NASCAR Cup Series: 5 drivers who will improve in 2021

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) /
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Martin Truex Jr., NASCAR
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing,NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Drivers who will improve in 2021 – Martin Truex Jr.

For Martin Truex Jr. and the #19 team, some 2020 statistics do not tell the full story. A season featuring 14 top five finishes and 23 top 10 finishes certainly seems to be a year of great success. In reality, it was a great season overshadowed by disappointment.

Truex’s only victory came at the June Martinsville Speedway race, and he was eliminated in the round of 8. After a three-year span which included a championship (2017) and two runner-up finishes in the standings (2018 and 2019), tying for seventh place in the championship standings was a letdown for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

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However, Truex’s 2020 campaign should not be dismissed just because of the final result. Champion crew chief Cole Pearn shockingly left the sport after the 2019 season, and James Small paired with Truex for their first year together last season.

In his second year with Joe Gibbs Racing and first year with Small, Truex struggled to put together winning races. But during the second half of the season, the #19 team took off blazing and returned to their former selves.

During the months of July, August and September, Truex put up 11 finishes of second, third, or fourth place in a span of14 races. There was a seven-race streak during which he did not finish below third. Although the team never scored a second win, this stretch propelled them through the end of the regular season and the first half of the playoffs.

Having such spectacular success with a first-year pairing of driver and crew chief signals that Truex and his team still have title-contending race pace. That speed will only continue in 2021 as Small becomes more acclimated to the Cup Series.

Moreover, the addition of three new road courses (now seven in total) to the 36-race schedule will only help Truex. He has four wins and 11 top five finishes on road courses throughout his career, and ever since ascending to stardom in 2016, he has been a stalwart competitor in the road course races.

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All Truex needs is a small boost of speed in 2021, and he will be back in prime form, winning multiple races and contending for a second championship.