NASCAR Cup Series racing returns in two weeks

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Anthony Ballantoni
·10 min read
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Only 14 days remain before the green flag drops to start NASCAR’s Cup Series (NCS) season-opening Daytona 500, but the busy “Speedweeks” activities in Daytona have already started. The Rolex 24 at Daytona is in progress right now at the track (Jan. 30-31). On Feb. 9th, the NASCAR Busch Clash is featured. It is an exhibition race open to NCS drivers who either won a pole in 2020, made the 2020 Playoffs, won a 2020 race, is a previous Daytona 500 winner, was a Daytona 500 pole sitter or won a previous Busch Clash. Next, the NCS drivers begin the Daytona 500 pre-race ritual which is unique to the NASCAR season-opening event. On Feb. 10, each driver entered for the 500 clock two qualifying laps and NASCAR locks in the best timing of the two laps. After all teams have completed, the two drivers logging the fastest laps will make up the front row for the Feb. 14 race. The rest of the field will be split in half to run in one of the two 60-lap “Duel” qualifier races on Feb. 11. The results of those events determine the lineup behind the front row. While that’s going on, practices, qualifying and races for the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series are also happening at the track between Feb. 11 and 14.

This is a final look at 2020 NCS Champion Chase Elliott’s season and snapshots on a few other drivers who finished in the Top-20 across NASCAR’s three premium series. Follow NASCAR Headlines and "Player" News on this site for the latest driver/team updates.

NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)

2020: Brad Keselowski (Team Penske #2 Ford Mustang) - In 36 races, the Rochester Hills, Michigan native scored 4 wins, 13 top-fives, 24 top-tens, had a 7.6 average start, a 10.08 average finish and led 952 laps. The wins earned him a spot in the NCS Playoffs Round of 16. He advanced to the Round of 12 and made it through the Round of 8. As one of the four drivers entering the Championship 4 event, Keselowski started 3rd in the lineup, led 16 laps and finished in 2nd place. He closed out the season 2nd in the 2020 NCS Championship standings behind 2020 NCS Champion Chase Elliott.
2021: Keselowski extended his contract with Team Penske through at least the 2021 season. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins and sponsors Discount Tire (15 races), AutoTrader, Wurth, MoneyLion and Pirtek will also return this season. One partnership change was just announced this week. Miller Light’s parent company, Molson Coors, will reduce it’s #2 Mustang primary sponsorship to only one event in 2021, the Memorial Day Coca-Cola 600, opting to switch brands from Miller Light to Keystone Light.

2020: Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports #9 Chevrolet Camaro) - In 36 races, the Dawsonville, Georgia native scored 5 wins, 15 top-fives, 22 top-tens, had a 9.0 average start, an 11.69 average finish and led 1,247 laps. The wins earned him a spot in the NCS Playoffs Round of 16. He advanced to the Round of 12 and made it through the Round of 8. As one of the four drivers entering the Championship 4 event, Elliott started on the pole, led a race-high 154 laps of the 312-lap event, including the final one, to earn the title of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion. Once again, Elliott earned the National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver Award. It’s his 3rd Most Popular Driver award in a row. He took the baton three seasons ago from former teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won the award for 15 straight years.
2021: Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season. Crew chief Alan Gustafson returns. Sponsors who have committed so far: NAPA Auto Parts, Hooters, Llumar, Adrenaline Shoc and Kelly Blue Book. Elliott is currently busy this weekend in the Rolex 24 At Daytona as the 4th driver in the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac team joining Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Mike Conway on the Daytona 3.56-mile road course.

NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS)

2020: Justin Allgaier (JR Motorsports #7 Chevrolet Camaro) - In 33 races, the Riverton, Illinois native scored 3 wins, 11 top-fives, 19 top-tens, had a 9.3 average start, a 13.36 average finish and led 1,008 laps. The wins earned him a spot in the NXS Playoffs Round of 12. He made it through the Round of 12 and the Round of 8. As one of the four drivers entering the Championship 4 event, Allgaier started on the pole, led a race-high 76 laps and finished in 5th place. He closed out the season 2nd in the standings behind 2020 NXS Champion Austin Cindric. Allgaier also won the NXS Most Popular Driver Award for the 2nd straight year, keeping the annual prize at JR Motorsports for the 9th straight season. For JRM, it is the 11th Most Popular Driver award in the past 13 seasons.
2021: Allgaier will return for another full season in the BRANDT sponsored #7 Chevrolet Camaro with Jason Burdett as crew chief.

2020: Austin Cindric (Team Penske #22 Ford Mustang) - In 33 races, the Mooresville, North Carolina native scored 6 wins, a series-high 19 top-fives, 26 top-tens, had a 6.5 average start, an 8.64 average finish and led 947 laps. The wins earned him a spot in the NXS Playoffs Round of 12. He made it through the Round of 12 and the Round of 8. As one of the four drivers entering the Championship 4 event, Cindric started 3rd in the lineup and led 72 laps. On the final restart during a 6-lap overtime in the event, Cindric, who had fresher tires, passed Justin Allgaier to win the event and also the title of 2020 NXS Champion.
2021: Cindric will return for another full NXS season in Team Penske’s #22 Mustang. Brian Wilson will continue as his crew chief. Menards has committed to sponsor the team. Cindric will also run a partial schedule in Team Penske’s Cup Series #33 Mustang. He will be making his Cup debut in an attempt to make the field for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 14th. Miles Stanley will be his crew chief for the #33 team during Cindric’s Cup races.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NTS)

2020: Zane Smith (GMS Racing #21 Chevrolet Silverado) - In 23 races, the Huntington Beach, California native scored 2 wins, 7 top-fives, 13 top-tens, had a 7.0 average start, a 10.48 average finish and led 376 laps. The wins earned him a spot in the NTS Playoffs Round of 10. He made the cut for the Round of 8 and also advanced to the season-ending race. As one of the four drivers entering the Championship 4 event, Smith started 2nd in the lineup, led 48 laps and finished in 2nd place. He closed out his rookie season 2nd in the 2020 NTS Championship standings behind 2020 NTS Champion Sheldon Creed. Smith also earned the series Sunoco Rookie of the Year and the Most Popular Driver honors in 2020.
2021: Smith will return for another full season driving GMS Racing’s #21 Chevrolet Silverado. Crew chief Kevin Manion returns as well. So far, Michael Roberts Construction has stepped up to sponsor the #21 truck. Smith was also named to the Drivers Edge Development class of 2021.

2020: Sheldon Creed (GMS Racing #2 Chevrolet Silverado) - In 23 races, the Alpine, California native scored a series-high 5 wins, 9 top-fives, 13 top-tens, had a 6.9 average start, a 10.17 average finish and led a series-high 587 laps. The wins earned him a spot in the NTS Playoffs Round of 10. He made the cut for the Round of 8 and also advanced to the season-ending race. Creed started 3rd in the lineup for the Championship 4 event. Caution came out for a wreck with only three laps to go. Creed was 4th and decided to pit for four fresh tires. Fellow title contenders Brett Moffitt and Grant Enfinger stayed on track and restarted 1st and 2nd. Creed went from 9th to 1st in a two-lap overtime sprint to win the event and the 2020 NTS Championship title.
2021: Creed will return for another full season driving GMS Racing’s #2 Chevrolet Silverado. Jeff Stankiewicz returns for his 2nd season as Creed’s crew chief. Chevy Accessories continues as primary sponsor for the #2 Silverado.

2021 Tentative NCS Series Team Chart

Car

Driver

Owner

Crew Chief

Sponsor

00 Chevy

Quin Houff

StarCom Racing

George Church

Mane ‘n Tail

1 Chevy

Kurt Busch

Chip Ganassi Racing

Matt McCall

Monster Energy, Gearwrench

2 Ford

Brad Keselowski

Team Penske

Jeremy Bullins

Discount Tire, Keystone Light, Auto Trader, Wirth, MoneyLion, Pirtek

3 Chevy

Austin Dillon

Richard Childress Racing

Justin Alexander

Dow, Bass Pro Shops

4 Ford

Kevin Harvick

Stewart-Haas Racing

Rodney Childers

Busch Beer, Mobil 1, Hunt Brothers Pizza

5 Chevy

Kyle Larson

Hendrick Motorsports

Cliff Daniels

NationsGuard

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

Schluter Systems, Youtheory

8 Chevy

Tyler Reddick

Richard Childress Racing

Randall Burdett

Okuma, Cheddars

9 Chevy

Chase Elliott

Hendrick Motorsports

Alan Gustafson

NAPA Auto Parts, Hooters, Llumar, Adrenaline Shoc, Kelley Blue Book

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

Advance Auto Part, BodyArmour, Menards, DEX Imaging

14 Ford

Chase Briscoe - R

Stewart-Haas Racing

John Klausmeier

HighPoint

15 Chevy

Derrike Cope (Daytona 500 only)

Rick Ware Racing

Pat Tryson

Jacob Companies

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

FR8 Auctions

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

Dixie Vodka

42 Chevy

Ross Chastain

Chip Ganassi Racing

Phil Surgen

McDonald's, AdventHealth

43 Chevy

Erik Jones

Richard Petty Motorsports

Jerry Baxter

Victory Junction, U.S. Air Force

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

Cody Ware

Rick Ware Racing

Mike Hillman Sr.

Biohaven Pharmaceuticals’ Nurtec

52 Chevy

Josh Bilicki

Rick Ware Racing

Peter Sospenzo

Insurance King, Junction Fuels

53 Chevy

Joey Gase (Daytona 500 only)

Rick Ware Racing

Billy Plourde

-

53 Chevy

James Davison

Rick Ware Racing

Billy Plourde

-

53 Chevy

Garrett Smithley

Rick Ware Racing

Billy Plourde

-

66 Ford

Timmy Hill

MBM Motorsports

Steven Idol

-

77 Chevy

Jamie McMurray (Daytona 500 only)

Spire Motorsports

Kevin Bellicourt

AdventHealth

78 Ford

BJ McLeod

Live Fast Motorsports

Frank Kerr

Keen Parts

96 Toyota

Ty Dillon

Gaunt Brothers Racing

Dave Winston

Bass Pro Shops, Black Rifle Coffee

99 Chevy

Daniel Suarez

Trackhouse Racing

Travis Mack

iFly, Pump it up Party, K1speed

R - Rookie of The Year contender