Tuesday was a busy day on the NASCAR Cup Series front in terms of Daytona 500 entries. Four different drivers were announced with Josh Bilicki and Derrike Cope driving for Rick Ware Racing in the Great American Race. Bilicki will drive the No. 52 entry on a full time basis while Cope will be in the the No. 15 entry for just the ‘500. That car Cope is driving will be a partnership effort with StarCom Racing as Cope is the general manager for the team as well.
Then, you also had Ty Dillon being announced as the driver for the No. 96 Toyota for the Gaunt Brothers effort. That’s just a one-race deal as of now. Prior to that unveiling, Jamie McMurray was tabbed as the driver for the No. 77 Chevrolet with Spire Motorsports in a joint effort in conjunction with Chip Ganassi Racing.
That comes a day after Cody Ware was announced as the driver for the No. 51 entry with RWR. Joey Gase will be in the other car as that deal was announced last Friday.
Now, we get the seventh Daytona 500 driver announcement since the end of last week. On Wednesday morning, it was announced that reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion Austin Cindric will look to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut next month in “The Great American Race.” Cindric will drive the No. 33 Ford Mustang for Team Penske as he attempts to qualify for the 63rd Daytona 500. Miles Stanley, who has worked as race engineer for Team Penske’s No. 12 and No. 22 Cup Series teams, will serve as crew chief for Cindric and the No. 33 Ford team in 2021.
“There is a lot to be excited about heading into Daytona,” said Cindric. “It doesn’t really even need to be said that the Daytona 500 is the biggest crown jewel race in NASCAR and one of the biggest races in the world – so to have a shot to be in the show while driving for Roger Penske is a big opportunity. Qualifying our way into the race as an ‘open’ car will be a big challenge. I look forward to working with Miles and all of the guys on the No. 33 team, while also continuing my focus on winning back-to-back Xfinity Series Championships.”
As he tries to earn a starting spot in the Daytona 500, Cindric hopes to make his Cup Series debut following a season that saw him score six victories and 19 top-five finishes on his way to the 2020 Xfinity Series Championship. The 22-year-old Cindric will return to defend his Xfinity Series title this season and he will also compete in select Cup Series races in the No. 33 Ford Mustang before he joins the series full-time in 2022, driving for Wood Brothers Racing.
Stanley joined Team Penske prior to the start of the 2013 race season and served as an engineer for crew chief Todd Gordon and driver Joey Logano. During his first seven seasons, the No. 22 team amassed 21 wins (including the 2015 Daytona 500), 100 top-five finishes,159 top-10s and the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Championship before Stanley transitioned to race engineer for the No. 12 Ford team and driver Ryan Blaney last season. Prior to joining Team Penske, Stanley served as crew chief for Robby Gordon’s NASCAR operation.
“Ever since I joined Team Penske in 2013, I’ve been able to grow as an engineer and learn from some of the best in the business,” said Stanley. “Now I get the chance to become a Cup Series crew chief with one of the formidable organizations in the sport, which is an amazing opportunity. To get to do it with Austin at Daytona International Speedway is a perfect recipe for success. I look forward to working with him and hitting the ground running with the No. 33 Ford team in Daytona and the other Cup Series races that Austin runs in 2021.”
So, where does that take us now in terms of entries. So far, we have 44 entered for 40 spots. That’s the most since there were 44 cars entered for the 2016 race. There were 50 cars entered for the 2015 race which is the most since 2011.
Over the last 11 years, we’ve had 44 entries so far this year, 43 in 2020, 42 in 2019, 40 in 2018, 42 in 2017, 44 in 2016, 50 in 2015, 49 in 2014, 45 in 2013, 49 in 2012 and 48 in 2011. There were 54 cars entered for the 2010 races.
Here’s a breakdown for this year’s entry list as of now. .
Hendrick Motorsports (4) – Chase Elliott is back through the 2022 season. William Byron and Alex Bowman each reached new deals with Byron through 2022 and Bowman through next season. Kyle Larson becomes the fourth driver.
Rick Ware Racing (4) – Joey Gase, Cody Ware, Josh Bilicki and Derrike Cope
Chip Ganassi Racing (2) – Kurt Busch is back in part of his multi-year deal with a new teammate in Ross Chastain.
Richard Childress Racing (2) – Tyler Reddick has already indicated that he’ll be back in 2021 with Austin Dillon as the teammate. There’s no reason to expand to a third car with their alliance with Trackhouse Entertainment Group and RPM still.
Spire (2) – The 77 will be back but they also purchased the assets to Leavine Family Racing too. LaJoie is in the newly branded the No. 7 Chevrolet entry with the 77 car to have multiple drivers in it. Jamie McMurray will drive the car in the Daytona 500.
Richard Petty Motorsports (1) – Erik Jones will drive this car in a new multi year deal.
JTG Daugherty Racing (1) – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is back in the No. 47 Chevrolet
Trackhouse Entertainment Group (1) – Daniel Suarez is the driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet.
StarCom Racing (1) – Quin Houff signed a two-year deal and will be back in 2021.
Stewart-Haas Racing (4) – Three of their four drivers are back. Kevin Harvick has a deal through 2023, Aric Almirola has a one year extension while Cole Custer is back and I don’t see him leaving soon with who his dad is and his role with that team. Briscoe was announced as their driver in the 14.
Team Penske (3) – All three drivers are back in 2021. Logano and Blaney have multi year deals with Keselowski reportedly working on a one year extension.
Roush Fenway Racing (2) – Both Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher are expected back.
Front Row Motorsports (2) – Michael McDowell and Anthony Alfredo will race full time for them in 2021.
Wood Brothers (1) – Matt DiBenedetto is back for 2021 before moving way to Austin Cindric for 2022.
Live Fast Motorsports (1) – BJ McLeod will drive the car for this new team. They’ll keep the alliance with SHR that Go Fas Racing did.
Joe Gibbs Racing (4) – Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are all back for 2021. Christopher Bell slides in to replace Erik Jones in the No. 20 Toyota.
23XI (1) – Bubba Wallace
Non Charter Teams (8)
MBM Motorsports (2) – Timmy Hill and Chad Finchum will be in these cars.
JTG Daugherty Racing (1) – Ryan Preece should be back in the No. 37 entry. Their charter was leased from Furniture Row Racing’s second car when they ended up closing shop but it’s not went elsewhere.
Front Row Motorsports (1) – David Ragan is in the No. 36 Ford
Team Penske (1) – Austin Cindric will be in the No. 33 Ford
Beard Motorsports (1) – Noah Gragson was announced on Thursday to be driving the No. 62 Chevrolet
Kaulig Racing (1) – They’ll do more part time races in 2021 with the Daytona 500 being one of them. Kaz Grala will pilot the No. 16 Chevrolet in them.
Gaunt Brothers (1) – Ty Dillon will be in the No. 96 Toyota
We still have one team in NY Racing that has a car (No. 44) that has stated their intent to run the race. That would push the entry list up to 45. There’s also a possibility of Tommy Baldwin Racing entering as well to help this move up to 46 cars for 40 spots.
Daytona 500 Numbered Entry List
00- Quin Houff (StarCom Racing Chevrolet)
1- Kurt Busch (Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet)
2- Brad Keselowski (Team Penske Ford)
3- Austin Dillon (RCR Chevrolet)
4- Kevin Harvick (SHR Ford)
5- Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
6- Ryan Newman (Roush Fenway Racing Ford)
7- Corey LaJoie (Spire Motorsports Chevrolet)
8- Tyler Reddick (RCR Chevrolet)
9- Chase Elliott (HMS Chevrolet)
10- Aric Almirola (SHR Ford)
11- Denny Hamlin (JGR Toyota)
12- Ryan Blaney (Team Penske Ford)
14- Chase Briscoe R (SHR Ford)
15- Derrike Cope (Rick Ware Racing/StarCom Chevrolet)
16- Kaz Grala R (Kaulig Racing Chevrolet) *Non Charter
17- Chris Buescher (RFR Ford)
18- Kyle Busch (JGR Toyota)
19- Martin Truex Jr. (JGR Toyota)
20- Christopher Bell (JGR Toyota)
21- Matt DiBenedetto (Wood Brothers Racing Ford)
22 – Joey Logano (Team Penske Ford)
23- Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing Toyota)
24- William Byron (HMS Chevrolet)
33- Austin Cindric (Team Penske Ford) *Non Charter
34- Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports Ford)
36- David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports Ford) *Non Charter
37 – Ryan Preece (JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet) *Non Charter
38- Anthony Alfredo R (Front Row Motorsports Ford)
43- Erik Jones (Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet)
41- Cole Custer (SHR Ford)
42- Ross Chastsain (CGR Chevrolet)
47- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet)
48- Alex Bowman (HMS Chevrolet)
49- Chad Finchum (MBM Ford) *Non Charter (could be a different car number too)
51- Cody Ware (Petty Ware Racing Ford)
52- Josh Bilicki (Rick Ware Racing Ford)
53- Joey Gase (Rick Ware Racing Ford)
62- Noah Gragson R (Beard Motorsports Chevrolet) *Non Charter
66- Timmy Hill (MBM Ford) *Non Charter
77- Jamie McMurray (CGR/Spire Chevrolet)
78- BJ McLeod (Live Fast Motorsports Ford)
96- Ty Dillon (Gaunt Brothers Toyota) *Non Charter
99- Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet)
NASCAR unveiled next month’s Daytona Speedweeks schedule with on track action kicking off on Tuesday, Feb. 9 for the annual Busch Clash. The kicker this year is, there’s no practice beforehand.
The all-star race has always been run on the weekend prior to the Daytona 500, but this year the event was moved to a weeknight under the lights. It’s also for the first time ever being raced on the road course layout as well as the race will air on FS1.
Wednesday will feature the first NASCAR Cup Series practice session since March 6 of last year at the Phoenix Raceway. The drivers in NASCAR’s premiere series will take to the track for a 50 minute session from 12 p.m. ET to 12:55 p.m ET. Then, they’ll qualify for the 62nd annual Daytona 500 at 7 p.m. ET. Both practice as well as qualifying will air on FS1.
Thursday will have the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series first and only practice session that will run from 5:35 p.m. ET until 6:25 p.m. ET. That will be the appetizer for the Duels at Daytona which will contest after. Both the Truck Series practice as well as the Duels will also air on FS1 as well.
Friday will see ARCA practice from 1-2 p.m. ET (No TV) followed by Truck Series qualifying at 3:10 p.m. ET on FS1. The Xfinity Series will have their first practice of the season at 4:35 p.m. ET to 5:25 p.m ET on FS1. The NextEra Energy 250 Truck Series season opener will take place at 7:30 p.m ET on FS1 that night.
Saturday will feature two Cup Series practices. Both will air on FS1. The first from 9:30-10:20 a.m. ET and the second from 12:05-12:55 p.m ET. Sandwiched between will be NXS quals (10:40 a.m. ET), which starts on FS2 and moves to FS1 at 11 a.m. ET. ARCA will qualify at 8:30 a.m. ET then race at 1:30 p.m. ET with coverage on FS1.
Following the ARCA race will be the NXS season opener at 5 p.m. ET also on FS1.
The Daytona 500 will be on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
My takeaway from this is the Cup Series will practice just three times (1 session on Wednesday and 2 on Saturday). The Truck Series will be on track for just one practice on Thursday then qualifying/race on Saturday. The Xfinity Series will also practice once (Friday) and then qualify/race on Saturday.