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Pistone: Ready for a New Year

The 2020 NASCAR season didn’t end the way some drivers and teams had hoped and many are ready to hit the reset button with a brand new year.

Kyle Busch
The good news for Busch is he was able to keep intact his streak of winning at least one Cup race for 16 straight seasons. The bad news is Busch’s Texas Motor Speedway victory in October was the only one of 2020. The 2015 and 2019 Cup champ was off this past season and not as competitive as Busch or Joe Gibbs Racing had in mind. Busch only tallied four playoff points in 2020 compared to his 46 in 2019. The result was a crew chief change with long-time veteran Adam Stevens replaced by Ben Beshore, who has a great deal of experience but will inherit a high-profile job trying to guide Busch back to more winning ways.

Christopher Bell
There were lofty expectations for Bell after his great success in the Xfinity Series. Leavine Family Racing’s tighter affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing and Bell’s considerable talent were the promising recipe for the freshman’s Cup Series season. Things did not quite pan out that way. Bell put up two top-five and seven top-10 finishes and finished 20th in the final point standings. There were more downs than ups although Bell did seem to improve later in the year. However, the season ended with LFR being forced to close shop and Bell moving into the JGR stable to take the No. 20 ride vacated by Erik Jones. He’ll hope for a stronger sophomore campaign.

JTG Daugherty Racing
The organization brought in Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 2020 to join Ryan Preece, but the duo finished 24th and 29th, respectively, in the standings. Stenhouse Jr. suffered a whopping eight DNFs with Preece matching that number. The team is bringing both drivers back for 2021 in the hopes of brighter days than the struggle that was the 2020 campaign.

Roush Fenway Racing
A similar story played out for Jack Roush’s team in 2020. The year began in a frightening manner with Ryan Newman’s violent accident on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Newman walked out of the hospital just two days later and eventually returned to the seat of the No. 6 Ford, nothing short of a miraculous recovery from such a scary crash. But the performance just never came nor did it for teammate Chris Buescher. Combined the pair posted just two top-five finishes and led for a combined 68 laps. Veteran Jimmy Fennig will now oversee the team’s competition department in pursuit of changing the disappointing course of the last few seasons at RFR.

Johnny Sauter
The former Camping World Truck Series champion suffered through one of if not the most difficult seasons of his career. Sauter not only went winless, he missed the playoffs and posted only three top-five finishes. It was about an un-Johnny Sauter-like season as there could possibly be and one the veteran driver would like to put behind him as soon as possible.