Chevy sees progress on the Camaro ZL1 heading into the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season
In 2017, Toyota brought a new Camry body shape to the NASCAR Cup Series. They went on to win 16 races and claim the championship with Martin Truex Jr. Meanwhile, through the last 10 playoff races, Chevrolet went without a win.
In 2018, Chevrolet brought a new arsenal. They made their debut with the Camaro ZL1. Anticipation was high in the bow tie camp. After all, Toyota introduced a new body and went on to dominate the year prior. Surely, Chevrolet would have the same result.
But, that didn’t happen. Things looked promising when Austin Dillon opened the year with a win in the Daytona 500. Yet, they went winless from February until August when Chase Elliott grabbed his first victory via Watkins Glen.
In total, the brand new Chevrolet Camara ZL1 picked up 4 wins at the conclusion of the 36 race season. 10 wins were collected in the season prior.
What else changed for Chevrolet?
Chevrolet also lost a bulk of veteran support for the 2018 racing season. There’s an argument that that plays a role in their current situation. Jim Campbell, the vice president of Ford Motorsports takes notice.
First, Stewart-Haas Racing made the switch to Ford in 2017. That took a large portion of veteran Chevy drivers out of the mix with a single signature.
Further changes could be directed at Hendrick Motorsports. William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman sit in three seats with limited experience. Gordon, Kahne and Earnhardt Jr have all retired in the last two years. Jimmie Johnson remains the lone car in that stable with the veteran driver label.
When a manufacture introduces a new machine, it needs to be tuned. That development has to come from the drivers with experience in the sport.
Chevrolet missed the Championship 4 in 2017. That was the first time they missed it since the inception of the Championship 4, which was introduced in 2014. They then missed it yet again in 2018.
“Obviously [we] didn’t have anybody in the Championship for the Cup [title], so that’s disappointing,” Campbell told Autosport.
“But I would say that as I take a look at a year in which we introduced a new car, the Camaro ZL1, and we have begun this transition that we all go through at different points.”
“Many veteran drivers have started to retire, and we’re bringing in a young crew of drivers.”
“We had our young group that got a year of experience.”
“You see Chase Elliott really accelerated his season through the back half with three wins in the last 14 races.”
Future for Chevrolet in NASCAR
There is some upside to the stats from the previous season, specially regarding Chase Elliott. The young driver is set to become the new face for the Chevrolet brand as he was able to pick up the first three race wins in his career. All of those wins came in a short span between August and October.
“Overall, the trajectory of the season was not exactly what we wanted,” Campbell continues.
“But definitely heading in a better direction than in the front half of the season.”
“When you bring a new car in, and you have change over in drivers, those are big moments for manufacturers.”
“More work to do. But I’m really excited about what that means for us for next year.”