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Opinion: The Rest of the Story

There was plenty happening both on and off the track at Homestead-Miami Speedway it was easy for some things to go overlooked.

Crowning three champions was front and center over the weekend and there were three deserving drivers achieving that coveted goal in Matt Crafton, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch.

But while that was the main act on center stage, there was much more swirling around the south Florida season finale.

Homestead hosted its last edition of Championship Weekend for the seeable future. Since 2002, NASCAR has ended its long and winding road in the Sunshine State, kicking off in Daytona and ending up in Homestead. Next season things shift to ISM Raceway in Phoenix as the one-mile track gets its chance to take the spotlight. While it will be different to head to Homestead during spring break in March rather than in late fall, there’s also a refreshing sense of chancing locales to look forward to. Hopefully the product in Phoenix will produce the good racing and intensity warranted by championship events.

ISM Raceway might be one of the tracks that benefit from the potential of NASCAR tweaking the Cup Series rules in hopes of creating better competition. While generally speaking this year’s package dramatically improved racing on intermediate tracks, short tracks and road courses left something to be desired. NASCAR president Steve Phelps addressed the issue during his annual “State of the Sport” address in Homestead.

“Do I think we need to work with our industry, Goodyear, our race teams and OEM partners to improve what we’re seeing on the short tracks? I do,” Phelps said. “We’re going to do that in the off season, for sure.”

Whether there are modifications to the rules or not one thing is for certain, Joe Gibbs Racing is expected to remain the powerhouse it was in 2019. Maybe JGR won’t win a record 19 of 36 races like the organization did this year capped by Kyle Busch’s second career championship, there’s no reason to think there will be much falloff if any.

Add into the JGR mix the stronger affiliation with Leavine Family Racing and new driver Christopher Bell and Toyota has a very strong shot at continuing its stranglehold on the Cup Series.

Chevrolet has the most work to do among the three Cup manufacturers. The Championship 4 did not include a Chevy driver for the third consecutive season and the highest a Bowtie driver finished in the standings was Kyle Larson in sixth. Chevy drivers weren’t remotely close to being competitive in the Homestead finale with the exception of Larson for a spell until his engine blew and left the Chip Ganassi racing driver with a last-place finish.

Adding to the degree of difficulty next season for Chevrolet to close the gap is the decision to change body styles. The Camaro ZL1 1LE will debut next season, a somewhat curious decision given the drastic 2021 change and the introduction of the Gen 7 Cup car. But Chevy needs to pull out all the stops to pull itself closer to Toyota and Ford.

Saturday’s Xfinity Series winner and champion Tyler Reddick will be part of Chevy’s Cup program in 2020 as he takes over the Richard Childress Racing No. 8 ride. Reddick along with his two “Big 3” members Bell and Cole Custer will take their rivalry to NASCAR’s top tier, which should create an intriguing rookie race.

NASCAR definitely built momentum in 2019 and the sport is positioned to build upon it next year and beyond. Things weren’t perfect, but the positives far outweighed the challenges. The dawn of a new decade brings with it much anticipation and a lot of intrigue.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.