I’ll keep this short and sweet. There is no NASCAR race this Sunday. The NASCAR season is over. It ended last week. But, the Championship Postseason Awards Show is coming on November 18th. So, let’s discuss a quick recap of what has to be the most bizarre racing season in decades that has led us up to this awards show.
NASCAR’s greatest race is the season opener
Unlike football, NASCAR has it’s biggest scheduled event at the very beginning of the season. The Daytona 500 in Florida is thick with energy in the week leading up to the event. Drivers qualifying, tourists coming on-site, and celebrities fluttering in and out the pits,… it’s all a great party lined with anticipation of the big race. This year Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the Grand Marshall that got to wave the green flag to open the season.
After the big NASCAR race, the drivers and teams moved on to their regular weekly race schedule. Well, sort of. Shortly after the season started the COVID-19 pandemic started to grip the world. Across the globe, regional lockdowns were instituted. Eventually, the United States also started to feel the effects of the Coronavirus.
NASCAR adjusts to lockdown
Lockdown meant that the NASCAR season had to be halted. In a scramble to figure out how to keep everybody healthy and still provide some motorsports entertainment, the organizing body decided to experiment by shifting to virtual racing. For several weeks drivers joined each other, and the televisions broadcast networks to put on NASCAR-approved simulated racing. It worked. Sponsors and fans embraced it to a degree.
Still, some drivers didn’t take it seriously. So, multiple sponsors decided to make sure that drivers knew that they were still representing their companies, whether it was virtual racing entertainment or not. For example, when a NASCAR driver decided to sound off using inappropriate language during a virtual race, that driver was fired immediately. Yup, virtual racing still had real-world ramifications.
In-person racing returned and a new Champion arises
In-person racing would eventually return to NASCAR tracks across the nation. But, the schedule was a mess. After drivers took about two months off from being in the race cars, with no practice or qualifying runs, the races returned with a wild wild wild schedule. Multiple races were run each week until the schedule had some sense of normalcy returned.
By the time the season finished last week, NASCAR had a new champion. Chase Elliott, son of another former champion, Bill Elliott, has come out on top of the points this year to capture his first coveted championship. Chase was able to pilot the famous number 9, the number his dad drove, to another championship and it is quite extraordinary. As his website puts it,
“The 24-year-old Elliott notably has won in every level of racing, from NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the ARCA Racing Series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, and countless late model racing series.”
Jimmie Johnson’s final NASCAR Cup season
This season also marked the end of Jimmie Johnson’s Cup driving career. After taking the reigns from Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson went on to win multiple championships over his years. But, this was his last year. So, Jimmie moves on, probably to announce somewhere next year. We wish him well.
Overall, it was a very bizarre NASCAR season. It will officially end after the awards ceremony that is set to be broadcast on November 18th, at 8 pm EST, on NBC Sports Network. Even that ceremony will be odd. Due to the continuing COVID-19 concerns, there will only be one ceremony to recognize the champions from the Cup, Xfinity, and Truck series. Well, I guess it’s as good as way as any to put 2020 behind us. Drivers, enjoy the offseason!