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I feel like I always need to wait to write my recap of a season because as a DFS player, I tend to have some emotion that I need to lose about how a driver performed throughout the year. If anyone plays DFS without emotion 100% of the time, congrats to them because I can’t seem to do it.

What a year, though. NASCAR was the first major sport to return during the COVID pandemic, which gave it an opportunity to make new fans, which it did, according to some growth trackers I follow and trust. The younger generation is getting back into the sport, most likely largely due to people like Bubba Wallace, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. The next group coming behind them should be electric as well, and I think we stand to see the largest expansion the sport has seen in some time.

Now, let’s keep this relative, because NASCAR lost a gigantic amount of stature in it’s fan base after Dale’s death, and his son was never really able to be a permanent championship contender. So it has a loooooooooooong way to go to get out of the hole it has been in, but for the first time in a long time, relevant signs are showing that it is taking place.

What I want to do here is just take a look at how the season went, period. I know right now is a time that a lot of people are putting out content for 2021, and that is on it’s way.

But it can’t happen without giving 2020 it’s post-mortem.

I won’t be looking at the really small teams of guys like Brennan Poole, JJ Yeley or Josh Bilicki, just as examples. They have their own set of expectations as back-runners, and they all did just that, outside of the super speedways and some of the crazier situations like Bristol and Martinsville.

With that, let’s get these engines started.

1 – Kurt Busch

2020 Outcome – Overperformed

Kurt finished as the number ten driver in the points standing. It feels weird saying that was an overperformance,  but it’s just reality at this point. He was finally able to win on his home track, and made it into the final 8 before being eliminated. From a DFS perspective, he was most frequently a contrarian option due to his typical starting position versus where his relative finish was likely to be.

2 – Brad Keselowski

2020 Outcome – Overperformed

On a year to year basis, the expectations for Keselowski are that he is likely to be a contender. To finish 2nd, though, I think is usually in the lower percentage range of outcomes, so good on him for getting it done. He managed to win four races, which is again, well within the real of possibilities for him. He was a frequent DFS target due to his ability to lead laps, which is not something we were able to say about Kurt above.

3 – Austin Dillon

2020 Outcome – Overperformed

Three straight drivers into it, and we have three straight over performances. Austin was able to win a race on pit strategy, but I will never look at it like that. He was able to handle like 5 restarts to maintain the lead and get victory at Texas. He also managed to advance to the round of 12, which is probably more than was expected out of him. As he is rounding into his prime years, it will be interesting to see if 2020 will be a peak or ascension point in his career.

4 – Kevin Harvick

2020 Outcome – Neutral

Harvick is a guy who year in and year out is a contender. This might have been his best year yet, but he finishes neutral because he was unable too make it into the final round, but it is tough to say if he really would have been able to beat Chase or not. I will say with certainty that he is unquestionably my odds on favorite moving into 2021, as I think he will be more motivated than ever to add another championship to his resume.

6 – Ryan Newman

2020 Outcome – Almost died, but sadly, underperformed

2020 will always be known as the year that Ryan Newman almost died. It was unquestionably one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen and a moment that brought many fans to tears. He never quite looked the same after that. Sure, his abilities at super speedways are still there, which at any point could thrust him into the playoffs, but for the most part he appears as if he is someone whose best days are behind him.

8 – Tyler Reddick

2020 Outcome – Neutral

It felt like a tale of two seasons for Reddick. The early portion looked like he would be winning rookie of the year and potentially races. The backend of the year at times had me questioning a lot about him. Ultimately, there is much that can be said in any sport about hitting a rookie wall, which it looked like he did. 2021 will be a big year for his development, positive or negative.

9 – Chase Elliott 

2020 Outcome – Overperformed

I predicted Chase as the champion in 2019 so I was a year early on his victory, but I’m one who is willing to try to take victory laps when entirely undue. While talent is not a question at all, he had everything line up for him, and his prospects for 2021 are even better, which we will talk about in the 2021 preview.

10 – Aric Almirola

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

This one was a bit hard for me. At points this year, Almirola was totally dominant. At other points, he looked like an average driver. At the end of it all, he finished the season as a slightly above average driver, thought he did manage to make it to the round of 12 to be eliminated. Still, I left the season with a lot of questions about him.

11 – Denny Hamlin

2020 Outcome – Neutral

I can understand people not feeling comfortable with this rating considering how dominant he was at points. I will say he could have won even more races than he did. However, he is a guy who just can’t get the job done, and he feels like a guy who will finish like Carl Edwards as one who will be remembered as a great driver who couldn’t get the job done.

12 – Ryan Blaney

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

Huge Blaney fan here, but I am starting to get somewhat nervous in regards to how good he can actually be. He’s only 27, and is widely regarded as being a great driver, so I feel like I am being over reactionary, but he has been mediocre in the regular season and a disaster in the playoffs in at least back to back years, maybe even further. I do think 2021 is going to have to be a major prove it year for this team. 

13 – Ty Dillon

2020 Outcome – Neutral

Ty is another guy I like, and he hasn’t been given the same opportunity as Austin. The equipment he was in was never very good, and I think he managed to pull good results out of it when he could. Unfortunately, it was consistent enough. He finished 26th on the year, which is about what I think you would expect from him.

14 – Clint Bowyer

2020 Outcome – Neutral

Look, when I think of Bowyer, he’s always going to be someone I remember fondly. He is a down to earth guy with a great personality. On the track, though, he was often times a fader, a guy who started too high and ultimately left us without much ability to play him knowing he would fall back. He always seemed to fuck it up when he was in the lead too, which isn’t a terrific combination.

17 – Chris Buescher

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

I think the shift from JTG Daugherty to Roush Fenway wasn’t likely to be a massive increase in quality of equipment. However, It should have been enough for him to see better results, which he was not able to do. He is my favorite driver, so it pains me to say these things. My hope is that this is an anomaly and more of a moving to a new team and not having that connection yet. Buescher is an extremely talent driver on super speedways, and 2020 cemented that fact home.

18 – Kyle Busch

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

No one had a worse season than Kyle Busch, from an optics perspective. Once practice stopped, he struggled mightily. He was constantly moving backward and often not finishing at all. He did manage a win and an exit in the round of 12, but the results near the end of the season were encouraging.

19 – Martin Truex Jr.

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

Joe Gibbs in general looked poor, with the wild exception being Denny Hamlin. Did these guys just not communicate? I can’t imagine that being the issue. I was on record with this being a massive down opportunity for Truex with the loss of Cole Pearn, someone the entire team relied on and it was clear that he was very missed. He still finished 7th on the year.

20 – Erik Jones

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

This was a really bad year for Jones, some of his doing, some of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless, for a driver of this caliber in this equipment to miss the playoffs is not good, and that’s why he was future endeavored.

21 – Matt DiBenedetto

2020 Outcome – Neutral

I am not a MDB fanboy like many. My bold prediction given the consensus in the marketplace prior to 2020 was that he would not make the playoffs. Sure enough, he got the 16th slot, much due to the fact that Jimmie Johnson missed a race that certainly kept him from the playoffs. Nonetheless, MDB really did nothing special – at all. While I think he is a talented enough driver, I don’t think that he is anything overly special and will almost always be a fan favorite overplay on daily fantasy sites.

22 – Joey Logano

2020 Outcome – Neutral

We got out of Logano what we expected – duration into the playoffs and wins when no one was really looking his way. He is not a fan favorite by any stretch of the imagination, due to his combination of being aggressive and also being a crybaby when someone is aggressive with him, but I digress, as I’ve basically defined the majority of the field.

24 – William Byron

2020 Outcome – Neutral

Another guy I really don’t know how I want to define. On one hand, he got a win under his belt at Daytona, but on the other hand, he was a middling driving for the rest of the season. Byron needs to take a big step forward in 2021, but the win was a major step in the right direction for his development. 

32 – Corey LaJoie

2020 Outcome – Neutral

There’s really nothing to say here. We know what LaJoie does in the Go Fas equipment. He’s been a fixture at super speedways for a few years, and also in races where he lucks out and can make fuel strategy to stay on the lead lap and crack top 20s.

34 – Michael McDowell

2020 Outcome – Overperformed

No question about it – McDowell was an oqerperformer. When racing came back, he had what seemed like a million race top 20 streak while mostly starting in the late 20’s-early 30s. Things regressed to a mean as the year went on, but many of us DFSers will forever remember that run he had.

37 – Ryan Preece

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

I wonder if underperformed is fair – to the negative – for what his 2020 was. Sure, he was involved in poor situations that weren’t his fault, and the equipment probably isn’t as good as one would hope. However, at some point, you would have some consistency. He did have solid results at certain short tracks and on occasion at super speedways, and 2021 seems incredibly murky for him as well now. One thing to point out is that he was terrific during all the playoff races, notching two top tens and only finishing outside of the top 20 twice.

38 – John Hunter Nemechek

2020 Outcome – Still spinning

JHN had his moments, sure, but man, did he spin out a lot. He finished in the late 20’s on the season, which I think is where you would expect, but it’s pretty frustrating when you played him because he very often would be in good position only to do something costly. He’s already out of the series for 2021.

41 – Cole Custer

2020 Outcome – Overperformed

I like Custer and I think he’ll find his footing in terms of consistency. It would not shock me if he was like Aric Almirola or Clint Bowyer in really winning infrequently. His season was good, but mired in periods where he was just not able to put it together. The good news is his results down the stretch were mostly favorable given his rookie status.

42 – Matt Kenseth

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

No question that many people looked at Kenseth as being a race winning contender after coming back into the series. He was awful. He did put it together down the stretch, but he is irreverent to talk about now that he has again retired.

43 – Bubba Wallace

2020 Outcome – Neutral

I think Bubba probably finished a spot or two higher maybe than expected, but it wasn’t enough to really move the needle. He wasn’t really in the playoff hunt, and he definitely crater as the year went on. I do think some of it was due to getting lesser equipment from RPM knowing he wouldn’t be back, so perhaps that isn’t all on him. No one has a more make it or break it opportunity in the coming year than Bubba.

47 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

Stenhouse makes the list as one of the top under performers of the year, no questions asked. The expectations aren’t that he is winning races, but that he would be somewhat competitive, and I don’t think we really saw that. Still a threat to win at any super speedway, 2021 will be a big year determining his future in the sport.

48 – Jimmie Johnson

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

I have been watching NASCAR for 4 years. Can you imagine what it is like for someone like me? I know he’s 7 time. I know he’s won 82 races or something close to that. But in my time watching the sport, this guy is literally like an average or best driver. I’ve seen him in the days where Chad Knaus led him to championships, and this guy wasn’t it. He squandered opportunities unnecessarily and frankly, his swan song was terrible.

88 – Alex Bowman

2020 Outcome – Overperformed

Finishing 6th is quite the accomplishment. He got a win in California, but the middle of the year was brutal to him. The end of the year was much better, and now he will get the honor of sitting in the 48 seat. Again, another guy who is in the position where 2021 has to be really good for him – especially with Noah Gragson and his funding or Brad Keselowski as possible replacement opportunities if the performance isn’t there.

95 – Christopher Bell

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

I toyed with this from neutral to underperformed. I ultimately decided on underperformed based off what MBD did in this car as well as the talent difference I believe there is between he and MDB. He was really only in contention one time this year and had way too many bad nights to combat the good ones. 

96 – Daniel Suarez

2020 Outcome – Underperformed

Suarez had some buzz going into 2020 about outperforming the equipment, but he never had a fighting chance. This team was basically pulling crew members out of the stands four races in and didn’t have a crew or car chief until that point. It was bad. 

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