We are halfway through the 2021 NASCAR season and a lot has happened so far. So much has happened that I thought it’d be a good idea to go through it all before we look towards the playoffs. From drivers to teams, to sponsors, I’m going to give my opinions on it all in the NASCAR midseason recap!
This season has had the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the drivers so far this season. Whether it’s regarding absolute dominance from Kyle Larson to the can’t catch a break like…Aric Almirola. Again, I’m sorry Aric. I’ve called you out twice this week. Let’s start with the good and work to the bad.
I feel like all I have done the past month is talk about this guy right here, Kyle Larson. Lost his ride last year, came back with Hendrick after being cleared, and now he has the most wins on the season. Over 1400 laps led so far and I am sure he is not done by the looks of it. He pretty much hasn’t finished outside of the top ten all season and if he can keep it up he will be in the running for the championship.
Denny Hamlin has been kind of quiet this year, especially for someone who won seven times last season. That’s not to say that he isn’t doing well by any means. Hamlin is sitting at the top of the regular season standings with five stage wins and 756 laps led. He runs upfront but just hasn’t been able to break through and get that first win of the season. But I feel it could be coming soon.
William Byron has had a pretty decent season. He has one win and is sitting third in the regular-season standings. Much like his teammate Alex Bowman, Byron is one of those drivers that occasionally dominates. He isn’t always upfront, but he’s consistent and it’s really shown this season. I could see him winning maybe one or two more races before the seasons over but it might take another year or two before he becomes a full championship contender.
Ryan Blaney has been in the middle category like Byron when it comes to this season. There have been some ups and downs for sure. But he has one win and is sitting ninth in the regular-season standings with three stage wins and 231 laps led. Much like the rest of the Team Penske drivers, he’s had difficulty moving up the field. Luckily for him though, there are a couple of tracks that he has done well at coming up and if he can grab another win before the playoffs, his championship hopes might look better.
2020 Champion Chase Elliott hasn’t been looking like himself this year. He’s only led about 130 laps so far, which is a fraction of how many laps he led in the past couple of years. I wouldn’t say he’s had a bad season, but it’s just been very uncharacteristic and isn’t what we’ve been accustomed to. Hopefully, the back half of the season works more in his favor. There are still a couple of road courses on the schedule and if he can build up a good run at a 1.5-mile or two that could change his season.
Aric Almirola has had a pretty rough 2021 season so far. I’m not sure if he broke a mirror or what but he has had the worst luck all year. Whether it’s a blown tire or just the wrong place wrong time, if there’s a caution, I hope it’s not him. Things are starting to look up though, he landed the pole at Nashville last weekend and even got himself a top-five finish! If I have anything to say about Almirola, it’s that he needs to keep his distance from mirrors. No more bad luck!
Okay, it’s time to talk about teams. It’s pretty obvious to say that Hendrick Motorsports has shown up this season so I’m not going to talk about them cause I have enough the past month or so. But what about everyone else? Where does everyone else shake out?
Joe Gibbs Racing
The Gibbs team as a whole has been pretty good this season. Not so much when it comes to how they were about five years ago, but still good. Three out of four Gibbs drivers have a win and the one driver who doesn’t is leading the standings. There are a few things that need to be worked out, but all in all, they’ve been solid this season. I feel like if you put this team how they are now, in any other year, they’d dominate.
Chip Ganassi Racing
Chip Ganassi Racing has quickly become a competitive team over the last month. Both Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain have had some great runs and it’s cool seeing them be more competitive. When it comes to talking about teams they’re normally down below Penske, Gibbs, and Hendrick but they’ve been showing that they are here. I want to see them continue to do well, even if it takes them a season or two to really start racking in wins.
It’s pretty safe to say that Stewart-Haas Racing was struggling at the beginning of the season. It’s taken them a little as a team to get back to being as competitive as they were even last season. Now that we’re halfway through, things are starting to look up. Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola both had good finishes at Nashville and a string of top-10’s or even a win could do a lot for their morale.
Team Penske has done decently for themselves this season. But when you compare it to how well they’ve done in the past then you can see the issue. All three drivers have a win this season but as I said before, they’ve just had a hard time moving through the field and if you can’t do that, you can’t win. I really notice it when there was speculation of Brad Keselowski moving to Roush next year. I think that really messed up the rhythm they had going.
I want to add that JTG Daugherty Racing and Roush Fenway Racing have both been doing amazing this year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Preece have been making things happen over at JTG and watching Chris Buescher run really well, even leading a good chunk of the race a Homestead and Kansas was awesome! I hope both teams can keep it going!
Alright, I’m not going to do a whole rank of sponsors but I do want to talk about it. This year has seen so many new sponsors join NASCAR and that is great. Seeing more people and organizations join the sport is something that has been lacking for years so it’s nice to see that. But can we name the races a little bit better? I’m not talking about any race, in particular, it’s just that some of them are obnoxiously long for no reason. We had the Ally 400 at Nashville and I actually noticed people calling it that instead of just “The Nashville race”. The whole point of having sponsors for the race is to get the sponsors’ name out there and when you make it extremely long people won’t remember it.
This season has been great so far. We’ve really got a bit of everything so far and I really can’t guess what’s going to happen next but I’m all for it. This year has brought a lot of new people into not just NASCAR but racing as a whole. Some might not enjoy it as much as others, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable. Who knows where the rest of this season will take us. But I can’t wait to watch it all unfold!
I hope you enjoyed this midseason recap! This is my 50th article with BellyUp and I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait to keep writing and sharing news, previews, recaps, and everything else! If you liked this article and want to read more, check out the racing page! Also, don’t forget to follow BellyUpSports, BellyUpRacing, and myself on Twitter!