The 2021 season started out in highly unexpected fashion when Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell — two drivers who had never before won a NASCAR Cup Series race — went to Victory Lane at the Daytona 500 (McDowell) and then the following weekend on the Daytona International Speedway road course (Bell). While the five races since Bell’s victory have produced no other first-time winners, this continues to feel like the kind of season that could yield as many as five or six first-time winners by the time the checkered flag waves at Phoenix Raceway in November.
Just this past Monday, on the Bristol dirt track, Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez spent most of the race in the thick of the hunt for his first win in NASCAR’s premier division and could have easily gone to Victory Lane if the stars had aligned in his favor. Others who appear to be not too far away from their first Cup Series win include two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick, Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ross Chastain.
With all the teams devoting significant resources right now to preparing the new Next Gen NASCAR Cup Series car that will debut in 2022, there seems to be more parity in NASCAR’s top series than in perhaps any other season in recent memory. This is because R&D has all but stopped on the current Gen-6 car, allowing teams with fewer resources to gain ground on and be more competitive with the powerhouse organizations such as Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske.