Analyzing 5 key questions on 2021 Cup season

Lower than a month from the beginning of the season at Daytona Worldwide Speedway and pondering a number of issues …

1. What number of street course races will Chase Elliott win?

NASCAR’s emphasis on road courses this year places Elliott — who has received the previous 4 street course occasions — in place to attain plenty of victories.

This season could have seven street course occasions, starting with the Daytona Worldwide Speedway street course on Feb. 21.

That’s one in every of six street course races within the common season. The others are Circuit of the Americas (Could 23), Sonoma (June 6), Street America (July 4), Watkins Glen (Aug. 8) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway street course (Aug. 15). The playoffs once more options the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 10).

If Elliott continues to dominate the street programs, a query turns into who else can win these races?

Elliott has received 5 of the previous eight races. The one different drivers to win a street course race throughout that point are Martin Truex Jr. (Sonoma in 2018 and ’19) and Ryan Blaney (Charlotte Roval in 2018).

Within the final 4 street course races that Elliott received, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Truex and Blaney had been the one drivers to have no less than two top-five finishes. Blaney has 4 top-five finishes within the final six street course races.

2. Which driver who didn’t make the 2020 playoffs might make it in 2021?

Christopher Bell’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing immediately makes him the favourite to go from a driver not within the playoffs final yr to 1 who might accomplish that this yr.

He’ll be paired with Adam Stevens, who helped Kyle Busch win two titles earlier than they struggled to win consistently. One other key concern might be JGR. After successful 19 of 36 races in 2019, the workforce received 9 instances — seven by Denny Hamlin.

Bell’s JGR teammates, Hamlin, Busch and Martin Truex Jr., every ran within the prime 15 in additional than 70% of the laps they ran final yr. Bell, who was at Leavine Household Racing final season, ran within the prime 15 solely 33% of the laps. Tools ought to put him nearer to the entrance and permit him to attain sufficient factors to make the playoffs or win a race.

3. How quickly earlier than Kyle Larson wins for Hendrick Motorsports?

It’s early however the third race of the season is at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Larson at all times ran nicely at that observe.

May he win there? You guess. Will he? That might be price watching.

A key query is, by not competing within the final 32 Cup races of the season, how a lot did Larson miss?

The tire Goodyear plans to carry to Miami is similar that was run there final yr. Chase Elliott completed second at Miami final yr and teammate William Byron was ninth, exhibiting that Hendrick could possibly be positioned to do nicely at that observe and perhaps assist Larson return to his successful methods rapidly.

If not Miami, Larson might be among the many favorites for the Bristol grime race in March. It appears probably he might rating no less than one victory early within the season.

4. Which Ford driver might be one to look at this season?

Kevin Harvick has led the Ford camp recently, successful 18 of the final 100 races — essentially the most wins of any Cup driver in that span. Brad Keselowski has 10 wins throughout that interval; Joey Logano has eight and a championship.

The one Ford driver that proves most intriguing, although, is Workforce Penske’s Ryan Blaney. The 27-year-old enters his second season with crew chief Todd Gordon.

Blaney ran toward the front last year, scoring 346 stage factors. Harvick, who received a series-high 9 races, had 290 stage factors.

Blaney completed first or second within the second stage 11 instances. He went on to position within the prime 5 in six of these races but scored only one win.

Harvick, then again, received 5 of the seven races that he completed first or second within the second stage.

Carrying these robust runs via the ultimate stage is the following step for Blaney to have an opportunity to win extra races.

5. Odds Kyle Busch wins 4 or extra races this season?

Good. Superb.

Busch won only once last year, however he rebounds nicely. The final 3 times he received just one Cup race in a season, he received no less than 4 races the next season.

After a one-win marketing campaign in 2007 in his last season at Hendrick Motorsports, Busch received eight instances for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Busch received one race in 2012 and got here again to win 4 instances in 2013.

He received as soon as in 2014 and adopted it by successful 5 races and the championship in 2015.

If historical past is a sign, this could possibly be a giant season for Busch.

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