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Pistone: Bold Predictions for ’21

It promises to be a big year in NASCAR so to go along with that theme here are five bold predictions for the coming season.

There Will Be One First-Time Winner
It‘s incredibly difficult to find Victory Lane in NASCAR‘s top series. The competition level will be as tight as it was a year ago when 13 different drivers scored wins. Among that group Cole Custer and William Byron both scored their first Cup wins. The 2021 season won‘t see two first-time winners as only one driver will be able to garner the honor. There‘s a solid list of candidates to be sure, but the bold prediction is for the second straight season a freshman driver wins with Chase Briscoe wheeling the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford to the checkered flag.

Team Penske Will Lead Ford in Wins
Stewart-Haas Racing held this honor last year on the strength of Kevin Harvick winning nine times. Throw in Custer‘s victory and the double digits total was the best of the bunch with the Blue Oval. While Harvick and the No. 4 team will certainly be a force to be reckoned with again in 2021, expecting another nine win season is a lofty ambition. Collectively, Team Penske put eight victories up in 2020 between Brad Keselowski (4), Joey Logano (3) and Ryan Blaney (1). Look for that trio to be even better this season and the total wins from Penske will lead the Ford stable at the end of the year.

Bubba Wallace Makes the Playoffs
Team 23XI has captured a great deal of headlines this offseason since Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan announced the formation of the team. Bubba Wallace slides over from Richard Petty Motorsports as the team‘s driver. The No. 23 will have full support from Toyota/TRD and be closely aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing, more so than Leavine Family Racing was last season. Sponsorship has been sold for the entire season, something that makes many other more-established teams envious. So, the pieces are all in place for this organization to make some noise right out of the box. The prediction is it will and Wallace will earn one of the 16 coveted playoff spots come September.

There Will Be a Repeat Daytona 500 Winner
Eight drivers entered in this year‘s running of “The Great American Race” have taken home the Harley J. Earl Trophy. Denny Hamlin will attempt to be the first driver in Daytona 500 history to win the race three consecutive years. While the Joe Gibbs Racing driver will be in the mix winning the 500 three years-in-a-row is a tall order. However, talent and skill have a great deal to do with excelling in superspeedway races and that skill set will be served again when one a former Daytona 500 champion again crosses the finish line first at “The World Center of Racing.” My prediction is Joey Logano.

A Non-Title Contender Will Win the Season Finale
It‘s been an incredible streak since NASCAR first introduced the Championship 4 format and the season finale race determined the title. One of the quartet running for the crown has won the race and taken home the title with Chase Elliott the latest last season. The streak ends in 2021. Just by the law of averages and the competition level in the Cup Series at some point the run logically has to come to an end right? I predict this November at Phoenix Raceway there will be two celebrations — one for the Cup champ and another for the race winner.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.