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NASCAR Cup Series racing returns in two weeks

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

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.

 

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