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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Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, NASCAR
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, and Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR – Mandatory Credit: Brynn Anderson/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network /

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings: #4 and #3

#4. . No. 18. Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota. KYLE BUSCH

Kyle Busch’s five-year Championship 4 streak ended in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, when he was eliminated after the round of 12 for the first time since 2014, marking the earliest elimination for a reigning champion. While it took him until the 34th race of the 36-race season, he was able to extend his winning streak to 16 consecutive seasons, which is tied for the third longest streak of all-time, and he also managed to finish in a seventh place tie in the championship standings despite winning only one race. What is concerning for Busch moving forward is the fact that his struggles didn’t just start in 2020. He won just once in the final 22 races of the 2019 season, but that drought was masked by the fact that he won the season finale to win the title. As a result of the fact that he has won just twice in his last 58 starts following a 44-race stint that saw him win 12 times, Busch is now set to be paired with crew chief Ben Beshore after six seasons with Adam Stevens. Will he get back to his usual self in 2021?

BRAD KESELOWSKI. #3. . No. 2. Team Penske, Ford

In a season that saw Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin at the top more often than not, Brad Keselowski silently established himself as the number three driver down the stretch. Despite the ridiculous rumors that Team Penske’s preseason crew chief changes were a way of forcing him out after he entered the year without a contract for 2021, he secured four victories in his first year with Jeremy Bullins atop the pit box, tying his highest single-season win total since his six-win 2014 campaign. Keselowski dominated the races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway, and he qualified for the Championship 4 for the first time since 2017. As a result, he and the #2 team brought the same #2 Ford they ran in those races to Phoenix Raceway. But even with Harvick having dramatically failed to qualify for the Championship 4 for the first time since 2016 and with Hamlin again not having the speed to contend for a title, multiple bad pit stops cost Keselowski and he came up short, finishing in second place behind Chase Elliott. Will the 2012 champion get redemption in 2021?