Less than a month before the 2021 Daytona 500

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Anthony Ballantoni
·8 min read
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High speed action has already started at the Daytona International Speedway. About 55 ARCA Menards Series (AMS) drivers ran practice laps, some logged as many as 85 laps, around the 2.5-mile oval superspeedway during a 2-day test session (January 15-16) in preparation for the AMS Feb. 13th season-opener at the track.
Now, only 27 days remain before the green flag drops to start NASCAR’s Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500. Here is a brief look at Cup Series 5th-placed Kevin Harvick’s impressive 2020 season and snapshots on a few other drivers who finished in the Top-20 across NASCAR’s three premium series. The tentative list of 2021 Cup Driver/Team lineups attached shows only those teams who plan on entering all events. Since some have yet to announce their 2021 plans, follow NASCAR Headlines and "Player" News on this site for the latest driver/team updates.

NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)

2020: Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports #88 Chevrolet Camaro) - In 36 races, the Tucson, Arizona native scored 1 win, 6 top-fives, 15 top-tens, had an 8.9 average start, a 14.72 average finish and led 440 laps. At the end of the regular season, Bowman’s March 1st victory in the Auto Club 400 at the Fontana, California Auto Club Speedway earned him a spot in the NCS Playoffs Round of 16. He advanced to the Round of 12, also into the Round of 8 but was cut before the season-ending Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway. He closed out the season 6th in the NCS standings.
2021: Now that HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson retired from NASCAR and moved to open-wheel IndyCar racing in 2021, Bowman takes over the wheel of Johnson’s #48. Greg Ives will continue as his crew chief. Ally Financial will remain primary sponsor of the #48 team. The #88 will be retired and replaced with Hendrick Motorsports’ #5, Rick Hendrick’s original Cup car number, with Kyle Larson driving in 2021.

2020: Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing #4 Ford Mustang) - In 36 races, the Bakersfield, California native scored 9 wins, 20 top-fives, 27 top-tens and led 1,531 laps (all series highs). He had a 7.7 average start, a series high 7.33 average finish. With all those “series high” stats, Harvick definitely earned a spot in the NCS Playoffs Round of 16. He advanced to the Round of 12, also into the Round of 8 but, after a couple of poor finishes, was cut before the season-ending Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway. He closed out the season 5th in the NCS standings. The National Motorsports Press Association named Harvick the 2020 Richard Petty Driver of the Year for his dominance throughout much of the 2020 season. He also won the award in 2001, 2014 and 2018.
2021: Harvick is signed through 2023 with Stewart-Haas Racing and will return in the #4 Ford. Rodney Childers continues as crew chief. Primary sponsors Busch/Busch Light, Mobil 1 and Hunt Brothers Pizza return as well.

NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS)

2020: Brandon Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing #19 Toyota Supra) - In 33 races, the Atlanta, Georgia native scored 3 wins (March 7th at Phoenix Raceway, July 25th at Kansas Speedway and Sept. 5th at Darlington Raceway), 10 top-fives, 19 top-tens, had a 7.1 average start, a 12.82 average finish and led 160 laps. Jones’ wins earned him a spot in the NXS Playoffs Round of 12. He made it through the Round of 12, advanced to the Round of 8 but was eliminated before the start of the series season-ending Championship 4 event at Phoenix. He closed out the season 6th in the NXS standings. Jones also drove Kyle Busch Motorsports #51 Toyota Tundra in 4 Truck Series races. He scored a victory on June 28th at Pocono Raceway.
2021: Jones returns for another full season in JGR’s #19 Supra. Jeff Meendering also continues as crew chief for the team. No announcements on sponsorship.

2020: Noah Gragson (JR Motorsports #9 Chevrolet Camaro) - In 33 races, the Las Vegas, Nevada native scored 2 wins (season opener on Feb. 15th at Daytona and June 1st at Bristol Motor Speedway), 17 top-fives, 25 top-tens, had a 6.0 average start, an 8.79 average finish and led 622 laps. Gragson’s wins earned him a spot in the NXS Playoffs Round of 12. He made it through the Round of 12, advanced to the Round of 8 but was eliminated before the start of the series season-ending Championship 4 event at Phoenix. He closed out the season 5th in the NXS standings.
2021: Gragson is signed through 2021 to drive JRM’s #9 Camaro. Dave Elenz continues as crew chief. Bass Pro Shops, True Timber Camo and Black Rifle Coffee will sponsor the #9 team. Gragson will also attempt the Daytona 500 in Beard Motorsports #62 Chevrolet. If he makes the field (through qualifying or racing in via one of the February 11th Daytona “Duels”) it will be his NASCAR Cup Series debut.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NTS)

2020: Austin Hill (Hattori Racing #16 Toyota Tundra) - In 23 races, the Winston, Georgia native scored 2 wins (July 24th at Kansas Speedway and Sept. 25th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway), 11 top-fives, 17 top-tens, had a 5.7 average start, a 9.0 average finish and led 348 laps. At the end of the regular season, his wins earned him a spot in the NTS Playoffs Round of 10. He made the cut for the Round of 8 but was eliminated from the playoffs before the series season-ending Championship 4 event. He closed out the season 6th in the standings. Hill also made 9 starts in the XFINITY Series driving the #61 Toyota Supra in a partnership between Hattori Racing and MBM Motorsports. His best finish was a 5th in the Oct. 17th Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.
2021: Hill will return for another full season driving Hattori Racing’s #16 Tundra. Scott Zipadelli will continue crew chief duties for the team. United Rentals have signed on as primary sponsor again this season. No word on XFINITY Series races, if any, on Hill’s schedule.

2020: Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing #88 Ford F-150) - In 23 races, the Tulare, California native scored 1 win, 9 top-fives, 15 top-tens, had a 9.2 average start, a 10.65 average finish and led 86 laps. At the end of the regular season, his July 15th win in the E.P.T. 200 at Kansas Speedway earned him a spot in the NTS Playoffs Round of 10. He made the cut for the Round of 8 but was eliminated from the playoffs before the series season-ending Championship 4 event. He closed out the season 5th in the standings.
2021: The only news so far is this statement on ThorSports website: “In 2021 Matt (Crafton) once again joins ThorSport owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson with the team’s No. 88 Ford F-150.”

2021 Tentative NCS Series Team Chart

Car

Driver

Owner

Crew Chief

Sponsor

00 Chevy

Quin Houff

StarCom Racing

George Church

-

1 Chevy

Kurt Busch

Chip Ganassi Racing

Matt McCall

Monster Energy

2 Ford

Brad Keselowski

Team Penske

Jeremy Bullins

Discount Tire

3 Chevy

Austin Dillon

Richard Childress Racing

Justin Alexander

-

4 Ford

Kevin Harvick

Stewart-Haas Racing

Rodney Childers

Busch Beer, Mobil 1, Hunt Brothers Pizza

5 Chevy

Kyle Larson

Hendrick Motorsports

Cliff Daniels

-

6 Ford

Ryan Newman

Roush Fenway Racing

Scott Graves

Oscar Mayer, Wyndham Rewards, Castrol, Guaranteed Rate, Kohler Generators

7 Chevy

Corey LaJoie

Spire Motorsports

Ryan Sparks

-

8 Chevy

Tyler Reddick

Richard Childress Racing

Randall Burdett

Okuma

9 Chevy

Chase Elliott

Hendrick Motorsports

Alan Gustafson

NAPA Auto Parts, Hooters, Llumar, Adrenaline Shoc

10 Ford

Aric Almirola

Stewart-Haas Racing

Mike Bugarewics

Smithfield

11 Toyota

Denny Hamlin

Joe Gibbs Racing

Chris Gabehart

FedEx

12 Ford

Ryan Blaney

Team Penske

Todd Gordon

-

14 Ford

Chase Briscoe - R

Stewart-Haas Racing

John Klausmeier

HighPoint

15 Chevy

-

Rick Ware Racing

Pat Tryson

-

17 Ford

Chris Buescher

Roush Fenway Racing

Luke Lambert

Castrol

18 Toyota

Kyle Busch

Joe Gibbs Racing

Ben Beshore

M&Ms, Skittles, Pedigree, Interstate Batteries

19 Toyota

Martin Truex Jr.

Joe Gibbs Racing

James Small

Bass Pro Shops, Auto Owners Ins., Reser's

20 Toyota

Christopher Bell

Joe Gibbs Racing

Adam Stevens

Stanley/DeWalt/Irwin,Rheem, Craftsman

21 Ford

Matt DiBenedetto

Wood Brothers Racing

Greg Erwin

Motorcraft/Quick Lane

22 Ford

Joey Logano

Team Penske

Paul Wolfe

Shell-Pennzoil, AAA, Autotrader, MoneyLion

23 Toyota

Bubba Wallace

23XI Racing

Mike Wheeler

DoorDash, McDonald’s, Columbia Sportswear, Dr Pepper, Root Insurance

24 Chevy

William Byron

Hendrick Motorsports

Rudy Fugle

Axalta, Liberty University

34 Ford

Michael McDowell

Front Row Motorsports

Drew Blickensderfer

-

37 Chevy

Ryan Preece

JTG Daugherty Racing

Trent Owens

Kroger, Bush's Beans

38 Ford

Anthony Alfredo - R

Front Row Motorsports

Seth Barbour

MDS Trucking, Speedy Cash, Revolve Finance Online Banking

41 Ford

Cole Custer

Stewart-Haas Racing

Mike Shiplett

-

42 Chevy

Ross Chastain

Chip Ganassi Racing

-

McDonald's

43 Chevy

Erik Jones

Richard Petty Motorsports

Jerry Baxter

Victory Junction

47 Chevy

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

JTG Daugherty Racing

Brian Pattie

Kroger, NOS Energy Drink

48 Chevy

Alex Bowman

Hendrick Motorsports

Greg Ives

Ally Financial

51 Chevy

Joey Gase

Rick Ware Racing

Jason Houghtaling

Biohaven Pharmaceuticals’ Nurtec

52 Chevy

-

Rick Ware Racing

Mike Hillman Sr.

-

53 Chevy

James Davison (tentative)

Rick Ware Racing

Todd Parrott

-

66 Ford

Timmy Hill

MBM Motorsports

Steven Idol

-

77 Chevy

-

Spire Motorsports

Kevin Bellicourt

-

78 Ford

BJ McLeod

Live Fast Motorsports

-

Keen Parts

96 Toyota

Ty Dillon (tentative)

Gaunt Brothers Racing

-

-

99 Chevy

Daniel Suarez

Trackhouse Racing

Travis Mack

-

R - Rookie of The Year contender