Before the Daytona 500 kicks off the season, Pete Pistone gives his prognostications for who will race their way into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff field and who will take home the title.
A field of 16 drivers will again qualify for this year‘s playoff grid with the August 28 race at Daytona International Speedway serving as the regular-season finale for the second straight season.
The regular season has some added twists and turns – literally – with new road races at Circuit of the Americas, Road America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on the slate. Nashville Superspeedway hosts its first Cup race in June and Bristol Motor Speedway will be transformed into a dirt track for a late March date.
Once the field is set, historic Darlington Raceway again begins the championship portion of the campaign with the Southern 500 Labor Day weekend.
The elimination schedule mirrors what was introduced last season with Bristol Motor Speedway ending the opening round of the playoffs, Charlotte Motor Speedway‘s Roval capping Round 2 and Martinsville Speedway hosting the race that will ultimately determine the Championship 4. Phoenix Raceway will again host the title race on November 7.
So without further ado, here are the drivers that will have a shot at hoisting the NASCAR Cup Series trophy after the final checkered flag of the campaign flies nine months from now:
Pistone’s 2021 Predicted Cup Series Playoff Field
Martin Truex Jr.
Missing from last year: Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Matt DiBenedetto, Cole Custer
Cup Series: Kevin Harvick may not win nine races as he did a year ago but he will not miss the Championship 4 field. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will advance to the Phoenix finale and will best the other three competitors to earn his second Cup Series crown.
Xfinity Series: The veteran presence of Justin Allgaier and the JR Motorsports team will prevail in 2021. Allgaier had all kinds of bad luck last season but that‘ll be rectified this year in a big way with the title.
Camping World Truck Series: Zane Smith will keep the GMS Racing juggernaut going with this year‘s title. The young driver came into his own a year ago and is ready to take the next step to a NCWTS championship.