Chevrolet faces year of transition in 2020 with Jimmie Johnson retiring

David Scott, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

The 2020 NASCAR Cup season figures to be a transitional one for Chevrolet -- especially for the brand's flagship team, Hendrick Motorsports.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will retire after the season, meaning Hendrick will be on the lookout for a fourth driver to partner with young up-and-comers William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. Names surfacing as possible replacements are Kyle Larson, who is entering his final contract year Chip Ganassi Racing, or perhaps Erik Jones, who has one year left at Joe Gibbs Racing.


Johnson goes into his final season with 83 victories to go with his seven titles, which is tied with Cale Yarborough on the sport's all-time win list. He's made no secret that he's aiming for championship No. 8, although he didn't make the playoffs in 2019 and hasn't won since the 2017 season. Elliott has seemed the most likely to take over as the team's top driver, with six victories over the last two seasons. Bowman got his first career victory last season at Chicago, while Byron, still winless in his two full time seasons, won five poles and finished second at Martinsville and Daytona.


What becomes of Larson after this season is the major storyline at Ganassi. Larson has been solid for the team, including his four-victory season of 2017. He's also made the playoffs every season since 2016, although he's not made it to the final four yet. Kurt Busch, the 2004 Cup champ, is back after signing a multi-year contract extension in 2019.


Tyler Reddick, who has won the last two Xfinity Series championships, makes his Cup debut in RCR's No. 8. Reddick ran twice for RCR in Cup races in 2019, finishing ninth at Kansas. Austin Dillon will continue in the No. 3 after a down year. He didn't have a top 5, and his only pole came at Chicago, where he finished 10th.



The most famous name in the sport continues to struggle with its one-driver operation. Bubba Wallace showed promising signs in 2019, winning a stage at the Monster Open preceding the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Wallace followed that up with a fifth-place finish in the main event. He also finished third at Indianapolis. Sponsorship, however, continues to be a challenge for RPM and a major source of frustration for Wallace.


This team adds Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was let go by Roush Fenway Racing after last season. Stenhouse brings his two Cup victories (both in 2017 at Talladega and Daytona) to a team that's won just once (A.J. Allmendinger at Watkins Glen in 2014). Ryan Preece, whose top finish was a third at Talladega last season, returns.


Ty Dillon returns at Germain Racing, for whom he had one top 5 (a fourth at the summer Daytona race) last season ... Quin Houff drove 17 races last season for Spire Motorsports and has been signed by Starcom Racing for '20.

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