By: Isaac Donsky, Columnist
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
The 2020 NASCAR season is over. Honestly, I didn’t think we would make it this far. Considering the fact that NASCAR was running races during a global pandemic, it’s honestly incredible that we made it to the finish line. With that being said, let’s meet the drivers who took home championship hardware in 2020 across all of NASCAR’s sanctioned series.
Cup Series: Chase Elliott
The best way to sum up 2020 in the Cup Series is a changing of the guard. The established veterans who entered the sport in the early 2000’s are all mostly retired (with the exception of a few holdouts). The next generation has emerged, and they are hungry. Just ask 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. At 24 years old, he is the third youngest champion in the history of NASCAR’s top division and he’s one hell of a driver. Elliott was a constant threat to win throughout 2020, ending his championship season with 5 wins, 15 top 5s, and 22 top 10s. Here is the scary part; he hasn’t even hit his peak yet.
Xfinity Series: Austin Cindric
If you would have told me three years ago that Austin Cindric would be a NASCAR champion in 2020, I’d probably die of laughter. Up until this year, Cindric was considered a bust by the NASCAR community for good reason. Despite driving top equipment for much of his career, Cindric had never put up steller results. In fact, he had been downright terrible. But 2020 was different. After a sluggish start to the season, Cindric went on a tear during the summer, winning five races during a six race stretch between July 9 and Aug. 15. That hot streak put him at the top of the standings, and he never looked back, finishing the season with 6 wins, 19 top 5s, and 26 top 10s.
Truck Series: Sheldon Creed
In a series devoted to racing pickup trucks at ungodly speeds, it only makes sense for the truck expert to win the championship. Sheldon Creed spent years in the Stadium Super Truck series racing off-road trucks on asphalt tracks, perfecting his racing skills before jumping up to NASCAR. It showed this year. The off-road specialist finished the season with 5 wins, 9 top 5s, and 13 top 10s to claim his second NASCAR championship after winning the 2018 ARCA Series title.
ARCA Menards Series: Bret Holmes
The ancient concept of the owner-driver is one that is not seen in major stock car racing today, at least by title-calibur teams. The art of owning your own race team, building your own cars, then traveling to the track and racing said cars may be foreign to today’s younger stars. But not to Bret Holmes. While he only won a single race all season, Holmes finished every race but one in the top-10, ending the 20-race season with 1 win, 14 top 5s, and 19 top-10s. All in a car that he owned and prepared himself.
ARCA West Series: Jesse Love
To be honest, I had no clue who this kid was before the season started. To me, he was just another rookie prospect with some promise, but not enough for me to take notice. Boy was I wrong. Despite being just 15 years old, Jesse Love outlasted the competition in a surprisingly competitive ARCA West season to take the title, finishing the year with 3 wins, 9 top-5s, and 10 top-10s.
ARCA East Series: Sam Mayer
Long time readers of my column will remember my piece on this kid. The 17-year-old who made me feel old for the first time. Well, he upped the ante by having one of the most dominant seasons by a NASCAR driver in any series. Ever. In a COVID-shortened season, Mayer finished the year with 5 wins, 6 top-5s, and 6 top-10s in a six race season. He won all but one race and the one race he lost, he finished second. This kid is going to be deadly when he gets to the top divisions.