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Can Team Penske dethrone Joe Gibbs Racing? Three NASCAR storylines to follow in 2020.

The Charlotte Observer — By Alex Andrejev The Charlotte Observer

Feb. 12-- DAYTONA, Fla.-With the NASCAR season kicking off at Sunday's Daytona 500, the Charlotte Observer breaks down what to look for in the sport's top series in 2020. Here's what we're following:

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-Jimmie Johnson enters his final (and chilliest) year

It's Jimmie Johnson's final full-time season of Cup racing and he's "not chasing anything," according to a post on his Twitter account from January. The post included a video of Johnson revealing his latest hashtag #OneFinalTime and explaining his desire to move away from his former #Chasing8 hashtag and the "chasing" mentality.

"I feel like I've been a bit out of character and focused on a number, a statistic," said Johnson, who enters his 20th season driving the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports.

As a multi-time winner of every marquee NASCAR event, including Daytona (two), Charlotte (four), Indianapolis (four) and Darlington (two), Johnson has become an icon of the sport. He is tied in the record books with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven Cup Series titles.

Johnson has been chasing his eighth title since 2017. The last two seasons resulted in his worst career point finishes-14th and 18th place.

As the 44-year-old driver takes a step back from the sport, he is also easing the pressure off himself. It has yet to be seen how Johnson's demure demeanor translates to his on-track performance.

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-Can Team Penske prevail?

Ford teams will be looking to make a major push this season after coming off a year in which they fell just short of title contention.

Neither Team Penske's Brad Keselowski nor Joey Logano reached the final four in Homestead last season, with Logano, driver of the No. 22 Ford, finishing fifth in the final series standings. Logano, the 2018 champion, will look to reclaim the title from last year's winner, Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch.

Busch and Logano already had an early run-in at Sunday's exhibition Busch Clash. The drivers made contact as Busch moved to the front of the pack late in the race, and both cars spun out. The crash took out Busch's No. 18 car as well as Keselowski, who trailed in the No. 2 ride. Neither driver finished the race.

"That happens when you're racing for the lead, I guess," Busch said after the crash.

But Keselowski, who notched three race wins for Team Penske last year and led in laps for most of the Clash, was not as temperate. He was critical of Logano's blocking Sunday.

"It's just ridiculous," Keselowski said. "We shouldn't be wrecking all these cars."

Communication will be something Team Penske-which also includes No. 12 driver Ryan Blaney-has to work through if it wants to outpace JGR, a team that includes last year's final four contenders Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., as well as this year's Busch Clash winner Erik Jones, who won the race off a push from Hamlin.

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-Six young guns looking to become top guns

As older drivers like Johnson phase out of Cup, there are a number of rookie drivers eager to make an impact in the top series. These six drivers include Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Quin Houff, Brennan Poole and John Hunter Nemechek.

The three to watch this season are Bell, Custer and Reddick; they have signed with elite teams that have the financial backing to help garner a few first-place finishes.

Bell, 25 years old, is racing the No. 95 for Leavine Family Racing following successful runs on the Xfinity and Truck Series. He is working alongside his former Xfinity crew chief Jason Ratcliff.

Custer, 22, is driving the No. 41 for Stewart-Haas Racing. He became the youngest driver in NASCAR national series history to win a race when he was 16.

Reddick, 24, will drive the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing. Reddick is the only one of the three who has experienced the Daytona 500. He competed in last year's race in a Childress ride and finished in 27th.

Experience doesn't necessarily translate to success at Daytona's premier superspeedway race, so the start of their careers could also be a career highlight for this class of young guns.

"Anything can happen at Daytona," Bell recently told the Observer. "And I'm really excited about getting there because I've got as good a shot as anybody to win, or to crash out."

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