Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

2021 season preview: Chip Ganassi Racing

Editor’s Note: Today’s Chip Ganassi 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.


Manufacturer: Chevrolet
Engine: Hendrick Motorsports
Driver-crew chief pairings: Kurt Busch-Matt McCall (No. 1), Ross Chastain-Phil Surgen (No. 42)

What’s new: After the midstream departure of Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing needed a talented driver to fill the No. 42 seat full-time in 2021. Enter the ‘Watermelon Man’ — Ross Chastain. The 28-year-old NASCAR veteran joins the Chevrolet stable with scattered Cup Series experience, checking in with eight premier series starts a year ago for Spire Motorsports after season-long stints with Premium Motorsports in 2018-19.

RELATED: Ross Chastain joins CGR full-time

Team outlook: Combining the elder Busch’s two decades of veteran experience with the dauntless driving ability of Chastain makes Chip Ganassi Racing an exciting team to watch in 2021. Based on recent history, Busch is almost a lock to make another playoff appearance in his 21st full-time season. The challenge will be bringing the No. 42 team back to race-winning form after last year’s shakeup.

Racing Insights stats break: Kurt Busch enters 2021 hoping to extend both his seven-season streak with at least one win and his seven-season streak of making the playoffs. Chastain will be aiming for his first Cup Series top 10 since the 2019 Daytona 500. As for the team, Chip Ganassi Racing has the opportunity to do in 2021 what it has never done before — win a race in three consecutive seasons.

Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chevrolet

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Experience: 21st full-time season in NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: 10th in the final standings; 1 win, 7 top fives, 19 top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 10th
2021 championship odds: 35-1

Outlook: Busch has been a model of consistency since joining the team in 2019 but will be looking to make a deeper playoff push this year, as many speculate this may be his final full year in the Cup Series with his contract ending at the end of the season. In the 2020 Round of 12, the wheelman silenced retirement chatter with an electrifying hometown victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He has made it clear that there is a lot left in the tank — expect him to bring the same energy in 2021.

Ross Chastain, No. 42 Chevrolet

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Experience: Third full-time season in NASCAR Cup Series (2018, 2019)
2020 stats: 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s (8 starts in NCS); 0 wins, 15 top fives, 27 top 10s (NXS)
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 37th
2021 championship odds: 50-1

Outlook: This will be Chastain’s third full season in the Cup Series, joining perhaps one of the most competitive teams of his racing career. An almost blank slate of premier-series stats allows the ‘Melon Man’ to set a new personal bar right out of the gate. Expect the pairing with an established winner in Kurt Busch to be beneficial throughout the year, as the No. 42 team should be able to routinely compete inside the top 15.

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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