NASCAR Cup Series Preview 2021: Part-time teams and others

With Daytona looming, ESM rounds out its NASCAR previews with a quick look at 2021’s developing, part-time, and low-budget teams.

Beard Motorsports

2021 Beard Motorsports Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Noah Gragson 62 Darren Shaw Beard Oil

Time will tell what the future holds for Beard Motorsports, whose patriarch, Mark Beard, passed away earlier this month. The team was running superspeedway races annually since 2015 with Brendan Gaughan and has respectable showings, including top tens at both Daytona oval races last season. Gragson, an Xfinity contender, attempted to reach the Daytona 500 but was caught in a late wreck during Thursday night’s Duels.

Gaunt Brothers Racing

2021 Gaunt Brothers Racing
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Ty Dillon 96 Dave Winston Black Rifle Coffee/Bass Pro Shops

For the second straight year, chaos during the Duels will keep GBR’s No. 96 Toyota out of the Daytona 500. Dillon, a free agent after Germain Racing’s departure from the sport, finished sixth but missed out on a Daytona spot on a technicality of sorts. Plans for the rest of the season are unclear, but the team will likely attempt to run road courses and superspeedways. Dillon is signed on to race again next week at the Daytona road course.

Go Fas Racing

2021 Go Fas Racing Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Ryan Ellis 32 TBD TBD

Go Fas has scaled back their proceedings after running full-time in each of the past four Cup seasons with Matt DiBenedetto and Corey LaJoie. Formal plans have yet to be announced, but rumors have circulated that the team will attempt a part-time slate with Xfinity Series veteran Ellis.

Kaulig Racing

2021 Kaulig Racing Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Kaz Grala/A.J. Allmendinger 16 Matt Swiderski Fraternal Order of Eagles

Matt Kaulig’s racing endeavor has taken the Xfinity Series by storm, as his cars have won seven races over the past two seasons. Two drivers, Haley and Ross Chastain, went to the Xfinity Series playoff last year while former Cup racer Allmendinger won twice in 11 attempts. Allmendinger played that success into a full-time Xfinity ride this year, and it’s likely Kaulig will field him in the Cup ride for road course races, starting with Daytona’s next weekend.

Grala will pilot the car for the traditional oval race at Daytona, gaining entry with a 14th-place finish in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels. It’s possible he could run the other superspeedway events as well, though Xfinity regular Justin Haley has been a possibility as well. Haley won three races and finished third in Kaulig’s No. 11 Chevrolet last Xfinity season. The Cup ride appears to be in good hands with Grala, who came home seventh in his first career Cup start at the Daytona road course last season, subbing for an ill Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

“They’re planning on running a handful of Cup races this year, not just this one race like they did last year,” Grala said. “I think it’s been the worst-kept secret that they have aspirations to get to the Cup Series, racing it full-time down the road, try to be a multi-car team down the road. This is the first small step towards a big picture. I know (racing at Daytona) a victory for everybody at the team.”

Live Fast Motorsports 

2021 Live Fast Motorsports Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
B.J. McLeod 78 Frank Kerr NASCAR Heat 5/Keen Partk

Live Fast is a new, joint endeavor between McLeod and Matt Tifft, the former being an ex-Xfinity contender before his first Cup year ended due to medical issues. The team has a technical partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing and acquired a charter from Go Fas’ scaled-down program.

McLeod ran 15 Cup events last season, all but two with his own team that primarily competes in Xfinity endeavors.

“If we ran 28th, 25th on speed before race scenarios play out, I would be extremely excited with that for our first year because I know a lot of people are like, ‘Hey, everybody wants to win.’ I want to win,” McLeod said of team expectations this year. “I mean, I’ve won at everything I ever did before I came to NASCAR, but the level of competition wins do come in 30th place. Wins do come in 33rd. Wins do come in 25th.”

“Trust me, I’ve done it myself driving, owning, all of it and it’s unreal what you have to put yourself through to get a 33rd-place finish in the Cup Series. It’s extremely difficult and I feel like that part of it is not the biggest concern as being prepared for the NEXT Gen car and having a shot to have everything in place and ready to just learn the new car.”

MBM Motorsports

2021 MBM Motorsports Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Garrett Smithley/Chad Finchum 13 Mark Hillman Trophy Tractor
Timmy Hill 66 Clinton Cram VSI Racing

During the coronavirus-induced pause, Hill took over the sports world by more-or-less “winning” the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series held in lieu of actual races in the spring. Hill’s efforts were commemorated with a celebration in victory lane when the series rebooted in Texas. The exposure allowed Hill to get funding to run a full Cup Series season in reality. His best finish was a 19th at Bristol in the spring. Hill will return to the No. 66 this year but compete for Xfinity Series points.

The No. 13 was previously numbered 49, but the team took over the current numeral after longtime holders Germain Racing shut down. Smithley attempted to race it into the Daytona 500, but was caught up in a late wreck during the Bluegreen Vacation Duels that led to elimination.

Rick Ware Racing

2021 Rick Ware Racing Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Derrike Cope/J.J. Yeley/James Davison 15 Pat Tryson Jacob Companies
Cody Ware 51 Mike Hillman Nurtec
Josh Bilicki 52 Peter Sopenzo Wisconsin Lighting Lab/Insurance King/Junction Fuels
James Davison/Joey Gase/J.J. Yeley 53 Billy Plourde Page Construction

Ware’s low-budget empire carries on in 2021 with some relatively familiar faces. Cope, the 1990 Daytona 500 winner, will take over the No. 15 for the opening race before giving away to returnees like Davison, Yeley, and Smithley. The. 15 was purchased from defunct Premium Motorsports and was driven by Rookie of the Year contender Brennan Poole last season. Poole’s ninth-place posting at Talladega last fall was the team’s other top ten finish apart from part-time collaborative venture with David Ragan and Front Row.

Spire Motorsports

2021 Spire Motorsports Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Corey LaJoie 7 Ryan Sparks Schluter Systems/Youtheory
Jamie McMurray/Justin Haley/TBD 77 Kevin Bellicourt AdventHealth/General Formulations/Mutoh America/Royal Sovereign

Spire has had a rough go at it at the Cup Series level, but they have some big plans for progress in 2021. The team purchased assets from defunct Leavine Family Racing, allowing them to open a second full-time car. That new car, the No. 7, will be driven by LaJoie, formerly of Go Fas Racing and the son of two-time Busch (now Xfinity) Series Randy.

Meanwhile, the team will continue to operate the No. 77 with a variety of drivers, starting with 2010 Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray at the same event, duplicating a process from 2018. Haley, who won a rain-shortened event for Spire at Daytona in July 2019, will also return to the car on a part-time basis for the third straight season. He was responsible for the 77’s best finish last year (11th at Talladega in the fall). Haley is also competing for an Xfinity championship full-time with Kaulig Racing.

In addition to these new developments, Spire has welcomed former crew chief Steve Letarte. The NBC Sports NASCAR analyst was a crew chief at Hendrick Motorsports for 12 seasons, working with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Spire also played a major in the development of The Crew, an upcoming Netflix comedy series starring Kevin James (The King of Queens) and centering on the daily happenings of a NASCAR squad.

StarCom Racing

2021 StarCom Racing Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Quin Houff 00 George Church Mane ‘n Tail

Low-budget StarCom ran its No. 00 full-time, but saw a dip in performance with the rookie Houff replacing veteran Landon Cassill. Houff’s best finish was a 13th at Talladega, the team’s lone run inside the top 20.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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