Editor’s note: Today’s Hendrick Motorsports preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the NASCAR Cup Series season, ranked in order of best finish in last year’s owner standings. MORE: Changes to know for the 2020 season HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS Manufacturer: Chevrolet Engine: Hendrick Engines Drivers: Chase Elliott (No. 9), William Byron (No. 24), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48), Alex Bowman (No. 88) Crew chiefs: Alan Gustafson (No. 9), Chad Knaus (No. 24), Cliff Daniels (No. 48), Greg Ives (No. 88) What’s new: Nothing really, apart from the not-so minor detail the 2020 season will be Jimmie Johnson’s last as a full-time driver. That’ll surely motivate the No. 48 team at least. Also, there’s probably a fire lit within the organization as a whole considering not a single driver advanced into the Championship 4 last season. Can’t win a title if not in contention. Team strength: All but one Hendrick Motorsports driver (Jimmie Johnson) made the NASCAR Playoffs last season. HMS overall improved every major statistical category from 2018 to 2019, and its four wins extended the organization’s streak of at least three wins per season to 25 years straight. Ten poles also led all teams. The Action Network’s Best Bet: Most of the focus in 2020 will be Jimmie Johnson and his final full-time Cup Series season, but William Byron is the driver bettors should target. I expect to bet him early and often to start the year, especially if he’s priced similarly to last season. – PJ Walsh Racing Insights’ Number to Know: One. This is the one and only multi-car organization to have every driver/crew chief/spotter pairing return unchanged from 2019.
CHASE ELLIOTT: No. 9 Chevrolet 2019 stats: 10th in final standings; three wins (Talladega-1, Watkins Glen, Roval), four poles, 11 top fives, 15 top 10s 2020 championship odds: 12-1 Fantasy Live picks: Watkins Glen, Michigan, Dover, Kansas, Martinsville Outlook: The Round of 8 really botched Chase Elliott’s championship hopes in 2019. He finished 36th at Martinsville Speedway, 32nd at Texas Motor Speedway and 39th at Phoenix Raceway to ultimately get booted from title competition. Elliott was one round – one win – away from making the Championship 4. If he can get back to the NASCAR Playoffs again in 2020, wouldn’t be crazy to see him make that last jump into the finale with a shot at the ultimate trophy. WILLIAM BYRON: No. 24 Chevrolet
2019 stats: 11th in final standings; five poles, five top fives, 13 top 10s 2020 championship odds: 20-1 Fantasy Live picks: Pocono, Texas, Dover, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland Outlook: William Byron’s first career win is bound to happen in 2020. The third-year driver had two runner-up finishes in 2019 (Daytona International Speedway in the summer and Martinsville Speedway in the postseason), on top of three other top-five runs and 233 laps led overall. He knows how to steer his way to the front of the pack; it’s just a matter of staying there come checkered flag. If not, Byron pointed his way into last season’s NASCAR Playoffs and made it to the Round of 12 anyway.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. 48 Chevrolet 2019 stats: 18th in final standings; one pole, three top fives, 12 top 10s 2020 championship odds: 40-1 Fantasy Live picks: Richmond, Charlotte, Dover, Chicagoland, Sonoma Outlook: Jimmie Johnson is ready for #OneFinalTime, as the seven-time champion will retire from full-time racing at the end of the 2020 season. As already noted, that’ll surely be a huge motivator to go out with a bang. Last year, though, ended in Johnson’s worst overall finish ever and marked the first time Johnson failed to make the NASCAR Playoffs in his career. He has to do at least better than that this year. Maybe a full season with Cliff Daniels, who replaced Kevin Meendering midway through last season, atop his pit box will help produce better results. ALEX BOWMAN: No. 88 Chevrolet
2019 stats: 12th in final standings; one win (Chicagoland), seven top fives, 12 top 10s 2020 championship odds: 40-1 Fantasy Live picks: Chicagoland, Dover, Charlotte, Michigan, Kansas Outlook: Last season at Chicagoland Speedway, Alex Bowman scored his first career win and locked himself in the NASCAR Playoffs. Once there, he truly became known as someone who’s willing to fight for his spot in the postseason – take Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval elimination race for example, he barely advanced into the Round of 12 after an eventful day. His playoff chances ended that next three-race stretch, like the season before, but he improved his final rank four spots from 2018 to 2019. Could do even better in 2020 if he continues to better his statistical marks.
NASCAR.com 2020 team previews schedule
Jan. 20: Teams outside the top 30
Jan. 21: Go Fas Racing
Jan. 22: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 23: Richard Petty Motorsports
Jan. 24: Germain Racing
Jan. 27: Leavine Family Racing
Jan. 28: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 29: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 30: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 31: Roush Fenway Racing
Feb. 3: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 4: Chip Ganassi Racing
Feb. 5: Team Penske
Feb. 6: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 7: Joe Gibbs Racing