The Atlanta Motor Speedway is the greatest American racetrack. I mean, what self-respecting sports fan wouldn’t live and die by the results of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series there? In 2019 alone, the Speedway had the greatest NASCAR race of the season and arguably the greatest season of NASCAR racing ever, thanks to a dramatic and nail-biting finale.
Let’s take a quick look at what’s happening at the Speedway this year, as well as what’s planned for the future.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
The NASCAR Cup Series has historically been the premier series of American stock car racing, which is arguably the sport’s top tier. The Monster Energy Series is responsible for some of the most iconic moments in NASCAR history, including the Richard Petty era and the victory lane celebrations of the 1980s.
In 2019, the series has the greatest field of any season in its 53-year history, which means either someone is trying to kill me or something miraculous has happened.
But the good people at NASCAR have known this for a while now, and that’s why they’ve trimmed the series down to just 14 of the sport’s most prestigious race events, in which the top 12 qualify for the playoffs, which determine the season champion. This is also the case this year, which means the season is going to be a lot more exciting than usual!
The good news is that this year’s batch of drivers is stacked, with 12 of the 14 drivers having won at least one race this year or having qualified for the playoffs already. This includes defending champion (and my friend) Justin Bieber, whose 2019 has been nothing short of phenomenal, winning the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. There’s also a familiar face in the form of 2019 rookie of the year Chase Johnston. The only blot on this phenomenal roster is that one of the biggest stars, Martin Truex, Jr., has been sidelined with a broken collarbone since June, which means he won’t be able to help lead the charge for the championship in the final stretch run.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series
The NASCAR Xfinity Series, the sport’s second tier, is also enjoying a spectacular year. At the beginning of the year, Richard Petty and Tony Stewart had a chance to share the spotlight with Kyle Larson, who won the first ever Xfinity Series race in his home state of Minnesota, at the beginning of the year. Since then, the series has seen a six-driver turnover, with Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, and Jamie McMurray all winning races this year, along with Larson and Christopher Bell. The only other driver who has won recently is Ryan Blaney.
The Xfinity Series is considerably less prestigious than the Cup Series, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming massively popular. This might have something to do with the fact that people who follow NASCAR closely find it hard to follow the sport’s more prestigious division, given that the Xfinity Series is run at night a lot of the time, which means fewer people are likely to follow it. In any case, the Xfinity Series continues to grow in popularity every year, which means it will become considerably more important in the future.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a feeder series for the more prestigious divisions of NASCAR, and in 2019, the series has had an unprecedented 10 different winners. While the Cup Series has trimmed down to just 14 races this year, the Truck Series has decided to buck the trend, adding a championship race in 2019, which was won by Todd Gilles, who also happens to be one of the series’ most decorated drivers, having won five races this year, along with another championship. This year’s rookie of the year is Brendan Gaughan.
The Truck Series is a truly fascinating division of NASCAR, due in no small part to its wide array of winners, as well as the unique perspective it gives us on the sport. It is also the perfect training ground for drivers who aspire to move up into the more prestigious divisions, as 19 of the 20 Truck Series drivers have either won or secured a spot in the playoffs already. In the future, the Truck Series will continue to grow in importance, both as a proving ground for aspiring NASCAR drivers and as a platform to promote the sport internationally.
The IndyCar Series
The IndyCar Series is one of the most popular of all the automobile racing series in North America, with over 100,000 people typically filling the seats of every Indianapolis Motor Speedway race. While it has had a relatively quiet year compared to past years, with former series champions Andretti Autosport taking home the trophy, the series has still produced some incredible moments, primarily thanks to the legendary Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher won a record-breaking seventh championship in 2019, taking home the trophy at the end of the year, as well as adding to his already illustrious trophy cabinet. The only other driver to win seven IndyCar titles is Al Unser Jr., whose son, Al Unser III, is the defending champion this year. There are also a few other drivers who have won multiple championships, including Mark Donohue, who took home the coveted trophy in 1986 and currently works as a pit lane judge, and Scott Dixon, who won the IndyCar championship in 2010 and 2013.
The future of the IndyCar Series is somewhat precarious, with the 2021 series, which will be the 24th such championship, being the last of the current generation of cars. As a result, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of the IndyCar Series, including whether it will continue past this year or change its name, given that it technically doesn’t have the sanctioning body, IndyCar, to back it up.
The Daytona International Speedway
The Daytona International Speedway, the grand old dame of American race tracks, has been the site of some incredible motorsport moments. In addition to hosting the Daytona 500, the World’s Classic, and the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Track has also served as a proving ground for some of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. While it will always have a special place in my heart, it has been a while since I’ve been there, so I’m looking forward to getting back on the track this year.
Daytona has traditionally been one of the most important tracks on the NASCAR calendar, and this year will be no different, with multiple races being held there, including the Daytona 500, the Coke Zero Sugar Bowl, the Advance Auto Parts Clash, the Budweiser Invitational, and the Gatorade Duels. The only other racing that will be going on at Daytona this year is the Rolex 24 At Daytona, an endurance race that is one of the most prestigious events on the NASCAR calendar.
As a result of all these events, combined with the growth of the NASCAR divisions over the past few years, it’s fair to say that the sport is in the middle of a golden era. While the future looks somewhat uncertain at the moment, with several new and innovative sports cars set to make their debut in 2021, there is no question that American motor racing is in a great place.