Potential milestones for 2021 NASCAR Cup drivers, teams

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Even in times of great change, it’s all about the numbers.

So it goes with NASCAR, which comes off its most unique season to date and is preparing for another one that could be equally as compelling.

The championship remains the ultimate goal for the sport’s top drivers, but many of them can also put some important numbers on their resumes in 2021.

Here is a look at select milestones that may be reached…

DRIVER MILESTONES

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick can crack 60 career Cup wins with two more victories in 2021. That would appear to be a reachable goal, as he has earned multiple wins in eight consecutive seasons.

He also enters this season on a run of 676 consecutive starts, which dates back to April 21, 2002 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The weekend before at Martinsville Speedway, Harvick was parked for the Cup race after being penalized for rough driving against Coy Gibbs in that weekend’s Truck Series race.

Provided he doesn’t miss any races, Harvick can reach 700 consecutive starts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Aug. 15.

Additionally, with 13 more starts, he can reach 1,200 career starts across the three NASCAR national series.

Kyle Busch

Like Harvick, Kyle Busch can also get to 60 Cup wins – but he needs three more to get there.

A win this season would extend his ongoing streak to 17 consecutive seasons with a Cup victory. That would match David Pearson (1964-80) for the second-longest run. Richard Petty (1960-77) holds the longest run at 18 winning seasons.

Provided he doesn’t miss any races, Busch can reach 600 career Cup starts at his home track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the playoffs on Sept. 26.

Finally, Busch can reach 100 Xfinity Series wins with three more victories, and 60 career Camping World Truck Series with one more victory.

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin has an opportunity to become the first driver to claim three consecutive Daytona 500 wins. He became the fourth back-to-back winner in “500” history last February, joining Petty, Cale Yarborough and Sterling Marlin.

Hamlin enters the season with 44 Cup wins and is on target to reach 50 if he maintains his recent run. He has claimed 13 victories over the last two seasons.

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. is in striking distance of reaching 30 Cup wins this season, coming in with 27 victories. He earned just one win in 2020, which was his first one-win campaign since 2015. The following year, in 2016, he won four times.

Truex Jr. also is poised to reach 10,000 career laps led in Cup. He needs to pace 144 laps to hit the mark. Last season, he led 950 laps and hasn’t led less than 567 since the 2015 season.

Joey Logano

Also close to entering the 30-win club is Joey Logano, who has 26 victories to his credit. He’s earned multiple wins in three consecutive seasons. However, he hasn’t earned at least four wins in a season since 2015, when he got six.

Kurt Busch

10,000 career laps led in Cup are in sight for Kurt Busch. He needs to lead 98 more laps to hit the mark. Last year, he led 169 laps.

Chase Elliott

Reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott is two wins away from tying Jeff Gordon’s record of six consecutive Cup road course victories.

The first two road races of the year come Feb. 21 at Daytona International Speedway and May 23 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Ryan Newman

With just 11 more starts, Ryan Newman can reach 700 for his Cup career. Provided he doesn’t miss any races, he can get to 700 on May 2 at Kansas Speedway.

He’s also two wins shy of 20 in his Cup career, but hasn’t gone to Victory Lane since 2017.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Eight more starts will bring Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to 300 in his Cup career. Provided he doesn’t miss any races, he’ll hit this milestone on April 10 at Martinsville.

Austin Dillon

Austin Dillon is at 264 career Cup starts, but can reach 300 by running the entire 36-race schedule this season.

Last season, he missed the inaugural Cup race at the Daytona road course after testing positive for COVID-19; Kaz Grala made his Cup debut in his place.

TEAM MILESTONES

Joe Gibbs Racing

JGR’s previous driver stable of Kyle Busch, Truex, Hamlin and Erik Jones blitzed the field for a combined 19 wins and a championship in 2019. Last year, Hamlin was the clear number one as the organization took a collective step back, earning just nine wins. With Christopher Bell replacing Jones in the No. 20 Toyota, can they regain their form from two years ago? If so, they can make a proper pursuit of 200 Cup wins; they enter the season at 185 victories.

Wood Brothers Racing

NASCAR’s oldest team has been stuck on 99 Cup wins since Ryan Blaney‘s victory at Pocono Raceway in June 2017. Since that day, the team has posted just five top-five finishes – but three of them came last season with Matt DiBenedetto. The Californian is still seeking his first Cup win, and with Austin Cindric replacing him in the No. 21 Ford in 2022, a victory would be important for his future.

NOTABLE FULL-TIMERS WITHOUT A CUP WIN (Entering 2021 Season)

Michael McDowell – 357 starts

Michael McDowell enters his fourth full season in the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports. His best finish in the entry is a pair of fifths in 2019 at the Daytona 500 and the fall race at Talladega Superspeedway.

His career-best Cup finish was a fourth-place showing at Daytona for Leavine Family Racing in July 2017.

Matt DiBenedetto – 212 starts

Matt DiBenedetto’s two runner-up finishes last season, both at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, tied his career-best result in Cup, which he first accomplished in the 2019 Bristol race.

Daniel Suarez – 143 starts

Daniel Suarez gets a fresh start in 2021 with Trackhouse Racing, led by co-owners Justin Marks and Pitbull. The former Xfinity Series champion’s best finish in Cup is a runner-up result at Pocono Raceway in July 2018 for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Corey LaJoie – 129 starts

Joining a growing operation at Spire Motorsports, Corey LaJoie is still seeking his first top-five finish in Cup. He finished eighth in last year’s Daytona 500 for Go Fas Racing, which has scaled back to a part-time schedule.

Timmy Hill – 128 starts

Timmy Hill is among those hoping to race their way into this year’s Daytona 500. His best finish in Cup is 14th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 2017 Brickyard 400.

Bubba Wallace – 112 starts

Many eyes, both in and out of NASCAR, will be on Bubba Wallace and the new 23XI Racing team this season. Two of Wallace’s three career top-five finishes in Cup have come at Daytona, including his runner-up performance at the 2018 Daytona 500.