In the second part of this season, we will look at the next slew of drivers that will either join a new team or have acquired a new crew chief. I saved some of these drivers for part two as I am extremely excited about a few of them. The two rookies that I will mention today have a very bright future ahead of them. Another driver will return after a year off with a new team and a lot of momentum. This issue will focus on Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Chase Briscoe.
Erik Jones: After three NASCAR Cup Series seasons with Joe Gibbs racing Erik Jones is teaming up with Richard Petty Motorsports to drive the Number 43 Chevrolet left vacant by Bubba Wallace’s move to 23XI Racing. In three years, Jones made the playoffs two times and has two wins under his belt in his short tenure in the cup series. The number 43 car has not been to the playoffs since 2014; this will be Jones’ goal this season. Jones will be paired with crew chief Jerry Baxter in 2021. Baxter was Wallace’s crew chief in 2020 where he had one top-five finish. Previously Baxter was crew chief of Brett Moffitt’s 2019 Camping World Truck Series team. In 2019 Baxter had four wins, 13 top-five finishes, and led 452 laps. DFS wise I see Jones being a middle-of-the-pack driver for a majority of the year. Jones has shown some flash in his three years and will be a strong value play most weeks. Jones’ best tracks in his career have been Watkins Glen, Darlington, Chicago, Sonoma, and Texas.
Ross Chastain: Joining Chip Ganassi Racing to race the Number 42 car is Ross Chastain. Chastain in his career already has 79 cup series starts, after two full-time cup seasons in 2018 and 2019. Chastain has yet to finish in the top five in any cup races. After his 15 top-five finishes in the Xfinity Series last year, this may be the year for him to crack a top five. In 2020 Chastain was in almost every race, thus having a chance to win in most of them. Chastain should be in line to compete for a lower end playoff spot this year as the 42 car has been to the playoffs in four of the last five years.
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Chase Briscoe: Stepping into the legendary number 14 car for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season is none other than rookie Chase Briscoe. Coming fresh off of his career year in the Xfinity Series where Briscoe had a series-best nine wins. Chase will be a lock-in consideration for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award and could very well be in the mix for a playoff spot in 2021. Briscoe has been known to excel at road courses, luckily for him, there will be a record for most road races this year with six. Briscoe is being paired up with Johnny Klausmeier who has worked with Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, and Kurt Busch in his career. Klausmeier has two cup series wins, 10 top-five finishes, and 11 top 10 finishes as a crew chief.
Kyle Larson: After being fired from Chip Ganassi Racing, being suspended from NASCAR, and taking the majority of the year off from racing in the NASCAR Cup Series Kyle Larson is back to join Hendrick Motorsports’ Number 5 team and bring the car back to the cup series. Larson is a very talented driver that will need to look to do everything he can to put his past behind him and show NASCAR and his fans that he has learned from his mistake. In his career, Larson has six cup series wins.2021 will be the year that Larson and Hendrick Motorsports make the move to get the number 5 car to victory lane. Larson has made the playoffs in his last four full-time seasons and should be a lock again this year to make it. Larson will be teamed up with Cliff Daniels after Daniels driver from last year Jimmie Johnson retired. As a crew chief Daniels broke onto the scene in 2019 with Johnson for 15 races. In 2020 Daniels was full-time with Johnson and had five top-five finishes and 14 top 10 finishes. This team will look to build momentum early in the season. From a DFS perspective, I would expect Larson to finish with around five to 10 top-five finishes and then sprinkle a win in there. Darlington has been Larson’s best track as of late where he has a second and third-place finish in his last two races.
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