Here are the top 10 drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series as the 2021 season is about to begin with the Daytona 500.
Chase Elliott: The reigning series champion opens the year as the number one driver in the series and a shot at becoming the first repeat champ since Jimmie Johnson in 2009-10. Elliott, crew chief Alan Gustafson and the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports squad returns virtually intact and will open their defense of the crown looking for a win in "The Great American Race."
See Also: Preseason Team Power Rankings
Denny Hamlin: A seven victory campaign in 2020 plus a berth in the Championship 4 is more than solid foundation for Hamlin to build on for what he hopes to be an even better season. Hamlin and sponsor FedEx signed a contract extension to remain with the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 ride at the start of the month. Hamlin’s position in the sport as both a driver as well as team co-owner of 23XI Racing is firmly secured.
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Kevin Harvick: Don’t dwell on Harvick missing out on the Championship 4 last year because the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team has put it far in the rear-view mirror. There’s no reason to expect that despite the disappointment of not advancing to a berth in the title race Harvick will be any less strong in 2020 when he won nine times. Simply put this remains a very dangerous team.
Joey Logano: A three win season in 2020 as well as a spot in the Championship 4 added up to another solid campaign for Logano. It was his first with crew chief Paul Wolfe and a year of familiarity and experience should only benefit the exploits of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford squad.
Brad Keselowski: Keselowski was reunited with long-time Xfinity Series crew chief Jeremy Bullins last year in the Team Penske shake-up and the duo found their previous chemistry in a hurry. Keselowski went to Victory Lane four times and after signing a contract extension to stay in the No. 2 Ford is poised to stay in the upper echelon of the series.
Martin Truex Jr.: Another driver on the brink of extending his deal at Joe Gibbs Racing, Truex Jr. didn’t have the best year by his standards last season. There was just a solo win for the No. 19 team as new crew chief James Small and his group searched for ways to turn strong cars into more victories. Truex Jr. is more than capable of rebounding in 2021.
Kyle Busch: While he kept his consecutive season win record alive at 16 straight, Busch was only able to manage a single win in 2020. The disappointing campaign led to a crew chief change and Adam Stevens was replaced by Ben Beshore. Busch and Beshore have a past relationship in the Xfinity Series and the law of averages says the No. 18 Toyota has to be better this year than it was last season.
Alex Bowman: There will be a new look to Bowman’s car this year as he inherits the No. 48 from Jimmie Johnson, who retired from full-time racing at the end of 2020. It’s not the first time Bowman has taken over a car number previously associated with an icon as he piloted the No. 88 at Hendrick when Dale Earnhardt Jr. stepped aside. Bowman ended the year on a good trajectory and looks to carry that into the new season.
Ryan Blaney: There were a lot of hard luck days for Blaney last year, who began the season in contention for multiple wins. It didn’t turn out that way as his single trip to Victory Lane happened at Talladega in June. But Blaney and veteran crew chief Todd Gordon have more then enough chemistry to create better fortunes for the No. 12 Team Penske Ford in 2021.
Kurt Busch: He’s back for another go-around at Chip Ganassi Racing after driving the No. 1 Chevrolet to a playoff spot and a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last season. Busch seems reinvigorated at the new-look CGR operation that welcomed in Ross Chastain to its second Chevrolet. Busch would greatly benefit from a hot start to the season in Daytona to build some early confidence and possible momentum.