Who’s hot, who’s not leaving Florida and heading out west

The Florida portion of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is now behind us. Between two races at the Daytona International Speedway and one on Sunday at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, there’s a group of drivers that are happy to leave the Sunshine state and a group that’s not.

Who’s Hot

  • Michael McDowell – For the first time of his career, he has three straight top 10 finishes. He won the Daytona 500 for his first career victory. McDowell, followed that up with an eighth place run on the Daytona road course and was sixth last Sunday in Homestead. While stats for the upcoming west coast swing aren’t favorable, neither were his stats on this stretch either.
  • Kevin Harvick – It has been a wildly quiet start for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver. Still, he has three top six finishes in as many tries and heading to some good tracks for him coming up. Harvick, has four straight top 10 finishes at Vegas including five in his last six tries. Then it’s to Phoenix to where he has 15 straight top 10 results including 10 top two results since 2012 at that. After Phoenix it’s to Atlanta to where he won at last year and has 12 top 10 finishes in his last 14 tries there overall including two wins over the last three years too.
  • Kyle Larson – A top 10 in the ‘500, a spin while running in the top 10 late in the race on the DIS road course and a fourth place run last Sunday at Homestead. That’s a solid start for Larson. Now, it’s off to Vegas to where he has five top 10’s in his last six tries including three of which being in the top three. After that we go south to Phoenix to where Larson has four straight top six results. Then it’s to Atlanta where he has two top 10’s in his last three tries. After, it’s on the Bristol dirt track where he has to be THE favorite.
  • Denny Hamlin – An unapproved adjustment and speeding penalty kept Hamlin out of the top 10 in Homestead. He had two top fives to start the year off with in Daytona prior. Hamlin, isn’t too strong at the next track in Vegas to where he has one top five in his last eight tries and four finishes of 15th or worse in his last six. In Phoenix though, he does have three top five results in his last four. Then he goes to Atlanta with two top fives there in the last three years.
  • Kurt Busch – Another driver with a quiet start. He does have two straight top eight finishes after rebounding from outside the top 25 in both to do so. Busch, won the last race in Vegas and heads back with momentum. In Phoenix, he has three top 10’s in his last six starts. Atlanta may be his best track on this next stretch with three wins in 29 starts including 10 top 10’s in his last 13 tries.

Who’s Cold

  • Ryan Blaney – This has been a horrid start for him. 30th, 15th and 29th respectively. Blaney, has really been a non factor in each. It has potential to get better quickly though. In Vegas, he has six top seven finishes in his last eight starts. At Phoenix, Blaney has three top six results in his last four tries. Then, it’s to Atlanta, a track he finished fourth at last year.
  • Aric Almirola – Not a great start for him either. He was collected in an early crash at Daytona and finished 34th. He was a non factor the last two weeks with finishes of 17th and 30th respectively. He’s not been good lately at the tracks coming up either. His last three Vegas finishes are 13th, 21st and 17th respectively. In Phoenix, he was eighth in this race last year but 13th in November. He was also 22nd in November 2019 too. Outside of that, he does have five top 10’s in his seven starts there. Then, he’s never had a top five in Atlanta and has been 11th or worse in eight of his last 10 tries.
  • Matt DiBenedetto – Not a good audition out of the gates for him. He’s a free agent at seasons end and his results so far in 2021 are 33rd, 37th and 28th respectively. He did come home runner-up in both Vegas races last year though. He was 13th and eighth in Phoenix in 2020 too. In Atlanta though, he was 25th a year ago. So, if he’s going to get this season turned around, he has to do so in Vegas or Phoenix.
  • Chase Briscoe – The rookie was 19th, 32nd and 18th respectively. It’s not been a barn burning start, but he’s still a rookie and this was somewhat expected.
  • Bubba Wallace – He looked good at Daytona but finished 17th in the ‘500. He has been non existent the last two weeks with a 26th place finish on the road course at Daytona and only 22nd at Homestead. It’s hard to compare past stats for him at the upcoming tracks since he was with an underfunded team at them.

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