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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Ryan Blaney, NASCAR
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR – Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports /

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings: #10 and #9

#10. . No. 12. Team Penske, Ford. RYAN BLANEY

There was no mistaking the speed that Ryan Blaney had throughout the 2020 season, but the #12 team simply couldn’t translate that speed into wins. For the fourth year in a row and third year as a Team Penske driver, Blaney finished the season with just one win. Despite leading 1,750 laps, including a career-high 668 in 2020, since joining Roger Penske’s team in 2018, Blaney has yet to win a race via something either than a photo finish or a last-second pass since he won for Wood Brothers Racing at Pocono Raceway in 2017. Once it starts clicking, don’t expect it stop, but getting over that hump continues to be a struggle. Despite his round of 16 playoff exit, he was able to rally for a ninth place finish in the championship standings, and he finished the year with three consecutive top six finishes. His average finish in the round of 8 was a series-best 4.33, despite the fact that he was eliminated two rounds earlier. Will 2021 be his year?

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet. KYLE LARSON. #9. . No. 5

Kyle Larson missed the final 32 races of the 2020 season after being fired by Chip Ganassi Racing when multiple sponsors cut ties with him over his use of a racial slur. He was also suspended indefinitely by NASCAR, but he has since been reinstated and is set to return with Hendrick Motorsports, which had their eyes on him even before the racial incident, in 2021. Entering the 2020 season, only three drivers had reeled off four consecutive finishes of ninth place or better in the championship standings: Larson, 2014 champion Kevin Harvick and two-time champion Kyle Busch. Larson finished in a career-high sixth in the standings in 2019 after ending a win drought of over two years. While finishing races has been a concern for him, given the fact that he has led 1,694 laps in his last 86 starts despite winning only one race, he is in arguably the best position he could possibly be in entering 2021 after quite a tumultuous 2020. Will he return to 2017 form, when he won a career-high four races?