Being stuck on the couch inside in January makes me want to ponder deep questions and dream about the future: What faraway places do I want to visit? How many pounds do I need to lose? Can I be a better friend this year?
But if the question burning up your mind is should this finally be the year I take that RV trip across the country and visit every NASCAR track in the nation, well here are 10 new things to look forward to on your once-in-a-lifetime journey. (Hint: You should definitely make that trip.)
1. New Chevrolet: It’s all about the wheels, right? The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is the hot, new item on every serious car person’s list. For NASCAR fans, it’s a chance to watch it whiz around the track for the first time, then buy one that looks exactly like it from the showroom floor. For competitors, it’s a new challenge to see if the Chevrolet teams can find speed quickly. Intrigue smells a lot like burning rubber in this case. See the new Chevrolet.
2. New rivalry: Petty vs. Pearson, Earnhardt vs. Gordon, Yarborough and the Allisons fighting it out at the Daytona 500. Whatever the era, NASCAR knows how to spice up your Sunday drive. Enter Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin, whose run-in during last season’s NASCAR Playoffs at Martinsville has taken on its own legendary status. Will things pick up where they left off? By the sounds of the two drivers during the offseason — uh, yeah.
3. New faces in new places: Sometimes a fresh start is just what the doctor ordered. Aric Almirola is getting one with Stewart-Haas Racing. Will he start to sizzle (like bacon) in the No. 10 Smithfield Ford? Almirola’s progress is something for fans to watch, and he’s not the only one who’s undergoing a big change. Catch up with the latest news in “On the Move.”
4. New look at Hendrick: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne are gone (insert sad emoji face), but the future looks bright at the Hendrick shop. Xfinity Series champion William Byron and Alex Bowman join forces with Chase Elliott and seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson. Elliott switches from the No. 24 to the No. 9 that his dad, former champ and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove, and Byron takes over the No. 24. Check out the new Hendrick paint schemes.
5. New young stars: Hey, you got what it takes kid? Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones are among the young drivers ready to bust out on the Monster Energy Series scene, and youngster Kyle Larson has already proven that he can be a championship contender in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s time for you to jump on somebody’s bandwagon, because these guys are going to be around for awhile.
6. New sheriff in town: All those young guns, and others, will be shooting for the new guy at the top, and that’s Martin Truex Jr. You won’t meet a nicer leading man, and with Cole Pearn and Furniture Row Racing on his side, Truex will have plenty of firepower to fight back. Truex is squarely in his prime and thrived in the stage-racing format, so he’s the big fish in this pond (comment brought to you by Bass Pro Shops).
7. New role for Junior: What’s even better than rooting for Junior as a driver? Try Junior with a platform. As he showed on Twitter, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has plenty of insightful messages to share, some of which are just downright hilarious. So now that he is joining NBC in the booth, it’s something for fans to look forward to in the second half after Jeff Gordon gets done wowing us with FOX in the first half of the season.
8. New schedule tweaks: NASCAR Goes West is back in March with trips to Las Vegas, ISM Raceway at Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway — and NASCAR will return to Vegas in September for the start of the playoffs. There’s also an early July date at Chicago, the end of the regular season at Indy — and Richmond and the Charlotte road course as hot, new items for the playoffs. In other words, plenty of reasons to buy your tickets now. See the full schedule.
9. New pit strategies: With only five pit crew members instead of six this year, teams will need to come up with strategies to maintain their quick changes on pit road. The buzz about this was already building at the Las Vegas Awards, where Austin Dillon revealed that his team had already practiced some five-person stops. With teams keeping quiet, we will see at Daytona where they land with this latest change.
10. New beginnings: Kasey Kahne goes from Hendrick Motorsports to Leavine Family Racing, Christopher Bell moves up from Camping World Truck Series to the Xfinity Series. These are just a couple of the new beginnings we’ll be eyeing as the season gets underway. Bell, who recently won his second Chili Bowl and is coming off a Camping World Truck Series title, is quickly becoming the next new star NASCAR fans should watch, something Kahne knows all about.