As the NASCAR season creeps closer, drivers are throwing out all of the drama from last year and are looking ahead. It’s a clean slate for everyone. With drivers joining new teams and tracks being added to the schedule we don’t quite know what we’re in for until the green flag drops. We can only guess as to who is going to do well this year. Here are my top ten NASCAR drivers to watch for in the 2021 season.
Ten – Chase Briscoe
Chase Briscoe is starting his first year in the cup series with Stewart-Haas Racing, taking over the 14. Briscoe has shown that he has the ability to perform at a high level finishing his Xfinity season with nine wins. With a solid team behind him, I think he’ll be able to be consistent in the top series; possibly averaging some top-tens during the season and even rack up some wins.
Nine – Joey Logano
Logano is one of the most consistent drivers in the series right now. Last season he had three wins and twelve top-fives. It always seems like he is competing for the win. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Eight – Matt DiBenedetto
Over the past couple years, “Matty D” has gotten really close to getting his first Cup series win. I think now that he has a team willing to stick with him, they can make the car a better fit for the driver and he can focus on winning more than keeping his ride. Last season he had eleven top-tens and even competed for a win at Talladega only losing to Denny Hamlin by .023 seconds. I think that DiBenedetto could be a real contender this season.
Seven – Christopher Bell
Bell competed very well last season in a lower funded car finishing the season with seven top-five finishes. Now that he is in the 20 with Joe Gibbs Racing, he will definitely have the opportunity to get a win (Bristol dirt race?) and possibly even have a good playoff run.
Six – Kyle Busch
After an uncharacteristic 2020 season, Busch still managed to see the victory lane but he didn’t seem to be as consistent as what we are normally used to seeing from the former champion. I think this year Busch will turn it around and will be back to his normal, race-winning self.
Five – Kyle Larson
After losing his ride during quarantine, Larson is now being welcomed back to NASCAR under Hendrick Motorsports. He’ll have a lot of chances to win and compete for a championship this season. His return to the sport has been a little rough, losing his newly-hired spotter after some controversial tweets surfaced. There’s still time for the team to fill that position before the season starts. I think most fans of the sport are hoping for a redemption year from him.
Four – Alex Bowman
Bowman has shown that he can handle the pressure of taking over a veteran driver’s position and I feel him moving to the 48 is no different. The 27-year old picked up his second career win last year and finished sixth overall on the season. I believe he will fit well with his new team and could bring the iconic number back to the victory lane.
Three – Kevin Harvick
Harvick had an upsetting end to his playoff run last season, falling out at Martinsville. The veteran driver finished the season with a monstrous nine wins and twenty top-fives. It probably won’t be long before we see the 4 back in victory lane. Hopefully his wins will be more spread out over the year rather than back-to-backs like before. It will most likely be ending with him going far into the final four and possibly a championship.
Two – Denny Hamlin
Like Harvick, Hamlin had a monster year last season. He picked up seven wins and made it to the final four in the playoffs but couldn’t finish it off with a championship. I think that Hamlin will continue his hot-streak heading into 2021 and will make a strong playoff run. Possibly getting as far as the final four once again.
Before I reveal my number one driver to watch for the 2021 season, I’d like to bring up my honorable mentions. Drivers that couldn’t quite make it into the cut for the list but still feel like they’ll have good seasons.
Brad Keselowski was somewhat of a sleeper for most of last season. Yet, he still managed to get up to the final four in the playoffs. He won when it mattered and put up a good fight for the championship at the end. He seems to be good at every track on the schedule and he could very well do it again this season. The only reason he isn’t on my list is that he tends to be inconsistent when it comes to races that aren’t season-defining.
William Byron got his first win last season and had several top-five finishes. The young driver has raced well in his short time in the Cup series but has, unfortunately, had a string of bad luck. This season he’ll reunite with his former truck series crew chief, Rudy Fugle. The duo had good luck in the truck series, tallying up seven wins in 23 starts.
Martin Truex Jr. has been one of the top drivers to watch over the past few years but, ever since he joined the Gibbs team, he just hasn’t been as proficient. He finished seventh last season with only one win and fourteen top-fives. They were in contention for many races but just couldn’t finish on top and if they can figure that out, they could be a real threat.
One – Chase Elliott
After an absolutely insane comeback in the back-end of the season, Elliott won the final two races to hoist the Cup championship and I’m certain he is going to want to have that carry over to this season. With him winning all of last season’s road courses I’m sure he is excited to see more of those tracks being added to the schedule. He’ll be the top driver picked to win most of the road course races but who knows, anything can happen.