2019 was the story of Joe Gibbs Racing, they brought in Martin Truex Jr. to replace Daniel Suarez, and he went on to a series high 7 wins. All four drivers won races for JGR in 2019 Hamlin (6) including the Daytona 500, Kyle Busch (5) including the Championship race at Homestead Miami for his 2nd cup title, and Erik Jones (1) the Southern 500. JGR won an astounding 19 of 36 races in 2019 and Saw three of their four drivers make the championship 4 (Busch, Truex, Hamlin) joining the was Stewart Hass Racing’s Kevin Harvick.
So, what will 2020 bring us let’s take a look.
The theme for 2020 is change and lots of it. First and foremost, the schedule, Homestead Miami will not be the host of the Finale in 2020 that honor will go to Phoenix, Martinsville will host its first night race on May 9th. Daytona’s July race is now the regular season Finale in September moving Indianapolis to July 4th weekend. Pocono will host a double header June 27th/28th. Bristol’s annual night race is now in the chase as opposed to the summer. Change also happened in the garage Chevy is bringing a new nose to the series, and from all accounts it will help tremendously with Aerodynamics, Cole Pearn stepped down as crew chief of Martin Truex Jr., Team Penske did an entire Crew chief musical chairs Todd Gordon moves to Ryan Blaney from Joey Logano, Paul Wolfe moves to Logano from Brad Keselowski, and Jeremy Bullins takes over the box of Keselowski moving from Blaney. There were also multiple driver changes in the garage I won’t touch on them all, but we will see the “big 3” from the Xfinity series all move up to the cup series to battle it out for rookie of the year. Cole Custer will be in the 41 for SHR, Tyler Reddick the 8 car for RCR, and Christopher Bell the 95 for LFR. Fan favorite Matt DiBenedetto moves from the 95 over to the 21 for Wood Brothers Racing. Chris Buescher and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. swap rides for the upcoming season, amongst others.
Now let’s dive in to some driver breakdowns for the upcoming season, I expect natural regression for JGR in 2020, winning in the cup series is hard, and I don’t expect them to dominate like they did in 2019. I will give my prediction for the final four at the end of the article as well as my prediction to win the title.
We Will start with the most dominate team from last year: JGR
Kyle Busch: Ended the season as the Champ, He had 5 wins to go along with 17 top fives. The new package last year made qualifying interesting, guys had cars trimmed out for a good starting spot others set the car up for the race, Kyle fell into the latter, he had only one pole in 2019. He also started the season off on fire as he won 3 of the first 8 races to start the year. Then he went into a slump after he won the first Pocono race, he didn’t win again for 22 races but won when it mattered most. He had an average finish of 8.9 and led a circuit high 1582 laps. He’s arguably the best driver in the garage, and he’s one of the odds on favs for the upcoming year.
MTJ: MTJ slid right into his new ride and didn’t miss a beat, winning a series high 7 races, and finally winning 2 races on short tracks, he also had 15 tops fives. He finished 2nd for the second straight season. The hard part on where to slot MTJ, is losing his crew chief Cole Pearn, who IMO was the best CC in the garage. He had an average finish of 9.8 on the year which ranked third, he led 1371 laps in 2019.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin rebounded nicely in 2019 after missing the playoffs in 2018 he bounced back with 6 wins and 19 top fives. He was on fire late in the year and many thought he was the one to beat at Homestead. He had an average finish of 9.5 and led 922 laps on the year. I think he will regress the most of these three in 2019.
Erik Jones: Jones brings up the rear in the JGR stable, he did win a crown jewel event in the Southern 500. He has been hit or miss in his career, in 2019 he had 10 top fives but only finished on the lead lap in 23 races. Many around the industry feel this is a make or break year for Jones with Christopher bell waiting in the wings. Jones had an average finish of 16.2 and only led 172 laps. I firmly believe there is a pecking order amongst teams and Jones is the bottom rung for JGR.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick was the lone ranger at Homestead battling the three cars from Gibbs for the championship. There is no doubt that Harvick is the top dog in the organization, he has been since he joined SHR. Harvick registered 4 wins and 15 top fives in 2019. He also had the best average starting spot of 8.5 and a finishing spot of 10.0 which ranked 3rd. He is Mr. consistent.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer was a driver that struggled in 2019, he didn’t register a win and only had 7 top fives. He did make the playoffs and that had a lot to do with his average starting spot of 10.7. I don’t expect much from bowyer in 2019 dfs wise.
Aric Almirola: I’m not a big fan of Aric, SHR was the top organization in 2018 and he showed glimpses of talent. 2019 was a different story, only 3 top fives for Almirola, and an average finish 0f 15.7. I originally thought Almirola would lose his ride to Cole Custer this year, but he does bring lots of sponsorship money to the table so that probably kept him in the seat.
Cole Custer: One of the big three rookies to join the cup series. He takes over for Daniel Suarez, who finally signed with Gaunt Brothers Racing this past week. Custer made the final 4 the last two seasons in the Xfinity Series falling short both times. He’s a very talented driver who excels at high banking fast tracks and loves to run the high line. I expect him to eventually be the #2 in the SHR camp as he is the future of the organization.
Joey Logano: The crew chief shuffle that happened at Penske I think will benefit all three drivers; I don’t think anyone will fall as they were the one organization that shared information amongst all 3 drivers openly. Logano came off a championship year in 2018 and won 2 races and had 12 top fives he also led 899 laps on the year and had an average finish on 10.8. Logano IMO is one of the most consistent drivers in the garage and has been a threat to win the title in recent years. I fully expect him to rebound in 2020 and compete at an even higher level.
Brad Keselowski: Brad is another guy I fully expect to be on top of his game in 2020, he finished 2019 with 3 wins and 13 top fives. He seemed to disappear at times in 2019, when you thought he would be a top play for the weekend he struggled, which frustrated me beyond belief. He led 1085 laps and had an average finish of 12.9 so he ran upfront a lot on the year.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney didn’t make the strides many expected in 2019 he had 1 win and 11 top five, but many in the industry expected multiple wins for the young gun in the Penske camp. With Todd Gordon now on the pit box I expect the steady crew chief to bring Blaney to the winner’s circle more often in 2020.
Chase Elliott: Chase was Chevys top driver in 2019, He won 3 races although nothing on an intermediate or short track (Dega, Watkins Glen, Roval). He cemented himself as the top road course driver in the series with MTJ. He also had 11 top fives and led 601 laps. Once the playoffs came around, he struggled mightily and didn’t finish many races. He has gotten better each year in the series and I expect that to continue in 2020.
William Byron: Byron was a solid DFS play IMO when he was around the 7k range, once he started getting over 8k it didn’t pay off as much. Weeks he qualified well and used strategy to run upfront at lead laps he had 5 top fives and led 233 laps, he also had 5 poles which ranked second to Harvick. I expect a win for Byron in 2020 with Chad on the pit box.
Jimmie Johnson: This is bitter sweet to write about JJ, he’s my favorite driver and this is also his final season for the future first ballot HOFer. HE has struggled big time the last few years, he hasn’t seen victory lane in a points paying race since Dover in 2017. He also missed the playoffs for the first time in his career. He showed some glimpses of hope as the season went on but with only 3 top fives and his price being in the mid 8,000 it made him tough to play. I do expect him to win a race in his final season and be back in the playoffs.
Alex Bowman: Bowman showed he could be the guy in the 88 and him filling in for Jr. wasn’t a fluke, he won at Chicagoland for his first career cup win had 7 top fives. He’s a guy I’m not too high on from a dfs standpoint, he will have his moments where he is very much playable.
Kyle Larson: Larson is one of those guys that frustrates the hell out of ya, he has immense talent but can’t seem to put it all together. He dominated Atlanta early on in the year and a pit road penalty put him at the rear and he could never rebound. He had 1 win and 8 top fives on the year and led 529 laps, I think Kurt Busch being his teammate helped them both out. I believe the new Chevy will help Larson get back to his winning ways.
Kurt Busch: Kurt’s first year in the 1 car was a success IMO he won one race and had 6 tops fives. He was in races and seemed to always move forward, he’s a veteran that can be counted on price pending of course, times he would be over priced and didn’t seem to get enough dom points to pay off. I expect consistency as usual from the one car.
Ryan Newman: this guy is one of my least favorite drivers, seemed to always qualify like crap then always move forward, his average start was 19.9 and finish was 14.6. He is one of the toughest drivers to pass so he holds position well and drives everyone hard and will do it no matter where on the track. If he continues to qualify poorly in 2020 lock him in to your lineups. He made the playoffs in 2019 despite only 3 top fives.
Chris Buescher: Buescher was a DFS god early on in the year it seemed, his price point was so low to start the year and his qualifying was near the rear and he seemed to find the 15-18 finishing range each race, as the season went on he kind of flattened out and his price climbed to where it should have been all year in the mid 7k range. He moved to the 17 car this season, which I’m not thrilled with this move for him not sure how it will pan out we will have to wait and see on this one.
Austin Dillon: Dillon and his former teammate at RCR Hemric used the new qualifying method to their advantage and qualified up front a lot during the 2019 season he had 3 poles, this made them virtually unplayable as the equipment and trimmed out cars didn’t hold up well in races, he had no wins and 0 top fives. If he were to regularly qualify 25th on back it would be a different story.
Matt DiBenedetto: Burrito became a fan favorite in 2019, LFR switched to Toyota which was a great move as one of 6 Toyotas in the field, He nearly pulled off the miracle win at Bristol until Hamlin took over the lead late. He finished the year with 3 top fives and an average finish of 18.3 on the year. In 2020 he will take over for Wood Brothers in the 21 car, I’m not big on this move for the him as the 21 car wasn’t a ride that was upfront a lot in 2019, maybe Matt can bring the magic to the car to see it run better in 2020.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr: Good ole Wrecky, the man we all seemed to love to hate. Qualify 31st he’s a must play only to see something happen to him during the race, qualify 9th oh man he’s a fade then finish in the top 10. HE was the epitome of fantasy sports in 2019. The move to JTG in the 47 car I believe can help him, maybe a change of scenery can help him like it did Logano. He only registered one top five to go with an average finish of 20.5.
Ty Dillon: here is a stat for ya, who were the only 2 drivers in 2019 to be running at the finish of all 36 races….. Joey Logano was one and the other…. This guy Ty Dillon, Dillon seemed to be played a ton in DFS in 2019 he qualified poorly enough and ran just well enough to warrant playing him at his price range on the year, he was low enough to be considered in the punt range and talented enough to move up just enough spots, his average finish in 2019 was 20.6 about 3 spots higher than he started.
Ryan Preece: Preece was another guy that was priced low enough throughout the year to play as a low end guy, in his first year in Cup he had an average finish of 23.1 and one top five, he moves from the 47 to the 37 ride this year so I could see some big improvement from him in 2020. Stenhouse took the 47 car for 2020.
Michael McDowell: McDowell was a solid play at the plate tracks in his career, he was also in the punt play range price wise and was solid enough to help open up value for other high priced guys in 2019, I expect the same in 2020.
Bubba Wallace: a guy that fans love, he could be seen tossing the football around with fans during rain delays, unfortunately that was about all of the highlights you would see from him in 2019. He was playable from a DFS standpoint when he was around or below the 6k range and qualified poorly enough to warrant some PD. His average finish was 23.9 on the year.
Christopher Bell: Bell is another one of the big three Xfinity guys moving to cup this year. He took over the 95 ride from DiBenedetto and with that will get more funding from JGR and more data and support. He’s got all the tools but at times seemed to race recklessly in the Xfinity series, but showed he could hang with the big boys when they dropped down to the Xfinity series. I don’t see him winning this year in the series it’s a whole new animal to tackle. We will have to wait and see where his tag comes in at to see where he falls in the DFS landscape.
Tyler Reddick: Reddick is the 2 time defending Xfinity series champ, and this kid can wheel a car, if any of the 3 big rookies win, I believe it to be Reddick, he just has that I don’t care enough mentality to pull it off. He takes over the 8 car from Daniel Hemric and is way more talented. Of the three he doesn’t have the best equipment but as we have seen the last two years, when the bright lights came on he performed, we will have to take the same approach as the others when it comes to pricing on where they will fall in the DFS landscape.
*Predictions: My prediction for the Final Four for 2020 are as follows. Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and my sentimental pick Jimmie Johnson. With JJ winning his 8th and going out on top…. I actually think Logano will nab his second cup title in 2020.
*Note: these are the 28 drivers I feel will be the most played and owned in DFS throughout the year, check in weekly for my weekly plays and notes starting with the Daytona 500 on February 16th. I will note my favorite plays and fades for each race, come join the ride with me this year. Thanks for reading