Colossal things are happening in NASCAR, as the 2021 Cup Sequence season is effect to begin with Sunday’s Daytona 500.
With a totally revamped schedule that includes tracks which shall be new to NASCAR, rather a lot of excessive-profile drivers with varied groups and excessive-profile celebrities joining the ownership ranks — plus the continuing peril of racing during the COVID-19 pandemic — it’s plenty for fans to keep note of.
So sooner than NASCAR’s nine-month season, here’s a breakdown of six top storylines to keep in mind at some point of the year, from two-time Cup Sequence champ Kyle Busch’s doable to jump aid after a subpar 2020 to the upcoming Silly Season as drivers scrutinize to keep some distance off from becoming free agents.
Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suárez are two of rather a lot of drivers with new rides this season, nevertheless they’re additionally accompanied by two new and intensely excessive-profile crew home owners: Michael Jordan and Pitbull.
Support in September, Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they teamed up to invent a brand new Cup Sequence crew, 23XI Racing — a nod to every Jordan’s iconic No. 23 uniform and Hamlin’s No. 11 automobile. Wallace signed a multi-year deal together with his new crew after racing tubby-time for Richard Petty Motorsports the final three seasons, and he’ll pilot the No. 23 Toyota.
“[Jordan] wants a winning bustle driver, and he took a probability to invest in me and he has considered something that sparked his interest to invent this deal occur and pass forward with it alongside with Denny,” Wallace said final week. “So I can’t thank them adequate.”
Wallace is calm looking for his first Cup Sequence win, nevertheless sooner than the autos even hit the note, it’s complicated to speculate on what kind of season he and the crew might per chance most certainly most certainly have.
In a extremely varied enviornment going into his fifth Cup season, Suárez is now racing together with his fourth crew in four years. After driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, he competed for Gaunt Brothers Racing in 2020, and this season, he’s with the newly fashioned Trackhouse Racing crew. And handiest a pair of weeks in the past, Pitbull became once announced as a co-proprietor of the crew.
“He’s now not called Mr. Worldwide upright thanks to nothing,” Suárez said final week. “The Latino neighborhood loves him. I think he’s a huge plus, a huge lend a hand to have any individual love Pitbull tall shut to a bustle crew to lend a hand us in many, many things. But clearly, upright to bring the neighborhood together and to bring extra Latinos to this bustle note, to this crew, invent this crew something varied, something younger, something frigid, something standard.”
At this point, it’s now not totally certain how involved Jordan or Pitbull will be with their respective new NASCAR groups or if they will invent appearances at races — even though Pitbull will be the Wide Marshal for the Daytona 500. Regardless, they’re undeniably bringing a ton of attention to the sport.
Two-time Cup Sequence champion Kyle Busch had an outstanding season by many drivers’ requirements.
Following his 2019 championship sprint with a one-win season in 2020 certainly wasn’t ideal for the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver. But he calm prolonged his plug of winning at the least one bustle in every of his 16 tubby-time seasons, despite the truth that he didn’t obtain to Victory Lane till the 34th of 36 races final year.
Regardless, Busch is certainly one of the most proficient drivers on the note who’s accustomed to winning a pair of races every year. Earlier than 2020, his final one-win season became once in 2014, and he gained 18 total races between the 2017 and 2019 seasons. So it’s logical to think 2020 became once upright an off-year for him, and he’ll return to his ordinary dominance in due route.
And perchance a brand new crew chief will provide Busch and the No. 18 crew with a wanted spark. After six years and two titles, Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens split up after final season, and, calm with Joe Gibbs Racing, Stevens will now work with Christopher Bell and the No. 20 crew.
Busch’s new crew chief is Ben Beshore, who beforehand became once an engineer for the No. 18 crew and a crew chief for Gibbs in the Xfinity Sequence in 2019 and 2020. Two seasons in the past, Busch and Beshore gained four of their seven Xfinity races together.
“He kind of is conscious of my exiguous quirks,” Busch said of Beshore. “I in reality have a total new crew if reality be told. The handiest guy that’s the identical is the automobile chief. Everyone else is varied. I’ve obtained a total new crew of guys that I’ve obtained to study, and I’ve obtained to train them how I build things and what my gadget is and the device I love stuff, the effect I had all of that for the previous five years, six years.”
Whenever you occur to haven’t taken a appropriate scrutinize at the 2021 NASCAR Cup Sequence schedule yet, you would additionally now not stamp it in case you build because there are heaps of changes this year.
Some fans wanted extra road programs on the schedule, and they have that this year. Added to the schedule are events on Daytona’s road route (Feb. 21) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road route (Aug. 15), alongside with new races at Circuit of The Americas (Could well 23) and Road America (July 4).
Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen International and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s “roval” calm have their respective races as successfully, so that’s a total of seven road route events this year.
But there’s extra.
— BristolMotorSpeedway (@BMSupdates) January 22, 2021
For its March 28 bustle, Bristol Motor Speedway will be converted to a dirt note and might per chance most certainly most certainly additionally be the Cup Sequence’ first dirt bustle since 1970 at North Carolina Suppose Fairgrounds. Nashville Superspeedway — a 1.33-mile note in Lebanon, Tennessee beforehand inclined by the Xfinity and Truck assortment — additionally joins the Cup schedule this year with a bustle effect for June 20.
And finally, Texas Motor Speedway will host the NASCAR All-Superstar Creep on June 13 for the first time. Beforehand, the exhibition bustle became once in general held at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the exception of the 1986 bustle being at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the 2020 bustle at Bristol.
After the COVID-19 pandemic halted the NASCAR season for 10 weeks final spring, racing successfully returned and finished a tubby 36-bustle season. Protocols and restrictions were established, bustle weekends were shortened and upright about everybody had to be intelligent to roll with the punches of final-minute changes. The identical ought to calm be anticipated for 2021 as the pandemic rages on.
In truth, NASCAR made its first change to the 2021 schedule in December, bumping Auto Membership Speedway’s bustle off and replacing it with the Daytona road route bustle.
So instead of going from the Daytona 500 to Homestead-Miami Speedway and then heading to the southern California note to begin the West Hover swing, NASCAR can have aid-to-aid Daytona weekends, followed by a bustle at Homestead (Feb. 28) sooner than taking on Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 7). Depending on convey and native guidelines during the pandemic, extra adjustments might per chance most certainly most certainly occur.
Love final season, the majority of 2021 bustle weekends is now not going to include train or qualifying classes, with a pair of exceptions. Unusual tracks and a pair of famous races can have train and qualifying, including the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and Phoenix Raceway’s championship bustle, plus weekends at Bristol’s dirt note, COTA, Nashville, Road America and Indy’s road route.
The gigantic takeaway here is instances remain fluid, and NASCAR might per chance most certainly most certainly additionally have to continue adapting as it goes.
Thanks to Bubba Wallace, NASCAR took a principal nevertheless hugely previous due step of banning the Confederate flag from its events. Then driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace ran a #BlackLivesMatter paint procedure on the No. 43 Chevrolet. And a handful of drivers spoke out on social media about racism and police brutality against Shadowy other americans following the dying of George Floyd.
And in June, when the FBI became once investigating the probability of a hate crime dedicated against Wallace and the No. 43 crew, NASCAR and its groups stood up in strengthen of the handiest Shadowy driver in the Cup Sequence.
Closing season, NASCAR dedicated to continuing its anti-racism efforts and pledged to be extra inclusive. But as NASCAR president Steve Phelps told NBC Sports activities in August:
“What actions can we take dangle of? I mean, it’s enormous to negate the words, nevertheless whereas you occur to don’t note them up with actions, they’re in reality meaningless. And so, for us, it’s continuing down this continuum of this rush towards getting greater. And getting greater in reality diagram bringing a extra welcoming and inclusive setting whether at the bustle note otherwise you’re watching on tv, that our sport is a location the effect everybody is welcome.”
When For The Win asked Phelps about NASCAR’s future plans to fight racism in and exterior of the sport, he explained a threefold advance for addressing this internally, industry-broad and former racing. Internally, Phelps said there is an ally council, a diversity council and employee resource groups to lend a hand be certain that NASCAR is inclusive in its operations and hiring processes.
Externally, he successfully-known that the governing physique is working with its company sponsors, as successfully as groups love the Institute for Sport and Social Justice and RISE, to promote schooling.
And industry-broad, Phelps said:
“As an industry, we’re going to mandate that everybody take dangle of sensitivity training, unconscious bias training. We’re going to build that. Earlier than we obtain to the [Daytona] 500, all the bustle groups, someone affiliated with this, is going to build that.”
Anything extra concrete from NASCAR and former performative gestures remains to be considered.
Contract particulars are customarily kept aloof in NASCAR, so it’s now not continually certain which drivers will be looking for effect spanking new deals. On the other hand, as NBC Sports activities reported, there are rather a lot of gigantic-name drivers who’re entering the final year of their contracts, including Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Alex Bowman and Matt DiBenedetto. And with the exception of the latter two, they’re all at the least 36 years extinct.
Truex, a 40-year-extinct Joe Gibbs Racing driver, told NBC Sports activities that he’s delighted the effect he’s and as long as he’s competing for championships, he’s now not too anxious about his future. His teammate, Denny Hamlin, became once headed into the final year of his contract, nevertheless final week, the crew announced multi-year extensions for Hamlin and his vital sponsor, FedEx.
Soon-to-be 37-year-extinct Keselowski signed a one-year extension final year through the 2021 season. Busch signed a multi-year extension with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2019, and the 42-year-extinct driver said in September that there is a “50-50” probability the 2021 season will be his final in NASCAR.
DiBenedetto is the handiest driver on this listing who’s conscious of he’s now not returning to his present crew, Wood Brothers Racing, subsequent season. The 29-year-extinct driver signed a one-year extension through the 2021 season, nevertheless then he’ll be changed by reigning Xfinity champion Austin Cindric.
“My total occupation has had an expiration date,” DiBenedetto said final week. “I’ve thought it became once over 1,000 times, so it don’t even portion me. I’m wonderful mentally tough at this point. …
“My total focal point is on 2021 and driving the 21 automobile. Clearly it’s a impress that it’s our year. It’s ’21. So that’s been 100 percent my main focal point — upright knowing that every person we desire to build is rush out there and kick ass and create and the future will take dangle of care of itself. So I haven’t had any talks with someone moving forward.”