With seven road course races on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, we could legitimately have a new all-time road course winner by the end of the year.
Even though the coronavirus pandemic-related 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule changes knocked two of the three original road courses off the calendar and only replaced one of them with another left and right-turn track, the 2020 season taught us something.
It taught us that NASCAR has a new road course ace.
Chase Elliott got his first career Cup Series win at Watkins Glen International back in August of 2018, and he backed that up with another win at the track the following season before going on to win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval one month later — doing so even after crashing on his own on a restart.
He entered the 2020 season with two consecutive road course wins and three wins in his last five tries.
Sonoma Raceway was knocked off the calendar, as was Watkins Glen International. The latter was replaced by the Daytona International Speedway road course, which became the only road course on the schedule aside from the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Elliott dominated both races, again overcoming adversity to win at the Roval.
He has now won four consecutive road course races, second only to Jeff Gordon (six in a row), the driver he replaced after the 2015 season, on the all-time list. He is five for 12 throughout his career, and those five have all come in his last seven starts.
There are only six drivers who have won more road course races than Elliott all-time, and he secured his fifth win at the age of 24. No active driver has won more road course races than he has. 40-year-old Martin Truex Jr. is four for 32, and 35-year-old Kyle Busch is four for 34.
Now 25 years old, the Dawsonville, Georgia native has a chance to continue climbing this list in 2021. In fact, because of a number of schedule changes, there is a legitimate chance that we could see a new all-time winningest road course racer by the time the season ends.
There are seven road course races on this year’s 36-year schedule, including all three where Elliott has previously won (Daytona International Speedway road course, Watkins Glen International and Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval). Sonoma Raceway is also back.
Additions to the calendar include Circuit of the Americas, Road America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. There has been a combined one Cup Series race at those tracks all-time, with that lone race coming at Road America back in 1956.
The all-time road course wins record belongs to Gordon: nine (in 47 races). Four wins for Elliott in the 2021 season would tie that record, and five would break it. Based on how he has run lately, that is absolutely in the realm of possibility.
Sure, NASCAR didn’t used to race at this many road courses, but if Elliott were to break that record this year, it would happen well before 47 starts. In fact, everybody above him on the all-time road course wins competed in at least 34 road course races. Competing in all seven road course races this year would bring Elliott to 19 — barely half of 34 — starts.
The first road course race of the 2021 season is scheduled to take place this afternoon at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Will Elliott prevail there for the second year in a row? Fox is set to broadcast this race, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253, live beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET, and Elliott is set to start from the pole position.