I suppose it’s only fitting that one of my favorite races of the year, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, kicks off what should be one of the most memorable seasons in NASCAR in decades. The addition of new tracks, more road courses and racing on dirt should be enough to keep even sideline NASCAR fans tuned in to see what is going on.
In case you missed it, the Rolex 24 at Daytona was historic in that the racing was great and more cars finished on the lead lap within seconds of each other and saw Wayne Taylor Racing score it’s third win in a row, fourth in five years and first ever for Acura. For a while it looked like another Ganassi win but late race hiccups for that team and a full course caution put the WTR team in position to win. That also put the Ally Cadillac featuring Jimmie Johnson in position to finish second instead of third.
With new classes, new drivers and teams, this was a Rolex 24 to remember.
This sets up the 2021 NASCAR season with a host of driver changes, new teams and several drivers with a lot on the line. The Busch Clash starts us off on the Daytona Road Course ahead of the Duels that will set the field for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 14th. But that’s not all folks, you also get the Camping World Truck series race on Feb. 12th and on Feb. 13th the ARCA Menards series race and the Xfinity series race. That’s a weekend full of racing!
But wait, there’s more!
The teams get to stay at Daytona for the Feb. 21st running of the Daytona Road Course. And staying with the Florida theme, the next race is Feb. 28th at Homestead.
Then the teams head west for a couple of races before returning for the much anticipated Bristol Food City Dirt Race on March 28th.
Then we get a “breather” until Talladega on April 25th and then the new Circuit of the Americas road race on May 23rd, the week before the Coca-Cola 600.
The second half of the season sees more road courses and back-to-back races at Texas and Pocono.
In addition, COVID protocols will remain in place with the teams and tracks in 2021. That also means we’ll see qualifying and practice for just 8 races in 2021. Those 8 are:
- Feb. 14 – Daytona 500
- March 28 – Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt
- May 23 – Circuit of the Americas
- May 30 – Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
- June 20 – Nashville Superspeedway
- July 4 – Road America
- Aug. 15 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
- Nov. 7 – NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway
One of the interesting things I am watching for will be to see how much that will impact Kyle Busch. Kyle’s 2019 championship season was not without some issues and that was made even more apparent in 2020 when he struggled and won just one race. It became apparent to all that Kyle needed practice and qualifying to get his car tuned in. When that happened, he was a dominant driver. Without that, he was a very good driver and even made it to the playoffs by sheer talent, but that was not enough to sustain his team when a single bad outing can ruin your playoff chances.
Another thing to out for is Chase Elliott. Chase is coming off a title season and he was a dominant driver on the road courses. If he keeps up that kind of performance, he could be one of the top winning drivers of 2021.
And don’t forget the return of Kyle Larson with Hendrick Motorsports. Larson will be driving the 5 car last driver by Kasey Kahne. Larson has been tearing up the dirt tracks over the past year and has a lot to prove. He may be a real threat to make the playoffs.
There are also a lot of new faces and young drivers who are out to make their mark on the sport. I fully expect the veterans like Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick to still win races and be threats wo win it all once again, but I also look to some of the younger drivers to push the veterans harder than ever.
All in all I am looking forward to seeing what the 2021 season will bring. It should be an exciting year.
What are you looking forward to?