A schedule full of changes will have an effect on this Cup season. Already, it has made an affect on the preseason NBC Sports activities NASCAR Energy Rankings earlier than vehicles get on observe at Daytona Worldwide Speedway.
Sunday’s Daytona 500 begins a journey for Cup groups that features a file seven highway course occasions, a race on a dust observe and different adjustments in a season that can finish in November at Phoenix Raceway.
Right here’s a have a look at the highest 10:
PRESEASON NASCAR POWER RANKINGS
1. Ryan Blaney — It’s straightforward to miss what Blaney has achieved on highway programs due to Chase Elliott’s success. However don’t. Blaney has 4 top-five finishes, together with a win, within the final six highway programs races. He’s sturdy elsewhere. Blaney was considered one of solely three drivers who scored prime 10s in at the least three of the 4 superspeedway races final 12 months. Key for a championship season will probably be execution, one thing that the workforce didn’t all the time do effectively final 12 months. Blaney instructed NBC Sports activities: “I assumed we had loopy pace all 12 months. We simply didn’t fairly execute, whether or not it was on my facet or different issues that occurred that we’ve talked rather a lot about cleansing up.”
2. Chase Elliott — No champion has received consecutive titles for the reason that championship race format debuted in 2014. It’s straightforward to anticipate Elliott to return to the title race in Phoenix and provides himself an opportunity to take action this 12 months. He says of this season: “We must be on offense. We have to preserve pushing. I believe for those who’re again in your heels and making an attempt to guard one thing, I don’t assume your thoughts is in the appropriate place. We wish extra.”
3. Brad Keselowski — One of many prime drivers on superspeedways, his luck, particularly in recent Daytona 500s has been tough. It’s about time that turns for the higher. Watch Staff Penske on the 750 horsepower tracks. The Penske vehicles had been sturdy. Keselowski received three races and had six top-fives finishes in 10 races on tracks 1 mile or much less final 12 months. Mentioned Keselowski: “If you wish to win races, it’s fairly clear there are solely about six drivers that may constantly win a number of races in Cup. It’s good to be on that checklist.”
4. Joey Logano — The Staff Penske theme continues with Logano making the third Staff Penske driver within the prime 4. He had six top-five finishes at tracks 1 mile or much less, together with a win at Phoenix early final season. Staff stumbled in the course of the season earlier than scoring 14 prime 10s within the final 19 races. Logano instructed NBC Sports activities: “We need to be nice and to me nice is profitable 5 – 6 races a 12 months and it’s placing your self in place to win a championship. We’ve achieved job of placing ourselves in place to win the championship with out having a bunch of playoff factors or a bunch of wins within the financial institution. … We need to win extra races.”
5. Denny Hamlin — Few drivers have been higher the previous two seasons. Hamlin appears poised to proceed his sturdy runs. He’s centered on the early portion of the schedule. Hamlin instructed NBC Sports activities: “I believe, inside our race workforce, profitable a number of races within the first seven, eight races is a aim we got down to say this units the tone for the remainder of the 12 months.” He’s received at Daytona, Miami and Phoenix throughout the final two seasons. All three races are among the many first eight of the season.
6. Kevin Harvick — It could possibly be argued that no workforce is impacted extra by NASCAR’s schedule adjustments for 2021 than Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing workforce. He received on the oval at Indianapolis final 12 months. That race strikes to the highway course. He swept each Michigan races. That observe misplaced a race. He received at Darlington, which went from three races final 12 months to 2 this 12 months. He received at Dover, which went from two races final 12 months to 1. Mentioned Harvick: “I believe as you have a look at final 12 months that’s a type of that you just test off as a profession 12 months and also you clearly need to do this once more, however I’ve been round this lengthy sufficient to grasp that these sorts of seasons don’t come round on a regular basis. However, look, it’s to not say that it’s not doable as a result of that’s absolutely the aim – to attempt to repeat that.”
7. Martin Truex Jr. — Aside from Chase Elliott, Truex probably is essentially the most excited to see seven highway course races on the schedule. He’s completed within the prime three in three of the final 5 highway course occasions. Staff appears to wash up points that saved it from profitable greater than as soon as final 12 months. He had 11 finishes of second or third. Had a few of these been outcomes been wins, he might need constructed up sufficient playoff factors to have gone deeper into the postseason. Mentioned Truex: “There have been a whole lot of alternatives for us final 12 months to have an incredible season and we got here up brief on a whole lot of these little key areas and selections or little errors alongside the best way, and issues like that. We’re all making an attempt to get higher.”
8. Kyle Busch — Coming off a disappointing season with one win, he and crew chief Adam Stevens parted methods. Busch has former workforce engineer Ben Beshore as crew chief. In addition they labored collectively within the Xfinity Collection, which ought to assist pace the communication between them. Busch instructed NBC Sports activities: “He sort of is aware of my little quirks.” The problem is that a lot of the crew is new to Busch.
9. Kyle Larson — He’s back after missing the final 32 races of last season and with a brand new workforce in Hendrick Motorsports. What he’ll do is a little bit of a thriller however the early portion of the season might present key clues. The third race of the season is at Miami, a observe Larson excels. He admits that doing effectively there’ll present how far the workforce has come and a poor end will present how far they should go.
10. Alex Bowman — He alters numbers to the No. 48, however his crew stays the identical. The problem for Bowman is that with Auto Membership Speedway off the schedule this 12 months, gone is the observe he received eventually 12 months. His solely different Cup win got here at Chicagoland Speedway and it additionally just isn’t on the schedule. He completed final 12 months by putting within the prime 10 in 9 of the final 12 races. We’ll see if the momentum continues.