Where the Cup Series left off before the COVID-19 pandemic

Unlike most professional sports, NASCAR’s 2020 season got underway before the COVID-19 pandemic brought live sporting events to a halt in mid-March.

Where the Cup Series left off before the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s been more than two months, however, since Joey Logano took the checkered flag at Phoenix Raceway on March 8 to earn his second Cup Series victory in the season’s first four races.

Denny Hamlin won the season-opening Daytona 500 and Alex Bowman earned a dominating victory in Fontana, Calif. – a win which likely contributed to his contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports announced on Saturday.

Read Also:

The Cup series returns to action at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (Fox Sports) and while there will be no fans in attendance, the series is set to pick up where it left off from a competition standpoint.

Although he doesn’t own a win yet this year, veteran Kevin Harvick remains the series points leader and has been a model of consistency with two top-five and four top-10 finishes in as many races. He hasn’t finished worse than ninth.

Darlington is a solid track for Harvick, who earned a victory at the track in 2014 and has finished in the top-10 in eight of his last 10 races.

“Darlington is a very sensitive temperature track, so I think you kind of have to evolve as the race evolve,” Harvick said. “You look at last year’s stuff, you look at the evolution of the cars as we’ve gone through the off-season and the first part of the season knowing that you at least get to race on the same tire that you had last year.

“We want to have a versatile car that can run high or low and do things that you normally do, but I think the biggest goal in this instance is to just not be in right field – try to get yourself in the ballpark and be able to adjust on it so you don’t have to have a rebuild and a reboot.”

Logano, thanks to his two early-season wins, sits a single point behind Harvick in the standings. He’s been a bit inconsistent, however, finishing 12th and 26th when he hasn’t won.

Track workers paint logos on the front stretch

Track workers paint logos on the front stretch

Photo by: NASCAR Media

Hendrick Motorsports got off to a strong start this season as three of its four drivers are ranked among the top 10 in the standings – Chase Elliott is third, 20 points behind Harvick. Bowman is fourth, 26 points out, and Jimmie Johnson is fifth, 33 points back.

It’s the first time the team has had three drivers ranked in the top 10 after four races since the 2015 season.

Three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers – Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. – qualified for the Championship 4 season finale last year. But even with Hamlin’s Daytona 500 win, after four races this season, none of JGR’s four drivers are ranked among in the top 10 of the standings.

Sunday’s race will also see the return of two drivers – Ryan Newman in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford and Matt Kenseth returning to fulltime competition in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet.

Read Also:

Newman, 42, was medically cleared to return to competition on April 27 after suffering a closed head injury in a last-lap wreck in the Daytona 500. The two-month postponement for the pandemic provided Newman time to complete his recovery.

Kenseth will finish out the season in the No. 42 after Kyle Larson was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR and fired from Ganassi after using a racial slur during a broadcast of an iRacing competition during the break.

Kenseth, 48, last competed in the 2018 season, driving 15 races for Roush.

shares
comments
Dale Earnhardt Jr: NASCAR needs to race for the sport’s survival
Previous article

Dale Earnhardt Jr: NASCAR needs to race for the sport’s survival

Next article

NASCAR's Real Heroes 400 from Darlington as it happened

NASCAR's Real Heroes 400 from Darlington as it happened
The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team Prime

The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team

Saddled with uncompetitive Minardi machinery, Tarso Marques didn't manage to score points in his three partial seasons of Formula 1. But now the Brazilian has the chance to show what he can do in NASCAR, and explains the story of his comeback with new Cup Series entrant Team Stange

NASCAR Cup
Apr 13, 2022
The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car Prime

The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car

NASCAR’s new stock car generation is encouraging an influx of fresh blood into its top tier. But there are concerns that parts are in short supply as the entire paddock tries to build up stocks at the same time

NASCAR Cup
Feb 22, 2022
How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style Prime

How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style

After holding his nerve and hip-checking his teammate on the run to the line, Austin Cindric made a perfect start to life as a full-timer in the NASCAR Cup Series by winning the Daytona 500. Here's how the Penske Ford man emerged first across the line in the first points-scoring race for the much-anticipated Next Generation cars

NASCAR Cup
Feb 21, 2022
Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season Prime

Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season

There are plenty of uncertainties ahead of the 2022 NASCAR Cup season as an all-new fleet of cars take to the track for the first time. Ahead of this weekend's Daytona 500, our experts explain what you need to know

NASCAR Cup
Feb 17, 2022
How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of Next Gen arrival Prime

How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of Next Gen arrival

The NASCAR Cup kicks off with the Daytona 500 this weekend, but a major engine overhaul and a subsequent mountain of work has been required to be ready for the arrival of the Next Gen cars.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2022
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021