend together.
Teams unloaded a car and got it through inspection. The driver jumped in for the race about ten minutes before the green flag dropped. Can you imagine getting into an untested vehicle and driving over 200 MPH towards a hard left-hand turn?
Popularity of iRacing
While the 2020 season was shut down for about two months the NASCAR world took to the iRacing platform. The virtual races included real NASCAR drivers which were broadcast on live TV using the regular network announcers. The effort was so successful that Indy Car and Formula 1 (F1) both followed the example and held virtual races which were also broadcast.
One thing that was clear from the start was that NASCAR officials did not want a shortened season. One of the reasons is that whoever won the Championship would always be saddled with the question of did they “really” win a “Championship” because COVID-19 eliminated races – etc.
If all of the races were run, then it would be statistically like past seasons, and the Championship could not be questioned or a Champion considered a fluke.
NASCAR fit every race in even if some tracks were not visited due to local/state COVID-19 restrictions. The answer was to run a few races at the same track and cram multiple races into the same week.
Chase Elliott won the 2020 Championship and no asterisk will appear by his name in the record books. There are plenty of other things that stand out from the 2020 season ranging from social activism to how Kyle Busch almost went winless for the first time in his Cup Series career. But, now – it’s time to start looking towards the 2021 season – which is only about twelve weeks away.
Tickets are already on sale for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2021. And in case you’re wondering – here are the early odds – read the 2021 version of this article to see how things played out!
Kent Whitaker is an award-winning author, culinary writer and
sports writer. Whitaker's books range from BBQ, Grilling, Tailgating and additional
culinary titles to WWII history books, books about NASCAR and racing and titles
Whitaker, known as “the Deck Chef,” has a culinary, history
and journalism background. He credits this for his cookbook writing style. “My
books are people based. I interview, gather recipes from real people and
sources – and combine the recipes with back-stories. My cookbooks are slices of
Whitaker can also be found on TV, Radio, Print, and as a
celebrity spokesperson. He has appeared on radio and TV including Food Network.
He’s the Emeril Live Barbecue Contest winner and columnist for the National
Whitaker has covered NASCAR, IndyCar, ARCA Racing, The NFL,
SEC Football, Professional Golf and more. His books include:
·Great American Grilling – Ultimate Backyard Barbecue
·The Gulf Coast Seafood Cookbook
·Smoke in the Mountains - The Art of Appalachian
·Checkered Flag Cooking - Tailgating Stock Car Racing
·The Hometown Cookbook Series; The Tennessee Hometown Cookbook,
as well as Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, West
Virginia, Alabama, and Florida.
·The USS Alabama - The History of the Mighty A
·Bullets and Bread - Feeding the Greats and Grunts of
·Big Mo's Tennis Ball Hunt
the Mountains Smokey?
Kent has worked with several brands as spokesperson. Companies
include Check Mark, ALPO, TimberTech, Vermont Castings, Pabst Blue Ribbon, E.H.
Campbell Trading, Big Show Foods, and others. Whitaker, and his wife Allyson,
hosted a NASCAR and racing themed show on ESPN Radio for several years. That
show has morphed into a weekly short format tailgate show heard on over 50
Kent is also a member of the United States Coast Guard
Auxiliary and severed on the National Staff as an AUXCHEF/AUX Food Service
Specialist and National Branch Chief.
Kent and his wife Allyson live in Tennessee and have one ARMY
Strong son, Macee. You can visit him online at www.thedeckchef.com and Twitter/Instagram