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2021 season preview: Richard Childress Racing

Editor’s Note: Today’s Richard Childress Racing preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.

RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING

Manufacturer: Chevrolet
Engine: ECR Engines
Driver-crew chief pairings: Austin Dillon-Justin Alexander (No. 3); Tyler Reddick-Randall Burnett (No. 8)

What’s new: Nothing really and that continuity is a good thing as RCR has no changes to its driver lineup for the first time since 2017. RCR leaned into analytics from its “war room” to help make determinations on pit calls with at-track personnel limited from the COVID-19 pandemic protocols, so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues. From the technical alliance side, Trackhouse Racing Team is onboard, making Daniel Suarez a de facto teammate. It’s similar to their relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports and its new driver, Erik Jones.

Team outlook: The goal is to get both of its cars to the playoffs — the last time RCR had two teams in the playoffs was 2017 with Dillon and Ryan Newman. With Dillon’s maturity and Reddick’s growth, the possibility exists for the organization to have multiple drivers win for the first time since 2017. At the very least, one of its two cars should be playoff bound. Under the elimination format, RCR has only completely missed the playoffs once (2019) in seven seasons.

Racing Insights’ stats break: The team led 168 laps led — their most in a season since 2013. They also had twice as top-10 finishes as they did in 2019. Dillon and Reddick’s 1-2 finish at Texas in July were two of seven top fives for RCR in 2020.

RELATED: All of RCR’s wins by driver

Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet

Experience: Eighth full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: 11th in final standings; One win, four top fives and nine top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 16th
2021 championship odds: 100-1

Austin Dillon
Cooper Neill | Getty Images

Outlook: Dillon is coming off a 2020 season that saw him reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five years and reach Victory Lane for the third time in four years. Teaming back up with Alexander, Dillon showed an improvement on short tracks and a steady consistency on 1.5-mile tracks. One trouble spot to watch for with Dillon in 2021: Road courses. With seven on the schedule this year, they carry increasing importance and he has not finished in the top 10 in any of his 15 starts on that track type. After posting a career high in laps led, reaching the Round of 12 and his best standings finish since 2017, the expectation will be for AD to carry that late-season momentum forward into 2021 with another playoff berth and playoff advancement.

Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Chevrolet

Experience: Second full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: 19th in final standings; 0 wins, three top fives and nine top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 18th
2021 championship odds: 80-1

Tyler Reddick
Katelyn Mulcahy | Getty Images

Outlook: Reddick’s freshman season in the Cup Series saw him experience some strong peaks — runner-up to his teammate in the summer at Texas and a great fourth-place run at Homestead-Miami — as well as quite a few valleys — five crash-induced finishes and a forgettable doubleheader at Pocono. Growing pains in Year 1 were to be expected, but a jump to the playoffs in Year 2 is the expectation. The 25-year-old California native is a threat to win at several tracks with Homestead-Miami and the Bristol dirt race topping the list — thanks to his dirt background and his proclivity to ride the high line. Another key to making the playoffs? Consistency, finishes and stage points. That means more top 10s and top 15s, less droughts without those finishes and scoring more than 75 stage points — his total in 2020.

NASCAR.com 2021 team previews schedule

Jan. 18: 23XI Racing
Jan. 19: Trackhouse Racing Team
Jan. 20: Live Fast Motorsports
Jan. 21: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 22: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 25: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 26: Richard Petty Motorsports
Jan. 27: Roush Fenway Racing
Jan. 28: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 29: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 30: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Feb. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing
Feb. 2: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 3: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 4: Team Penske
Feb. 5: Hendrick Motorsports