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Who Will Succeed When NASCAR Returns?

NASCAR announced plans to return for an 11-day, 7-race stretch across all three national series. The races will take place at Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Cup Series will have two races at each venue whereas the Xfinity Series will have one race at each of the tracks. The Truck Series will return May 26 at Charlotte.

With NASCAR set to return later this week, many are wondering who will benefit from the extended hiatus caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.

Here’s who you should expect to succeed when NASCAR returns this Sunday:

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin will enter Sunday’s race coming off a win in NASCAR’s iRacing Pro-Invitational Series at virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway. Although virtual success doesn’t necessarily transfer to the track, Hamlin is undoubtedly riding high after two victories in the seven-race virtual NASCAR series.

Furthermore, Hamlin has already shown that he can succeed at both Darlington and Charlotte. In his 14 career races at Darlington Raceway, Hamlin has an impressive 11 top-tens, 7 top-fives and two wins. He also boasts an average finish of 7.8. 

Although he has not reached victory lane at Charlotte, he has the second-highest average finish among active drivers at 12.3. He also claims 17 top-tens in his 27 starts at Charlotte.

Sitting at 11th in the point standings after a Daytona 500 victory, expect Hamlin to climb steadily during NASCAR’s four-race return.  

Erik Jones

Erik Jones may come as a surprise to some given his unimpressive start to the 2020 campaign. Sitting at an underwhelming 21st in the point standings, Erik Jones needs to take full advantage of these next four races to move up if he plans to contend for a championship this season.

The good news for Jones is that he tends to do well at both Darlington and Charlotte. This may give him just what he needs to turn around his season. Looking back in several weeks, one may note Jones was the biggest beneficiary of NASCAR’s extended hiatus.

As the most recent winner at Darlington Raceway, Jones certainly has the momentum to do well at one of NASCAR’s most difficult tracks. Despite only three starts in his young career, Jones posts an impressive 4.7 average finish. He has finished in the top 10 in all of those races. 

Although Jones has not posted the same impressive stats at Charlotte, he has finished in the top twenty in three of his four races there. Although his average finish is a measly 20.8, Jones has shown so well at Darlington that he may just carry enough momentum to excel when NASCAR comes to Charlotte.

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson currently sits at number five in the Cup Series standings with two top tens to his name. Despite a disappointing season in 2019 where Johnson failed to make the playoffs, Johnson returns in 2020 for his last season competing in NASCAR’s premier series. Johnson announced in the offseason that he planned to retire following the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Johnson enters his second season with crew chief Cliff Daniels at the helm of the #48 team. As the familiarity continues to grow between driver and crew chief, Johnson is hoping this will lead to success in his farewell season.

Johnson should be pleased with the selection of tracks for NASCAR’s return as he has shown strength and the ability to win at both. At Darlington Raceway, Johnson has posted a respectable 12.1 average finish with three wins, nine top-fives, and 12 top-tens in 21 career starts. 

The driver of the #48 has shown to be even stronger at Charlotte Motor Speedway where Jimmy will have two chances to steal a win and lock himself into the playoffs in his final season. With 8 wins, 16 top-fives, and 22 top-tens, Charlotte may be an ideal location for Johnson to snap his ongoing winless streak.

Featured Image courtesy of @NASCAR on Twitter

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