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Less than a month before the 2021 Daytona 500

by Anthony Ballantoni
Updated On: February 8, 2021, 3:55 pm ET

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      
Anthony Ballantoni
Anthony Ballantoni is a Senior Sports Writer at Rotoworld.com.