NASCAR Cup Series

Memorable Storylines from the NASCAR Cup Series Season

By: Ashley McCubbin

Some seasons include a couple moments that will stand the test of time and always be part of fan’s memories for years to come. Though it seems for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, there were more than a normal campaign.

Here’s a glance back at just a couple that stood out above anything else.

Ryan Newman’s Crash

Jasen Vinlove | Nigel Kinrade Photography

It seems forever ago, but yet it was just 10 months ago that NASCAR Nation held their breath at the conclusion of the Daytona 500, and the couple days which followed.

In what was shaping up to be one of possibly the best finishes to the Great American Race, contact happened, resulting in Ryan Newman’s car crashing into the outside wall, getting some flight along the way. Thankfully, the Roush Fenway Racing sustained minimal injuries, and was able to walk out of the hospital just a couple days later with his daughters. He also got the chance to return back behind the wheel, too.

Some may say his survival is a miracle, but it’s also a testament to the continued safety innovations by NASCAR over the past several years. By undertaking studies of each crash that happens, and making small improvements to the cars, everything came together to save a man’s life and allow him to not only compete again, but more importantly be with his family. One of those innovations came from a previous incident with Newman too, ironically.

COVID-19

Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images

There was a lot of momentum in the first three weeks of the season, with a bunch of possible storylines set to play out. Though everything got bigger when the series rolled into Atlanta Motor Speedway to learn they would not compete that weekend, or for the couple months that followed.

COVID-19 had an opportunity swallow everything about the sport whole and leave our lives on pause, but ultimately, NASCAR won this race with the various aspects that played out. The sport remained in the limelight during this downtime through iRacing, offering an entertaining escape from the dangers and news surrounding us. 

They also developed the safety protocols that allowed them to be the first sport to return to competition. Although a couple drivers contracted the virus, their measures ensured there was not an outbreak with the impact being as little as possible. Furthermore, they became an example for not only other sports to follow in their return, but the world in seeing how effect these measures like masks and social distancing could be.

COVID-19 also allowed the sport to explore other avenues previously not addressed, like weekday and one-day shows. The impact will be felt beyond 2020 in teams seeing the money that can be saved, and implications set for the schedule ahead. It may have also brought back a renewed sense in a way, given the excitement in those first couple of weeks presented by the drivers, and may bring even more fans out in them realizing what it’s like to miss what they love.

Bubba Wallace and Racial Injustice

Racism has always been an underlying issue around the world, despite the gains made through the years. Even with people realizing the pain that stems from singling out someone based on their skin color or background, it still happens more often than realized.

Although the sport could have taken a step back and watched from the sidelines, the movement created by Bubba Wallace based on his own experience in getting others to speak out caused a ripple effect. The conversations he had with Ty Dillon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. allowed fans who may not have thought about it a perspective to understand. The video titled, I will listen, created a simple movement in education to improve. Fox Sports also played their part, with a memorable monologue from Jeff Gordon.

Everything came to a head with a noose was found in the garage area at Talladega Superspeedway. Thankfully, it was deemed to not hung there in racism, but rather remains from another season. However, even though it was not the threat as thought, watching the garage together and rally around Wallace was a defining moment. It showed the unity of the garage area, and how they will do whatever they can to protect each other – even if they will do whatever to beat each other on the track.

Jimmie Johnson’s Retirement

Stephen Acre | Nigel Kinrade Photography

Seven championships and 83 wins are the numbers that were put up by Jimmie Johnson through the past 19 years, but his career goes beyond that.

It hit hard for many to watch the California Kid close his career in NASCAR this past year, as it felt like a dynasty in the sport was closing. He was the standard everybody should shoot for in those numbers, so who would hold the reigns moving forward?

His impact off the track will be felt forever, though, whether it’s always being polite to every fan that he greeted, acting like a professional no matter what was thrown his way, or inspiring the next generation of racers. His accomplishments will also become more real, when it is realized not everyone can achieve them as easily.

His final season in the sport saw some bright moments with the neon yellow 48 making it’s way to the front of the field on occasion. Unfortunately, there were no checkered flags, and he had to miss a couple events due to a COVID-19 positive test. However, it shouldn’t take away from the career put together as everything else goes beyond that.

Clint Bowyer’s New Chapter

Nigel Kinrade | Nigel Kinrade Photography

Another retirement happened this year, and was mostly overshadowed for a couple reasons as Clint Bowyer announced he’s going to trade in steering every week for talking into a microphone.

The Kansas native did not secure a championship in his career, nor did he score as many checkered flags as those before him. However, he equally left his impact. He showed you can be successful, while having fun doing so in entertaining us with one-liners and interview clips we’ll use over and over. There are certain times his quips on social media will create laughs for years to come.

There’s also the famous run through the garage area at Phoenix Raceway that certainly be a star in memes for years to come.

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