The arrival of the New Year has never been more anticipate than that of 2021 after a year in which our lives were changed in so many ways. While it may be tough to look back and pick out a few good moments, if you are a race fan there were some good moments from 2020 that deserve one more look before the season kicks off next month at Daytona.
When NASCAR was forced to postpone its first race at Atlanta due to COVID, the future never looked bleaker for the sport as race after race was either postponed or cancelled.
The sanctioning body may have enjoyed its greatest moment in resuming the sport at on May 17th at Darlington. It was racing as we once knew it but to be able to complete the 26-race regular schedule with the playoff portion of the schedule still intact was something that the rest of the sporting world had to envy. Who would have ever thought that race teams did not have to show up at a track to have a couple days of practice before racing on Sunday.
The results of pushing a car through inspection on race day and then taking the green flag to start a race did not diminish the competiveness of what we saw on the race track.
It was just another case of what 2020 forced the sport to do and in the process may have showed a more economical way of doing business in the sport. 2020 was definitely not the kind of year that Jimmie Johnson was looking forward to as his last season in the sport.
He never did get to have the interaction with his fans in his final season and his performance on the track was in no way indicative of his success that he had enjoyed in his career.
He had to miss a race after testing positive and failed to make the playoffs. While it proved to be a very difficult year on the Hendrick Motorsport driver, he leaves with 83 race wins and tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for the most all-time series championships with seven.
2020 turned out be the kind of year that you didn’t even have to take a green flag to become one of the biggest headlines in the sport. When Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced that they were going to field a car for the 2021 season with Bubba Wallace behind the wheel, it suddenly gave the sport the possibility of attracting not only some new fans but also open up some more marketing opportunities.
Startup teams often struggle but with an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and solid sponsorship, the learning curve may not be too steep. The season opening Daytona 500 is an event that every race fan needs to attend at least once as the pageantry and lead up to the event at the track always sets the stage for the beginning of the season.
The 2020 edition of the 500 was no exception as it took two days to get it in because of rain but the ending will be talked about for years to come. Ryan Newman’s violent crash on the frontstretch of the last lap knocked him unconscious with a closed head injury but after a two day stay in the hospital he walked out holding the hands of his two daughters.
As you can see 2020 had its moments which also included Chase Elliott winning his first ever NASCAR Cup Series championship, the announcement of the 2021 schedule that breaks away from the steeped in tradition schedules of previous seasons and the season long struggles of Kyle Busch.
NASCAR gave us enough moments that when we use our 2020 hindsight that the season was one that did give us the opportunity that at least for a couple of hours each week it seemed like everything was back to normal.