Chevrolet looks to enhance performance with new car, young drivers

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 09: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, prepares during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway on November 09, 2019 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

The Chevrolet camp boasts the only active driver who has won more than one championship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

In fact, Jimmie Johnson owns a record-tying seven Cup titles, and in the process accomplished the record feat of winning five in a row from 2006 through 2010.

Both Johnson and Chevrolet, however, have fallen on hard times of late. Johnson has been stuck on 83 victories at NASCAR’s highest level since the spring Dover race of 2017. His winless streak has reached 94 races.

For the third straight season, no Chevy driver has qualified for the Championship 4 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but that’s an issue the manufacturer already has begun to address. Rather than wait for the next generation of Cup car in 2021, Chevrolet will race a new model—the Camaro ZL1 1LE in 2020.

“In the production side of our world, that’s our highest performing production car,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet. “Similar to the ZL1 (the current Chevrolet race car), but it has kind of higher performance elements to it from aero to chassis, and so we’ve incorporated those into the 2020 car…

“Listen, we’re a performance sport, so there’s no excuses here. We’ve got to do better. We expect to do better. If you look at the history of Chevrolet, 39 manufacturer’s championships, 31 drivers, but that’s all history. We’re interested in the next chapter, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Campbell also pointed out that drivers in the next generation of Chevrolet stars are still learning the ropes in NASCAR’s premier series.

“If you look at the drivers, we’ve had some amazing young drivers that turned into winning drivers that turned into championship drivers that then retired, and so we have a younger crew,” Campbell said. “If you take Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch out of the average age, our average age is like 26 years old.

“So what’s exciting is at one point Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were the young guys. We’ve got the young guys now. It’s an amazing thing to watch how they’re progressing. Some of the drivers have been to these tracks one, two, three times, four times. So every time they go, they’re learning a lot more.”

Greg Engle