With Michael McDowell winning The Great American Race on Sunday, week 1 is in the books and it’s time for Power Rankings. I asked the staff here at ASN to power rank the top 20 drivers in the Cup Series and here is where we think the best are.
20. Matt DiBenedetto
DiBenedetto’s car was severely damaged in the first crash that happened on lap 14, but Matt has high expectations this year after out-performing in the same car last year for Wood Brothers Racing.
19. Ross Chastain
After taking a step back last year to drive full-time in the Xfinity Series and part-time in the Cup Series, The Watermelon Man finished 7th in the Daytona 500, finished in the top 10 of stage 1, and is currently 11th in the standings.
18. Chase Briscoe
After winning nine Xfinity Series races last year, Briscoe is favorite to win Rookie of the Year and is one of the most interesting rookies to watch this season.
17. Cole Custer
The 2020 Sunoco Rookie of the Year already has one win under his belt in his first season, and it is obvious why any driver who wins ROY the previous season would have big expectations for this year.
16. Aric Almirola
Almirola had a quiet and underrated season last year nabbing 6 top 5s, 18 top 10s, and an average finish of 13.3.
15. Kyle Larson
Larson is a fan-favorite for any dirt track racers out there, and his absolute domination last year winning over 50% of his dirt races should transit well in better equipment this year, since he changes over to Hendrick Motorsports.
14. Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch has been consistently running middle-to-top of the back ever since changing to Chip Ganassi Racing. He had 1 win, 7 top 5s, and 19 top 10s.
13. Christopher Bell
Bell is another driver with a huge dirt track following given his success in national races such as The Chili Bowl. Bell joins top-tier team Joe Gibbs Racing in what was Erik Jones’ no.20 car, and given his over-performance last year in the no.95 car, he should do even better with the better equipment.
12. Austin Dillon
Dillon is currently at the top of the current standings after finishing 3rd and nabbing a top 5 spot in both stages at Daytona. Dillon drives with a chip on his shoulder to prove he’s not just “a silver spoon kid”.
11. Ryan Blaney
Blaney finished 9th overall in the standings last year, and accrued 1 win, 11 top 5s, and 17 top 10s in 2020. His no.12 car was collected in the lap 14 accident, which ultimately knocked him out of the race.
10. William Byron
Byron’s car was also collected in the lap 14 accident that severely damaged his car and hurt his chances at a competitive race. Driving for a top-tier team in Hendrick Motorsports will also give a driver high expectations, but after 1 win, 4 top 5s, and 14 top 10s in 2020 he will have to keep up that momentum and move forward this year.
9. Martin Truex Jr.
The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion has consistently run at the top over the past few years, and this year should be no different. After making the Playoffs every year since 2015 and in the Championship 4 three out of the last four years MTJ will look to bounce back after having a lackluster year for him in 2020 with new crew chief James Small.
8. Bubba Wallace
The driver of the new 23XI car will always have high expectations, given the owner is the six-time NBA Champion Michael Jordan. Bubba has overperformed consistently while driving for a mid-tier team in Richard Petty Motorsports, so all eyes are on him as the 23XI team seems to be a top team. Oh, and did I mention he was in contention to win the Daytona 500 before crashing on the last lap?
7. Kyle Busch
The Candyman will always be one of the favorites to win any race he competes in, and so, why he is ranked so highly here. Even after an incredibly lackluster season last year, you just have to respect the overall body of work Kyle Busch has given out over his career.
6. Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick has earned a whopping 21 wins over the last three seasons with almost half (9) coming from last season alone. He is one of the top drivers out there right now and if he is on the lead lap, he is almost always in contention for the win.
5. Alex Bowman
The 2021 Daytona 500 polesitter moves to the no.48 team this year and with it the expectations of filling Jimmie Johnson’s shoes. Bowman finished 6th in the standings last year after notching 1 win, 6 top 5s, and 15 top 10s and who knows where he would have finished had he not crashed out of the Daytona 500 by no fault of his own.
4. Joey Logano
Logano finished 9th at Daytona but was in contention for the win while leading the race before his teammate Keselowski crashed into him on the last lap. Logano finished 3rd in the standings last year and had 3 wins, 12 top 5s, and 21 top 10s for another consistently good season.
3. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski had a great year in 2020 finishing 2nd in the standings and notched 4 wins in his best season since 2017. With winning three or more races in his last five seasons, it is not hard to wonder why he is ranked so highly this year, especially considering he was racing for the win at Daytona before crashing.
2. Chase Elliott
The defending 2020 Cup Series champion finished second at Daytona and is currently 4th in points after one race. NASCAR’s most popular driver really stepped into his own last year after winning a total of 5 races after only earning his first win just two seasons earlier. Elliott is riding the momentum of last year’s championship and will continue to be a betting favorite, as well as a fan favorite.
1. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin was an unstoppable force last season winning 7 races and finishing in the top 4. He finished fifth and won both stages in the Daytona 500, showing his usual dominance in The Great American Race. Denny is currently second in points and always has a fast car driving for JGR, putting him in contention almost every race.