CREW CHIEF: Alan Gustafson
TEAM: Hendrick Motorsports
POINTS: First in NASCAR Cup Series
WINS: Five (Charlotte II, Daytona – Road Course, Charlotte Roval, Martinsville II, Phoenix II)
LAPS LED: 1,247
TOP 5s: 15
TOP 10s: 22
POLES: Six (Phoenix I, Atlanta, Dover I, Southern 500, Kansas II, Phoenix II)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Stymied in the Round of 8 for the past three seasons, Elliott looked set to receive the same fate entering the cut race at Martinsville. But the 25-year-old delivered in the clutch, leading 236 laps on his way to, what he called at the time, the biggest win of his career. That changed one week later at Phoenix, where he overcame starting from the rear of the field and dominated the latter half of the race to take the checkered flag and his first Cup Series championship.
The triumph in the desert completed Elliott’s best year to date in Cup. He set new career-highs in wins, top-five finishes, top-10 finishes and laps led. It’s also worth noting that Elliott has now earned four consecutive road course wins, which bodes very well for him as road racing becomes a bigger part of the Cup landscape in 2021.
Additionally, Elliott claimed his first victory in the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Elliott had his first chance to get on the board in 2020 with a win in the second Darlington race, but that ended when Kyle Busch made contact with him and turned him into the wall. That earned Busch a middle finger from Elliott in the immediate aftermath.
Regarding the season as a whole, Elliott was relatively steady but had a bit of a lull during the summer. A crash at Talladega started a seven-race stretch where he recorded just one top-10 finish (fourth in the second race at Pocono).
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2021: Having achieved his long-awaited breakthrough, Elliott seems poised to be a title contender for the foreseeable future. As the sport’s most popular driver, he’s always had a bedrock of support. But as champion of the sport’s top level, he now has the necessary platform to draw in new fans from elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how he uses it.