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Pistone: 2021 races to remember

There were more than a few memorable moments from the 2021 NASCAR season and here are five races that stood out this past year.

RELATED: See the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series winners

DAYTONA 500

Michael McDowell
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

“The Great American Race” has delivered its share of memories over time and this year’s Daytona 500 added to that list. Michael McDowell put his name in the record book as a Cup Series race winner by taking the checkered flag in February to start the season. It was a typically wild finish at Daytona with a furious race to the checkered but after a multi-car accident that included Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, who were battling for the lead, McDowell slipped through to score the underdog win for Front Row Motorsports.

RELATED: See the highlights from the 2021 Daytona 500

FIREKEEPERS CASINO 400

Michigan International Speedway has a reputation for multi-groove racing, fuel mileage strategy and close finishes. That recipe came together when the Cup Series visited the 2-mile track in August. The closing laps featured a thrilling battle between Ryan Blaney and William Byron, with the duo fighting for the top spot all around the 2-mile oval. Blaney was able to hold off Byron at the finish line despite a last-ditch effort by the Hendrick Motorsports driver to find his way around the Team Penske Ford. 

RELATED: Blaney rises late, holds off Byron for win

JOCKEY MADE IN AMERICA 250

Chase Elliott Road America win
James Gilbert | Getty Images

The NASCAR Cup Series hadn’t raced at Wisconsin’s Road America since 1956. But after more than a decade of the Xfinity Series competing at the 4-mile road course, NASCAR’s top series returned in 2021. A massive crowd estimated at more than 100,000 jammed the picturesque circuit on the Fourth of July and they were treated to a competitive race literally full of twists and turns. Chase Elliott continued his mastery of road course racing delivering a popular win that Sunday afternoon. The Cup Series will return again in 2022 as Road America became the perfect fit to begin a new Independence Day weekend tradition for NASCAR stock car racing.

BASS PRO SHOPS NIGHT RACE

The annual summer night race at Bristol Motor Speedway may have shifted back a few weeks on the calendar and moved into the Playoffs but all it’s done is raise the intensity level. That was certainly the case in September when a hectic and chaotic affair determined who would move on from the Round of 16 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Kyle Larson won the race but not before late race fireworks between his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick broke out on and off the track. The duo’s war of words after the race punctuated the electricity of the night that helped further cement the Tennessee short track as one of NASCAR’s most popular venues.

RELATED: Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick get heated on pit road

NASCAR CUP SERIES SEASON FINALE

Phoenix Raceway proved to be a worthy locale to decide the 2021 Cup Series title. Kyle Larson took the lead late from Martin Truex Jr. thanks to a lightning-fast pit stop that got the No. 5 Chevrolet out front and into a spot the eventual series champion would never relinquish. It was a fitting conclusion to Larson’s incredible campaign that saw him win 10 points races on his way to a first career Cup Series title.