The 2019 Kentucky Speedway regular season had a record-breaking 54 cars battling for the checkered flag. Can you believe it? That’s more cars than we’ve seen at a single race track location in recent history. It’s been an exciting year to be a fan of NASCAR at the smaller tracks. The competition is fierce, the races are closer, and it feels more like a family event.
As a result of those historic numbers, we have a bit of a race fan coronavirus special right here. Up until mid-April, we won’t see a NASCAR race without fans in the grandstands. We’ll have to wait until at least May to report on who actually won this year’s race.
Here’s How This Year’s Record-Breaking 54 Car Race Unfolded
It all started with one of the most iconic sports car races of all time. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is historically considered the most important automobile race in the world, was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, NASCAR decided to hold the annual Kentucky Speedway race even though it was only a quarter of the norm. It was the first time in the event’s 45-year history that the race was not held at the end of April or early May.
While Le Mans was postponed, the Kentucky Speedway had no choice but to push the race date back. They had to get creative, so they brought in intermission acts and bands, who played while the cars were in service. It was the closest thing to a real-life Woodstock that we’ve ever seen at a race track. It was a unique and unforgettable experience.
Once the dust settled from that historic 24-hour period, we were treated to a duel for the championship between two heavyweights: Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Two of the biggest names in NASCAR history battling it out for the title. Two guys who’ve dominated the sport for years, but have never truly been on the same page. This year, they would prove that wrong.
It was the perfect storm. Two of the best drivers of our generation going head-to-head for an F1 championship-type of deal. These are the types of matchups that excite sports fans around the world. This year’s edition was no different. Unfortunately, the excitement would be short-lived. During the final stage of the race, a massive crash broke out, bringing out the red flag and ending the 2019 edition of the Kentucky Speedway race. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt. The race was eventually won by Kyle Busch, but everyone knew that Martin Truex Jr. was the man to beat after that chaotic final lap. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long before the big New York car owner would prove that naysayers wrong and become the 2019 NASCAR champion. The rivalry between these two would go down in history as one of the most epic battles ever.
The Early Stages Of This Year’s Championship Race
It’s been an incredible comeback for Kyle Busch. After spending most of last season on the sidelines, he returned in March with a bang. On a typical Wednesday, he’d be at the track by 8 a.m. for autograph signings and pictures. Then it was straight to the hauler for breakfast with teammates. Around 2 p.m., he’d head back to the track for pre-race preparations. By the time the bell rang, he was ready to go racing. Afterward, it was time for some food and beverage (if you’re a beer lover, you can’t miss this event), and then it was off to the movies. He usually ends the night at a bar or restaurant, meeting and talking to fans. On this particular April day, he had meetings all afternoon followed by a big dinner at the hotel. After the meetings and dinner, it was time for some team building and then off to bed. On this particular day, Kyle Busch had a lot on his mind. With just a few days until the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season, he still had a lot to do. He hadn’t seen much of his family in a while, so this was a chance to catch up and spend some one-on-one time with them. On this particular day, he was driving to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, to see his parents for Easter weekend. We all know what happened next. On April 13th, at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the 2021 season at the Kentucky Speedway, Kyle Busch unveiled the latest addition to his family of businesses. The latest location will be the first Busch-owned brewery in the state of Kentucky. The brewery will be called Busch Gardens and will serve the area around its location in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Postponed 24 Hours Of Le Mans Effect
With all the buildup to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, you’d think that everyone in France would’ve been tuning in to watch. Instead, we were treated to a coronavirus-themed Broadway musical and then some pretty funny YouTube videos. The whole world was watching, and then the whole world stopped doing anything else for a while. It was like watching the ultimate game of chicken as far as I’m concerned. While most other forms of entertainment were on hold, NASCAR remained committed to holding the Kentucky Speedway race, making it the only form of entertainment available during that time. With only a few races until the end of the season, the competition becomes incredibly fierce. The 2019 champion was in serious danger of losing his title until…well, you know the rest. In the end, the most decorated driver of all time notched his 14th championship, clinching the title less than two weeks before the end of the season. Now that the 24 Hours of Le Mans is back on, we can look forward to seeing if his 2019 championship will be validated or at least recognized by the experts and the fans once the world’s greatest automobile race returns to its rightful place at the end of April.
Some Drivers That Shined Bright Particularly In The Postponed Le Mans Series
While most of the sports world was distracted by the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a few of the best NASCAR races of the year occurred after the world came to a halt. The most noteworthy of these was the post-Pandemic Cup Series. In fact, many of the drivers that won these races went on to become staples at the smaller tracks, proving that they’re not just built for speed. Here are a few of the best. (You can click here to read the full list.)
- Martinsville (2nd race): William Byron (5 wins in 7 races)
- Phoenix (3rd race): Austin Dillon (2 wins)
- Chicago (4th race): Chase Briscoe (2 wins)
- St. Louis (5th race): William H. Green (2 wins)
- Kansas (6th race): Chris Buescher (2 wins)
- New York (7th race): Brandon O’Reilly (2 wins)
- Virginia (8th race): Christopher Bell (2 wins)
- Michigan (9th race): Cooper McDowell (2 wins)
- Charlotte (10th race): Jeffrey Earnhardt (2 wins)
The Historic Duel Between Two Champions
While the majority of last year was put on hold, the 2019 season belonged to Kyle Busch. The last half of the year was incredible. He won eight races in a row, including some of the most prestigious events in NASCAR. Unfortunately, the last couple of weeks were pretty devastating. Martin Truex Jr. had other ideas. He won five straight races, including the most prestigious event, the Daytona 500, and the season finale, the NASCAR Cup Series championship. After a nail-biter of a race where no one could possibly assume that either driver wouldn’t claim the checkered flag, the 2019 NASCAR champion was decided in the final corner. From that point on, it was all Busch. As fate would have it, when the 24 Hours of Le Mans was postponed, both Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.’s teams were still on the hook for the rest of the season. The two had to race for the title, so it was on. From the very beginning, the storyline was intriguing, to say the least.