It’s that time of year again. That time when we’re eagerly awaiting the start of the new year and the next season of American Speedway Racing. The first race is just around the corner and I for one can’t wait to see the new crop of trucks that will take the track this year. Since I don’t have a Twitter account or any other social media outlet, I’ll just give you my best guess at what’s going on in the truck world.
The New Normal
This year will be remembered for the pandemic that sadly didn’t let up in any significant way even as we entered into a phase of “reopening”. 2020 was also the first year that we didn’t see a truck series. With the Truck Series deciding to disband back in October, the future of American Speedway Racing seems a bit unclear.
It’s fair to say that the truck world has changed a lot in the past 12 months, a lot for the better. The industry has shifted to digital platforms like Instagram and YouTube, which have given drivers and teams unprecedented access to content and fans. With the pandemic behind us, the world of trucks is looking forward to getting back out there on the race track and giving fans what they want – fast, furious racing!
In order to replace the Truck Series, the American Speedway Racing committee decided to start a new series. The Xfinity Series will see trucks share the grid with the other main American racing series, the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the Chevy Silverado 150 Race. This is great news for fans of the series, as more races will be held and more chances to see their favorite trucks up close and personal.
One of the biggest names in the Xfinity Series will be Chris Buescher. The 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Champion is looking to bring his championship form to the Xfinity Series where he’ll be sharing a ride with David Ragan. Buescher will be seeking to become the first driver to win back-to-back titles since Richard Petty in 1969 and 1970. The two will be looking to put an end to Jimmie Johnson’s record-breaking run of titles.
We also saw a number of drivers retire from the sport this year. Some are moving on to other racing projects, while others have decided to call it a day. The biggest retirement of the year was Kevin Harvick, who has decided to hang up his helmet after years of dominating the Cup scene. We’ll miss you “King” Harvick!
It’s going to be interesting to see how the other main NASCAR series adapt to this year’s rules changes and what impact it has on the competition. We saw a reshuffling of the top-3 in the standings, with Chase Elliott coming out on top with James Huesman and Kurt Busch coming in at number 3. As we’ve established, the Truck Series is no more, so there are no more “chase” in the title race. This has lead to an interesting situation, as all of the drivers in the top-3 are seeking to become champions themselves. Who will emerge as the new king or queen of American Speedway Racing?
Some other significant retirements this year include, but are not limited to, Richard Petty, Dave Marcis, Steve Park, and more!
There were also a number of drivers and teams that made a concerted effort to get back out there on the track and prove that they were still at the top of their game. Whether it was for personal redemption or just to prove a point to their sponsors, we saw a number of drivers show up to the track and put in some very solid performances. The most surprising performance came from Scott Dixon, who won the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Pocono in August. Not only did it prove that he was still one of the best, if not the best, drivers in the sport, but it also beat defending champion Jones, who had been running with a broken hand. The victory was Dixon’s second of the year and his second straight win at Pocono. Jones suffered a broken bone in his hand in a crash in the Pepsi 400 in July and had to sit out the rest of the season. The victory at Pocono also made Dixon the new track champion!
We also saw a number of veteran teams come back with a vengeance seeking redemption for years of hard work. The most prominent of these was Richard Petty’s team, which put together a very credible run at the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. They were very patient and bided their time, running up front for much of the race and even leading at one point before pitting for fuel. This was a big statement from a team that had been mostly inactive since 2014.
Another prominent team that emerged this year is Joey King, who took the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series by storm. Having raced in the Truck Series since 2014, he made the jump to the top-tier series and won Rookie of the Year with six straight victories to start his career. He became the first rookie to win the overall championship since Kyle Busch in 2011.
There were also a number of changes made to the Truck Series this year that had an impact on the racing. The biggest of these was the addition of a helicopter hover drone to help officiates call penalties and warnings. The device is operated by Track Official Number Two and will have a range of 25–30 yards. The pitch black camera allows for better visibility in all lighting conditions and will improve the safety of the race participants. The device is essentially an automated system, which means that there will be fewer calls for penalties and warnings, a good thing for the safety of the drivers.
Since the Truck Series is no more, it’s time for the IndyCar Series to take its place. The two sports have been overlapping for years and it’s time for the IndyCar Series to take the reins. The first race is set for this weekend, with the season finale being held in November. There are going to be some interesting battles in the IndyCar Series this year, with several championship contenders looking to dethrone the two-time defending champion, Kevin Harvick. With all of the changes that we went through over the past year, it will be interesting to see how the two series compare.