Five NASCAR Cup Drivers Who Underperformed in 2020: Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Who Else?

Published 12/26/2020, 7:51 AM EST
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota, stands on the grid prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The 2020 NASCAR season saw many drivers step up to the plate, the biggest example of that being Chase Elliott beating all odds to emerge as the title-winner at Phoenix. However, there were drivers who performed below par as well, to the surprise of many.


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Those drivers did not just struggle with the uncertainty presented by the coronavirus pandemic, but also with their form for the most part of the season.

Kyle Busch


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The biggest surprise of the season was Kyle Busch. He entered the season as defending champion, on the back of a stunning end to the 2019 season. He came close on some occasions, registered top-five and top-10 finishes, but just could not bag the win.

Eventually, he did earn a win at Texas, maintaining a streak of 16 straight seasons with at least one win. However, that victory came during the Round of 8 in the playoffs, and by the time, Busch was already out of contention in the playoffs.

Given the standards he has set for himself, a season with just one victory and 14 top-10 finishes is a poor one for the two-time Cup champion.

LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 01: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, Adam Stevens, crew chief of the #18 M&M’s Chocolate Bar Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Chocolate Bar Toyota, during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 1, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. won a race, had 14 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes in 2020, and also made the Round of 8 of the playoffs. However, Truex Jr. entered the season after winning seven races in 2019 and reaching the ‘Championship 4’ race.

Truex did not have a bad 2020 season, but more was expected of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 driver, who is a former champion himself.

Jimmie Johnson

The seven-time Cup champion had one of the most unimpressive seasons of his illustrious NASCAR career. The last Cup race he won was back in 2017, and Johnson just could not quite find his feet thereafter.

BRISTOL, TN – APRIL 06: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

His final season saw him post just five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, while also coming agonizingly close to a playoff spot but eventually falling short of the last-16.

Johnson finished his NASCAR career with a top-five finish in an emotional race but had a disappointing final season overall.

Erik Jones

The now-former no. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing driver had a difficult year. After registering a win each in 2018 and 2019, Jones was expected to do better in 2020, especially being a Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 08: Erik Jones, driver of the #20 DEWALT Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Jones could not make the top-10 as consistently as he should have and even lost his seat to Christopher Bell for the 2021 season. Strong finishes and wins under his belt could have possibly made a stronger case for him at JGR.

Clint Bowyer

Another NASCAR driver who would have hoped for a much better final season is Clint Bowyer. The 41-year-old announced midway through the year that he would not continue as a driver in NASCAR and announced a move to the broadcasting booth.


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DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – AUGUST 30: Clint Bowyer, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford, stands in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

He could score only two top-five and 12 top-10 finishes all year, and fans would have loved to see him compete for higher spots a lot more consistently.

While Johnson and Bowyer bid adieu to the sport, Busch, Jones, and Truex Jr. will hope to sweep away the disappointment of 2020 as another crucial year approaches.


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Aayush Majumdar

1006 articles

Aayush Majumdar is a NASCAR content strategist, a Tennis Writer, and a sports analyst at EssentiallySports. He is well-tenured as a tennis and NASCAR writer, with over 900 articles across both sports. After pursuing a Post Graduate program in Sports Management, Aayush explored various roles in Sports Media, including a Sports Reporting role at a leading English daily.