The final race of the 2021 season is upon us, but who will win the NASCAR Cup title. The Focus runs the rule over the four contenders left standing. Who will come out on top?
At least the best driver in 2021 has made the Championship 4 race, unlike in 2020 where Kevin Harvick was dumped in the semi-finals.
In the class of 2021, there’s the best driver, the fan’s favourite, a driver the fans despise and a 750bhp package specialist.
NASCAR Championship 4 drivers
It will be two Hendrick Motorsports drivers verses two Joe Gibbs Racing entries.
Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott fly the flag for Hendrick, with Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr the Gibbs duo.
Of course, making a prediction pre-race is a fool-hardy thing to do, especially in NASCAR.
A caution for ‘debris’ or a spin might send the race to overtime where all bets are off.
But still, a case can be made for each of the four drivers involved – and one has a stronger case than the rest…
NASCAR Cup title on the line for Hendrick
It’s been a season for the ages for Kyle Larson.
Nine wins, the most stage wins, the record number of laps led in a 36 race season… the records keep going.
The race at Phoenix will use the 750bhp package – something Hendrick has struggled with at times this season.
Larson did however win with it at Bristol and the Charlotte Roval – so there’s pace in the Chevy.
He’s got an average finish of 11.64 in Arizona, and that won’t do on race day – where the highest placed driver will win the title.
Larson was seventh in the spring, and he will use the exact same car he did that day on Sunday.
In a conventional championship, the question of who will win the NASCAR Cup title would already be answered.
It would be Larson, simple as that. But thanks to the Playoffs system, a crown that should be his is at risk.
It is hard to bet against him, but there is another one of our contenders who is stronger.
Will it be Chase Elliott?
In a word, no.
The Focus believes Elliott to be the longest shot of the four.
Yes, he did win the title in 2020, by winning at Phoenix, but he has been drubbed this year by Larson.
He has not won on an oval or short track – his two wins coming on road courses.
And even one of them – at COTA – was shortened by rain.
It’s not been a bad season by any means, and with Alan Gustafsson atop the box there is always a chance.
But the reigning champion is the rank outsider as to who will win the 2021 NASCAR Cup title.
The Gibbs threat
Toyota were terrible on short tracks in 2020.
Something that had been their bread and butter was taken away.
Denny Hamlin was lucky to make it to Phoenix – but as the sole Toyota entry didn’t stand much of a chance.
His package was not fastest, by a long way.
But this year is different. Joe Gibbs and Toyota have smashed the 750bhp package.
Hamlin picked up his first win at Darlington with it and it’s been a remarkable season of consistency from the #11.
He knows he must win a title soon. The threat of becoming this generation’s Mark Martin looms ever closer.
A Hall of Famer in the future no doubt, surely Hamlin must be the one who will win the NASCAR Cup title at some point?
If he does not, the biggest tick on the CV will go un-checked. He professes it doesn’t bother him, but it does.
Whether it will be a sixth-time lucky shot at the title for the triple Daytona 500 winner is another question.
Martin Truex Jr
Truex is fortunate in how the calendar shapes up.
Martinsville and Phoenix are both 750bhp package races and Truex is the best in the field with it.
Four wins in 2021 have all come at 750bhp short tracks – Darlington, Martinsville and Richmond.
He also won at Phoenix in the spring, so he has the pedigree.
Of all the contenders, his case is about level-pegging with Larson as to who will win the NASCAR Cup title.
Who will win the 2021 NASCAR Cup title?
It will not be Elliott.
The evidence just doesn’t support his claim.
Yes, he looked strong at Martinsville and won two stages, but this season, the performance just hasn’t been there.
Hamlin could, and if he is to ever a title, he needs to know.
Letting another title slip through his fingers will only add fuel to the fire – although it would be pretty funny if he did – given his low-standing with a large chunk of the fanbase.
And then there is Larson and Truex Jr.
One of these two will be the driver who will win the NASCAR Cup title in 2021.
The dominant driver versus the specialist.
Given what happened in 2020 to him, a Larson win would be the best story – a fairytale.
But motorsport and NASCAR don’t do fairytales.
So, in answer to the question ‘Who will win the 2021 NASCAR Cup title,’ The Focus has one name as favourite:
Martin Truex Jr.