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Special NASCAR Cup Series awards for the 2021 season

NASCAR doesn't have many special awards for drivers at the end of each season, but that now changes. Here are the first annual special NASCAR awards for 2021.

Austin Konenski
NASCAR
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

NASCAR’s end-of-the-season banquet took place last Thursday, but unlike other sports, there are barely any prestigious awards handed out to the drivers at the conclusion of the year. However, that narrative is changing today.

Here are the first annual NASCAR awards that will be handed out using a specific points system.

Explaining NASCAR awards point system

All 36 races will matter when it comes to deciding who will be awarded. There will be seven different categories: Most Valuable Driver, Most Improved Driver, Rookie of the Year, Short Track Driver of the Year, Intermediate Driver of the Year,Superspeedway Driver of the Year, and Road Course Driver of the Year.

Each year, the writer will go through each individual race for a specific type of track and award a series of points to the 10 best drivers in that race. The points handed out for each race will be the same points format distributed to the top-10 drivers at the end of the regular season.

Once all races in a specific category, such as short tracks, are assessed points, the driver with the most points wins the award. The top-5 drivers and their points will be shown at the bottom of each award.

However, the Most Improved Driver award will see a different format. A driver’s points in the previous season will be subtracted from the current season. Then, there will be points handed out for “X” more results than the previous year.

Wins will equal 50 points, top-5 finishes will equal 20 points, top-10 finishes will equal 10 points, and average finish will equal five points.

For example, if Austin Dillon has 600 points in 2020 and 900 points in 2021, that equals 300 points. Dillon has one more win, top-5 finish, and top-10 finish. That would equal 70 points, so the total would be 370 points.

The most important award, Most Valuable Driver, will also be in a different format. There are four different types of track awards (short tracks, intermediate tracks, road courses, superspeedway) that will be used to determine it.

The top-10 drivers in each category will be awarded points in the same way. Each driver will be awarded points like NASCAR gives out playoff points at the end of the regular season. Then, another type of bonus system takes place.

The driver with the most wins will be awarded two points, most top-5 finishes will be one point, most-10 finishes will be one point, and most laps led will be one point. Then, the highest driver on each team is awarded two points and the highest driver in each manufacturer is given three points.

The maximum number of points that can be given out for Most Valuable Driver is 70 points, which would be a unanimous victory. It’s a lot to digest, but it’s the start of a new tradition. Let’s begin!

Road Course Driver of the Year in 2021

Winner: No. 5 Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson barely edged out Chase Elliott to be the winner of this year’s road course award. Larson won a record-breaking three times on road courses, which is the most in a single season.

The most impressive victory came at the Charlotte ROVAL where the 29-year-old driver suffered a voltage problem. The team fixed the car and Larson drove through the pack en route to another shocking victory.

Larson did not have a single victory at a road course in the NASCAR Cup Series before he signed on to drive the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports starting in February 2021.

There will be plenty more road course victories to come for the best road racer in the Cup Series.

Results:

  • Kyle Larson: 73 points
  • Chase Elliott: 70 points
  • Kyle Busch: 36 points
  • Christopher Bell: 30 points
  • Denny Hamlin: 29 points

Superspeedway Driver of the Year in 2021

NASCAR: Cup Series Championship
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Winner: No. 2 Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski’s final season with Team Penske didn’t go as planned, but his win at Talladega Superspeedway helped catapult him into the playoffs and to winning this award.

Keselowski barely squeaked out Bubba Wallace for this honor and it comes with great dignity. Many say that superspeedway racing is just luck at the end of the day, but it takes true talent to put yourself in a position to come home victorious.

As the 37-year-old driver moves to RFK Racing as a driver/owner starting in 2022, he will be happy to find that superspeedway racing is one of their best attributes collectively.

Results:

  • Brad Keselowski: 36 points
  • Bubba Wallace: 32 points
  • Ryan Blaney: 29 points
  • Michael McDowell: 25 points
  • Kyle Busch: 25 points

Intermediate Driver of the Year in 2021

Syndication: The Tennessean
Kyle Larson drives during the NASCAR Burnouts on Broadway event on Lower Broadway in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.Burnoutsonbroadway 120121 An 007

Winner: No. 5 Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson blew the field away when it came to intermediate race tracks during the 2021 season. Larson led a record-breaking 1,317 laps on mile-and-a-half tracks specifically and showed his strength.

In fact, six of Lason’s 10 wins came at intermediate tracks and he finished in second place four times. It was an utterly dominating performance at a specific type of track and one we may never see again to this magnitude.

The 29-year-old’s success is really shown by winning two different awards at specific types of tracks. Second-place in points wasn’t even close and the results below show just how big the margin really was for the 2021 season.

Results:

  • Kyle Larson: 158 points
  • Denny Hamlin: 96 points
  • William Byron: 85 points
  • Martin Truex, Jr.: 82 points
  • Ryan Blaney: 77 points

2021 NASCAR Short Track Driver of the Year

NASCAR: Cup Series Championship
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Winner: No. 19 Martin Truex, Jr.

Martin Truex, Jr. really flexed his muscles at short tracks this season after not winning at one for the longest time. Truex came home victorious at Martinsville 1 and Richmond 2 to take home the award

Truex was the leading driver at Joe Gibbs Racing when it came to short tracks. This is important because the organization was borderline unstoppable in some races, including the second Richmond race.

The 41-year-old driver is most likely nearing the end of his career, but this season showed that he will still be a force at short tracks and many others for at least a few more years.

Results:

  • Martin Truex, Jr.: 49 points
  • Denny Hamlin: 45 points
  • Joey Logano: 35 points
  • Alex Bowman: 34 points
  • William Byron: 31 points

2021 NASCAR Rookie of the Year

NASCAR: Cup Series Championship
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Winner: No. 14 Chase Briscoe

There were only two drivers up for this award, but Chase Briscoe had a firm grip on it for the entire season. Briscoe started his NASCAR Cup Series career in 2021 driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in the No. 14 car.

Briscoe was mostly good on road courses and almost secured his first victory at the Indianapolis Road Course in August. The other competitor was Anthony Alfredo, who saw his biggest contribution come at Talladega 2.

The 26-year-old driver will definitely have a win coming in his future with Stewart-Haas. It may not come during the 2022 season, but expect to see a jump in performance at the very least.

Results:

  • Chase Briscoe: 37 points
  • Anthony Alfredo: 12 points

Most Improved Driver award winner in 2021

NASCAR: Hollywood Casino 400
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Winner: No. 20 Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell barely defeated William Byron in a shockingly close victory for the Most Improved Driver award. Bell saw a massive jump in points and got his first career victory at the Daytona Road Course early in 2021.

Bell had a rough stretch during the middle of the season, but really turned it on come playoff time. There was a time in the playoffs where he had the longest top-10 finishing streak in NASCAR’s top level.

The 26-year-old driver took a massive jump in 2021 and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2022. There are not many drivers who can do what Bell did in the playoffs with very little Cup experience.

Results:

  • Christopher Bell: 473 points
  • William Byron: 453 points
  • Daniel Suarez: 364 points
  • Tyler Reddick: 268 points
  • Bubba Wallace: 197 points

Most Valuable Driver award winner in 2021

Syndication: The Tennessean
NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson speaks during the NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration at Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.Nascarawards 120221 An 001

Winner: No. 5 Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson is the first annual Most Valuable Driver award winner in the NASCAR Cup Series. It’s only fitting that Larson could take home the award after a season of historic domination.

Larson ended the year with 10 wins, 20 top-5 finishes, 26 top-10 finishes, and 2,581 laps led, which is a new record for a 36-race season. The points for this award were pretty telling and left no doubt that Larson was the best driver in 2021.

The only knocks on Larson would be his performances at short tracks and superspeedways. Everything else came together for one of the greatest seasons in Cup Series history.

Results:

  • Kyle Larson: 45 points
  • Martin Truex, Jr: 30 points
  • Denny Hamlin: 30 points
  • Kyle Busch: 21 points
  • Brad Keselowski: 19 points