The 2018 season is finally here! Could this be a new era of NASCAR?

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It’s back! The 2018 NASCAR season is upon us once again. Eager fans are poised and ready to watch their favourite drivers tank around USA’s oval tracks at break-neck speeds all the way until Homestead Miami in November. Ahead of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series officially starting on Sunday 18th February with the Daytona 500 and The Clash and Can-Am Duel Races over the next few days, we will look at the new changes and faces we’ll get to see this season.

The end of the 2017 season was emotional for Dale Earnhardt Jr, Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick fans. All three announced that they would be stepping away from the sport. Fan favourite Dale Jr was a huge loss for millions of fans across the globe. Luckily though, his online presence is strong and we definitely haven’t seen the last of him yet in terms of his involvement with NASCAR. Danica Patrick is still has one more appearance to make, as she recently secured a ride with Premium Motorsports in the No. 7 car for the Daytona 500 with Go Daddy. So she will be starting her engine for one of the last times, next weekend.

It’s not all doom and gloom though because with the sad departures of these iconic and talented drivers, comes a new era of talented youngsters who’ll capture a new generation of fans and perhaps even win over the hearts of those who feel lost without Dale Earnhardt Jr racing amongst the pack. William Byron will be stepping into the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and has already shown great promise after leading the final practice before the Daytona 500 qualifying. Chase Elliott, who formally drove the No. 24 car, will be inheriting the No.  9 car – his father’s car. Alex Bowman will also be joining Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 88 car. He earned this full-time ride after he stepped in for a concussed Dale Jr for 10 races in 2016 and caught the eye of many. Finally, Bubba Wallace will be taking over the legendary No.  43 car after showcasing his gift when Aric Almirola was injured last year.

In addition to the new faces, we can also look out for the existing “new era” of drivers. The likes of Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez will be putting their new skills and experiences to the test this year in the hope of finding their way to Victory Lane for the first time. They’ve already shown a jaw-dropping amount of potential and talent up against the veterans of the sport, so watch this space because we’re probably going to see a lot more from these guys this season.

As well as new drivers, 2018 brings a new Chevrolet. Featured in this article, the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be taking to the tracks for the first time this year. It looks incredible, and fans will be keen to see how it performs against Ford and Toyota. For car lovers, it will also be a good opportunity to decide whether they want to buy one for themselves.

There are some schedule changes to look out for this season too. NASCAR will return to Last Vegas for a second time in September, and this race will mark the start of the playoffs. We can also expect an early July date at Chicago, the end of the regular season at Indianapolis, and road courses in Richmond and Charlotte.

Pit strategies have also been tweaked. There will now only be a maximum of five pit crew members allowed over the wall and this will present new challenges for teams. Rest assured though, lots of practice with one member less has been done, and it’ll be fun to see how it works out during the chaos and mayhem of unpredictable races. The “crash clock” where teams may make repairs to damaged vehicles on pit road will be increased from five, to six minutes. Not only that, but if an extra crew member is over the wall during this time, the driver will have to serve a two-lap penalty instead of being sent to the garage. In addition, competition officials have reduced the opening round of knockout-style at short and intermediate tracks by five minutes. Drivers will now only have 15 minutes to make initial qualifying attempts.

Finally, there have been some car and team shuffles. Kasey Kahne goes from Hendrick Motorsports to Leavine Family Racing. In Hendrick Motorsports, Chase Elliott inherits the No. 9 car and William Byron inherits the No. 24 car. Bubba Wallace will be moving up to the Cup Series and will race for Richard Petty Motorsports. Former Wood Brothers Racing driver Ryan Blaney joins Team Penske in the Cup Series alongside teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Former No. 43 driver Aric Almirola is set to over Danica’s No. 10 car for Stewart-Haas racing. Christopher Bell was rewarded for his exceptional talent with a career-changing move from the Camping World Truck Series, to the Xfinity Series.

So, without further ado, it’s time to start your engines and become totally immersed in the joys and spirit of NASCAR once again. It’s a new year, with lots of fresh faces, intriguing pit strategies and a fierce looking new model of Chevrolet. This may just be a turning point in NASCAR and we’re about to witness history. In the words of Darrell Waltrip – Boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing boys and girls!

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