NASCAR Cup Series: Power rankings entering the 2021 season

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) /
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William Byron, NASCAR
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR – Mandatory Credit: Gerry Broome/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network /

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings: #12 and #11

. No. 20. Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota. CHRISTOPHER BELL. #12

While Christopher Bell’s rookie season may not have been a good as some expected with him having failed to qualify for the playoffs, he proved his worth down the stretch following a rocky start which saw him fail to finish in the top 20 in the season’s first five races. He finished in 20th place in the championship standings but was 19th on points alone, which was better than Rookie of the Year Cole Custer, and he progressed throughout the season to the point where Joe Gibbs Racing hired him to replace Erik Jones behind the wheel of the #20 Toyota next year. He finished in a career-high fourth place finish at Pocono Raceway and bettered that result later in the year with a third place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, and he is in position to have a breakout sophomore season.

. No. 24. Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet. WILLIAM BYRON. #11

William Byron had somewhat of an underrated 2020 season that was marred by misfortune a disappointing early playoff exit, as he did not make it past the round of 16 despite entering the playoffs following his first career victory at Daytona International Speedway. Byron, who made it to the round of 12 in 2019, ran well throughout the year but often times found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result, it took him until the season’s 25th race for him to finish in the top five, but once he did, he reeled off three top five finishes in a row. He did still manage to secure a career-high 14 top 10 finishes despite his misfortune, and he did enough points-wise to qualify for the playoffs even without his maiden victory, which came in his 98th career start. Notably, it took teammate Chase Elliott until his 99th career start to secure his first victory in 2018, and Elliott is now a Cup Series champion. Can Byron make a big leap in year number four?