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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Chase Elliott, NASCAR
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings: #1

#1. . No. 9. Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet. CHASE ELLIOTT

Struggles to close out races had plagued the #9 team throughout not only much of the 2020 season but in several recent seasons. Without question, Chase Elliott’s three wins entering the penultimate race of the year easily could have been seven or eight. But when it mattered most, the team got it right.

Elliott entered the 2020 season having been to the round of 8 in three straight seasons. The only other three drivers who could say that were Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch, and they all advanced to the Championship 4 in all three of those seasons.

But Elliott still hadn’t been to the Championship 4.

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However, with a win at Martinsville Speedway to close out the round of 8, he changed that, and he secured his first title with a come-from-behind win at Phoenix Raceway in the season finale, marking the first time he had ever won back-to-back races.

The 24-year-old Elliott reached the top of the sport well before even his most ardent fans believed was possible, becoming the third youngest champion of all-time and the youngest since Jeff Gordon won the first of his four titles in 1995.

However, that shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. While the #9 team had struggled to close out races, Elliott’s 1,247 laps led more than doubled his previous career-high of 601 and ranked second only to Kevin Harvick’s total of 1,531.

Let’s also not forgot the fact that Elliott, who now has 11 career wins, is currently riding a road course win streak of four, something that only Gordon has ever been able to say, and the 2021 schedule features a whopping seven road course races. Elliott has never competed in a Cup Series season that has featured more than three, and the 2020 season featured only two.

We saw Jimmie Johnson “pass the torch” to him at the end of 2020. At the age of 25, just how much more can Elliott achieve?

Next. Top 10 NASCAR drivers of all-time. dark

Tune in to Fox at 2:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, February 14 for the live broadcast of the 2021 season-opening Daytona 500, the 63rd annual running of the “Great American Race” at Daytona International Speedway. The 36-race season is scheduled to run through Sunday, November 7, when Phoenix Raceway is set to decide the champion for the second consecutive year.