Phoenix Raceway, Phoenix, AZ — November 7, 2021
It all comes down to this, four drivers, one race, for possibly the most difficult title in sports to win. The NASCAR Cup Series Championship will be decided today at Phoenix Raceway. A pair of teammates will race for the Bill France Cup. Denny Hamlin and Martin Treux Jr. from Joe Gibbs Racing line up against Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott.
Oh, let’s not forget to mention there are 35 other drivers on the track today trying to post a win in the final race of the season. But, the attention will be on the four championship contenders. Since NASCAR has gone to this playoff format the Champion has won the final race. that may not happen today. Whoever, among the four, finishes the highest will claim the coveted trophy.
Two of the four drivers are former champions – Truex (2017) and Elliott (2020) – with Hamlin and Larson looking for their first Cup titles this season. Will that experience make a difference today?
The Title Contenders
Chase Elliott: Number 9
Elliott By The Numbers:
- 1 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series Championships (2020).
- 1 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series wins at Phoenix Raceway (2020).
- 2 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2020, ‘21).
- 2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2021.
- 4 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
- 4.7 – Average starting position at Phoenix Raceway.
- 6 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season.
- 7 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
- 8.2 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 11.1 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
- 11.5 – Average finishing position during the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 14 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 16.0 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.
- 20 – Number of top-10 finishes in the first 35 races of the 2021 season.22 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021.
- 101.5 – Season-to-date driver rating – third-best among active drivers in 2021.
- 107.1 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – second-best among active drivers.
- 402 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
- 858 – Total number of laps led in the 2021 season.
- 8,738 – Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (98.3%).
Elliott (along with Treux) has a chance to become the 11th different driver all-time to win back-to-back Cup titles joining Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Joe Weatherly, and Buck Baker. Elliott would be the first driver to win consecutive championships since Jimmie Johnson’s record five straight titles from 2006-2010, and just the second active driver with more than one title, joining Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).
The Elliott Legacy
Chase Elliott keeps piling on the Elliott racing legacy. NASCAR was built by hard-working and dedicated families like the Frances, Pettys, Jarretts, and Earnhardts, and this weekend Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott has the chance to build on his family’s legacy by adding another championship to the family name in the highest form of stock car racing – the NASCAR Cup Series.
If Elliott accomplishes the feat the Elliotts (Bill: 1988 and Chase: 2020) would join the Pettys (Lee: 1954, 1958, 1959 and Richard: 1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979), and the Jarretts (Ned: 1961, 1965 and Dale: 1999) as just the third father-son combo to win multiple NASCAR Cup Series titles.
Elliott’s talent was apparent early on in his career. The Dawsonville, Georgia native jumped in the national NASCAR scene in 2013 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on a part-time basis, making nine starts and winning at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in just his sixth start. He then climbed up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsport and became the first rookie in series history to win the series championship in 2014. He ran one more season in Xfinity, finishing runner-up in the points in 2015 before moving up to the NASCAR Cup Series full-time in 2016 with Hendrick Motorsports.
Elliott has qualified for the Playoffs all six seasons he has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, and this is the second time he has earned a spot in the Championship 4 Round (2020, 2021). Since running full-time in the series, Elliott has made 220 starts putting up 13 wins, 73 top fives, and 116 top 10s.
How Chase Elliott Got to the Championship Four
The reigning 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Elliott, has answered his title-winning season with quite the comparative performance heading into Phoenix Raceway this weekend. Elliott was strong out of the gate this season nearly winning the Daytona 500 (finished runner-up) and held the momentum throughout the regular season never falling out of the top 10 in points. He grabbed two wins during the regular season, at Circuit of The Americas and Road America.
Elliott entered the 2021 Playoffs as the 10th seed with 21 Playoff points to his credit. Unfortunately, a late-race incident with Christopher Bell at Darlington to open the 2021 Playoffs relegated him to a 31st-place finish to open the postseason, but Elliott was quick to rebound, finishing fourth-place at Richmond and had earned enough points following a 25th-place finish at Bristol to advance to the Round of 12.
Elliott reversed course at the start of the next round, finishing runner-up at Las Vegas but found his momentum slowed at Talladega with an 18th-place finish. He was able to secure his spot in the Round of 8 with a 12th-place finish at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.
Elliott then turned up the wick and finished seventh at Texas and runner-up at Kansas in the Playoffs Round of 8. As a result, Elliott was 34 points up on the Championship 4 cutoff heading into the penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway. Mr. ‘Most Popular’ then dominated the first two stages at Martinsville clinching his spot in the Championship 4 Round for the second time in his career.
Through 35 races this season Chase Elliott has put up two wins, 14 top fives, and 20 top 10s. He has led 858 laps and has an average finish of 11.5. He also has the third-best season-to-date driver rating (101.5) on the year.
Elliott has made 11 series starts at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, posting one win (2020), four top fives, seven top 10s, and a pole. His average finish at Phoenix is a strong 11.2, fourth-best in the series, and third-best among the 2021 Championship 4. Earlier this season at Phoenix, he started sixth and finished fifth.
Elliott’s Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Hendrick Motorsport’s crew chief in 2005, Alan Gustafson has proven that he is one of the best in the sport. Now the 2020 series crew chief champion has the chance to become the 11th different crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series to win back-to-back titles and the 16th to win multiple titles all-time. If Gustafson and the No. 9 team pull off consecutive titles in the NASCAR Cup Series, he would join fellow crew chiefs Dale Inman, Chad Knaus, Kirk Shelmerdine, Ray Evernham, Bud Moore, Lee Petty, Andy Petree, Herb Nab, Jake Elder, and Carl Kiekhaefer in accomplishing the feat.
Denny Hamlin: Number 11
Hamlin By The Numbers:
- 2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series career wins at Phoenix Raceway (2012, 2019).
- 2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins during the 2021 season.
- 4 – Number of appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 (2014, ’19 ’20, ‘21)
- 10 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season.
- 6.4 – Average starting position for the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 7.2 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.
- 8.6 – Average finishing position for the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 9.8 – Average starting position at Phoenix Raceway.
- 10.8 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
- 15 – Number of career top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
- 18 – Number of top-five finishes during the 2021 season.
- 19 – Number of career top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
- 24 – Number of top-10 finishes during the 2021 season.
- 30 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021.
- 99.2 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway, fourth-best among active drivers.
- 109.2 – Season-to-date driver rating, second-best among active drivers in 2021.
- 854 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
- 1,502 – Total number of laps led in the 2021 season (career-high in a single season).
- 8,884 – Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (99.9%).
Denny Hamlin: The Veteran
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin burst on the NASCAR Cup Series scene full-time in 2006, and ever since he has been a force in the series year-in and year-out. The 40-year-old has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for 16 full-time seasons, qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in a series record 15 of them (tied with Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch for series-most at 15 each).
This season will mark the fourth time the Virginian has made the Championship 4 Round (2014, 2019, 2020, 2021) tied with Joey Logano for second-most appearances in the series and Hamlin is hoping this is the year he gets his first title. If Hamlin were to accomplish the feat this weekend, he would become the first NASCAR Cup Series driver from Virginia to win a championship.
In 2014, he qualified for the final round in the Playoffs, but finished seventh in the season finale at Homestead-Miami and ultimately third in the championship standings. Last season he advanced to the Championship 4 for the second time in his career, but a tough call on pit road in the season finale was costly for Hamlin and he finished the race in 10th and ultimately fourth in the final championship standings.
Hamlin’s best finish in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings came in 2010 when he finished runner-up in the points behind Jimmie Johnson.
How Denny Hamlin Got to the Championship Four
Hamlin’s 2021 championship campaign started with a fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500, and then a third-place finish at the Daytona Road Course in the opening two weeks of the schedule and as a result, he took the points lead and then held it for 22 straight races. It has been Hamlin’s relentless consistency that has made the difference this season. In 35 starts, he has posted two wins, 18 top fives, and 24 top 10s. His average finish this season is a stout 8.6.
The Joe Gibbs Racing standout, Denny Hamlin, had to bank on his 32 Playoff points to help him advance to the Championship 4 Round this season after a late-race incident with Alex Bowman almost derailed his Playoff hopes last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. But none of that matters now, as he has another chance at a Cup title this weekend.
Hamlin shot out of the gate this Playoffs winning the open race at Darlington Raceway, then finished runner-up at Richmond and ninth at Bristol to advance to the Round of 12. He then did it again, winning the opening race to the Round of 8 at Las Vegas and he followed it up with a seventh at Talladega and a fifth-place finish at the Charlotte Roval. Then Hamlin rallied off an 11th at Texas and another fifth-place finish at Kansas, but nearly had his postseason squandered at Martinsville after being wrecked from the lead by Alex Bowman. Bowman would go on to win and Hamlin would finish 24th nearly missing the Championship 4, but thanks to his Playoff points he earned enough to move on.
Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott are the only two drivers from last season’s Championship 4 (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano) to make it back to the final round in 2021. Hamlin has finished fourth in the final Cup standings the last two seasons. Hamlin ranks second among drivers with the most NASCAR Cup Series wins (46) without a championship behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson (50). Earlier this season, Hamlin started third and led 33 laps en route to a third-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.
Hamlin’s Crew Chief: Chris Gabehart
The powerful duo of driver Denny Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart are the only Championship 4 team entered this weekend that has made the Playoffs’ final round the last three consecutive seasons (2019-2021), proving they are a force to be reckoned with. Since joining forces with Hamlin and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team, Gabehart has led the crew to 15 wins, including two Daytona 500 victories (2019, 2020), three Playoff appearances, and three Championship 4 appearances (2019, 2020, 2021). If Hamlin and Gabehart win the championship this season, Gabehart will become the 42nd different crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series to win a title.
Kyle Larson: Number 5
Larson By The Numbers:
- 1 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2021).
- 5 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
- 8 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
- 9 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2021 (career-high).
- 6.2 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 8.1 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.9.3 – Average finishing position during the 2021 season.
- 11.6 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
- 17 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season (series-most in 2021).
- 19 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 25 – Number of top-10 finishes during the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 65 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021 (series-most in 2021).
- 72 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
- 93.5 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – eighth-best among active drivers.
- 111.9 – Season-to-date driver rating – series-best among active drivers.
- 2,474 – Total number of laps led in the 2021 season (career-high).
- 8,688 – Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (97.7%).
Kyle Larson: An Incredible Year
Larson looks to cement his name in history with a NASCAR Cup Series championship. Of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 drivers, Larson is the only one making his final round debut. The Elk Grove, California native’s previous best finish in the NASCAR Cup Series final standings was sixth back in 2019.
Ever since 2014, Larson has been scheduled to run full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series. He spent almost seven full seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing putting up six wins with the organization from 2014-2020. But in 2020, Chip Ganassi Racing released Larson just four races into the season following his suspension by NASCAR for using a racial slur over the radio during a public iRacing event. Larson would sit out the remainder of the 2020 season. Following Larson fulfilling the requirements by NASCAR to lift his suspension, Hendrick Motorsports reached out to him to see if he wanted another shot. And as they say, the rest is history.
Hendrick Motorsports brought back the No. 5 team and paired crew chief Cliff Daniels with Larson for the 2021 season. Since joining the No. 5 team at the beginning of the year the duo has put up a series-leading nine victories leading into the Championship race this weekend.
How Kyle Larson Got to the Championship Four
Larson got up to speed at Hendrick Motorsports fairly quickly this season winning in just his fourth race (Las Vegas-1) with the organization – a team record for fewest races before a Cup win. And once Larson found his groove, the wins just kept coming. He has rallied off nine total victories this season (Las Vegas, Charlotte, Sonoma, Nashville, Watkins Glen, Bristol, Charlotte Road Course, Texas, and Kansas) and became the first driver in series history to win at three different road courses in a single year. The 24-year-old also joined NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt (1987), Davie Pearson (1968), and Richard Petty (1967, 1971) as just the fourth driver in series history to win three or more consecutive races multiple times in a single season. In total, he put up career-highs in top-five (19) and top-10 finishes this season, as well as a career-high in laps led at 2,474 laps out front this season.
And to top it all off, Larson won the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championship and entered the 2021 Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with 53 Playoff points to his credit.
Larson kicked the postseason’s Round of 16 off with a runner-up finish at Darlington and then a sixth-place finish at Richmond and won at Bristol to clinch a spot in the Round of 12. From there he finished 10th at Las Vegas and then followed it up with a 37th-place finish at Talladega. Larson then switched it to high gear and won at the Charlotte Road Course to advance to the Round of 8. Once in the third round of the Playoffs, he proceeded to win the two consecutive races at Texas and Kansas and for the first time in his career lock himself into the Championship 4 Round. He would finish 14th at Martinsville to close out the Round of 8. Earlier this season at Phoenix, he started second and finished seventh.
Larson’s Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels
Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Hendrick Motorsport’s crew chief in 2019, Cliff Daniels has shown that he is one of the rising stars in the sport. During his two seasons of full-time competition, Daniels has worked with three different drivers: Jimmie Johnson (2020), Justin Allgaier (2020), and Kyle Larson (2021). But it wasn’t until this season he earned a spot in the Playoffs and won nine races. This weekend at Phoenix will mark his first appearance in the Championship 4, his previous best finish in the final Cup standings was 18th with driver Jimmie Johnson in 2020.
Martin Truex Jr.: Number 19
Truex By The Numbers:
- 1 – Number of career NASCAR Cup Series Championships (2017).
- 4 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2021.
- 5 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2015, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19, ‘21).
- 5 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season.
- 5 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
- 8.3 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 10.3 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.
- 12 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of the 2021 season.
- 12.3 – Average finishing position during the 2021 season.
- 13 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
- 15.3 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
- 19 – Number of top-10 finishes during the 2021 season.
- 29 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021.
- 89.7 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – 10th-best among active drivers.
- 96.7 – Season-to-date driver rating – sixth-best among active drivers in 2021.
- 187 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
- 793 – Total number of laps led in the 2021 season.
- 8,822 – Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (99.3%).
Martin Truex Jr. Another Shot at Multiple Cup Championships
Martin Truex Jr. returns to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round for a series record-tying fifth time since the inception of the elimination-style format in 2014; joining Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch with five Champ 4 appearances each. And in the process, he became just the fourth different driver to enter the penultimate race under the Playoff cutline and race his way into the postseason’s final round; joining Kevin Harvick in 2014, Denny Hamlin in 2019, and Chase Elliott in 2020.
The 2021 season marks his 16th full season in the NASCAR Cup Series and over that time the Mayetta, New Jersey native has collected 31 wins, 128 top fives, and 247 top 10s. He joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019 after two very successful seasons with Furniture Row Racing that saw him earn a Cup championship (2017) and two Championship 4 Round appearances (2017, 2018).
After missing the Champ 4 last season, Truex is back to his championship-contending form this season. In 35 starts he has put up four wins (Phoenix-1, Martinsville-1, Darlington-2, Richmond-2), 12 top fives and19 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 8.3 and his average finish is 12.3. He has also led 793 laps.
How Martin Truex Jr. Got to the Championship Four
Truex jumped into the 2021 Playoffs with both feet posting fourth at Darlington, a win at Richmond to advance to the next round, and a seventh-place finish at Bristol. He then put up a fourth at Las Vegas, a 12th at Talladega, and a 29th at the Charlotte Roval to skate into the Round of 8. From there Truex finished 25th at Texas and seventh at Kansas. As a result, he went to Martinsville either having to win or race his way in on points as he was below the cutline. The 2017 series champ answered the bell and finished fourth making the final round by three points over his teammate Kyle Busch. Earlier this season at Phoenix, Truex led 64 laps after starting fifth en route to his first win at the track.
Truex’s Crew Chief: James Small
Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief in 2017, James Small has proven that he is one of the rising stars in the sport to keep an eye on. He made his Cup debut with Erik Jones running two races in 2017 before moving the No. 19 and driver Martin Truex Jr. in 2020. During his two seasons of full-time competition (2020, 2021) with Truex, the pair have made 70 starts posting five wins, and have qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in consecutive seasons (2020-21). This is the first year Small has earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 Round; his previous best final Cup standings finish was seventh in 2020.
The 1-mile Phoenix Raceway will provide 312 miles of racing unless the event goes into NASCAR Overtime. Stages are 75/115/122, but Stage points are meaningless. Chase Elliott is the defending champion of the race where he captured the Cup Series Championship in 2020.
Qualifying was held this weekend and Kyle Larson(5) won the pole with a speed of 137.847, Chase Elliott(9) starts beside him on the front row. Denny Hamlin(11) qualified 6th and Martin Truex Jr.(19) sits 12th on the grid.
Larson led the first two laps of the race before Elliott moved to the lead passing his teammate. It did not take long for the first caution flag of the day to waive. With some help from Corey LaJoie(7), Bubba Wallace was turned and backed into the wall on Lap 6.
In a strange move, Larson’s crew brought him to pit road. With just 75 miles in Stage 1, fuel is not a problem. Larson will have to carefully work his way through the field avoiding a potential incident back in the pack.
Just back to green flag racing, LaJoie was involved in another incident colliding with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47). Both cars spun and the caution displayed again. Larson had just passed the pair’s position on the track.
Most of the leaders pitted under the second caution moving Larson back up to the fifth position and out of the mid-pack danger zone.
Ryan Blaney(12) took the lead when the race went back under the green flag. Larson and Elliott battled for the 2nd spot. Truex ran 5th and Hamlin 10th. Kevin Harvick(4) joined the fight, Elliott gave him plenty of room to pass not wanting to reengage with his playoff nemesis. With the faster car, Harvick also passed Larson moving into the 2nd position.
The winningest active driver at Phoenix, Harvick ran down Blaney and the two ran side-by-side for multiple laps jousting over the top spot. Elliott passed Larson and caught the leaders while Truex moved ahead of Larson to put three of the Championship Four contenders in the Top 5.
Harvick and Blaney swapped the lead as Truex drove past both of them to run out front. Truex’s car seems to be set up for the long run, once out front the #19 began to pull away. Hamlin was not far behind having worked his way into the 6th position.
Truex took the green and white checkered flag for the Stage win. Harvick finished 2nd followed by Elliott, Hamlin, and Larson rounding out the Top 5.
The Top 5 remained the same, they just swapped positions around with Elliott leading for the first part of the Stage. Just prior to the midway point of Stage 2, Truex moved back to the top spot.
Quin Houff(00) had a tire go down and he hit the wall in Turn 4 on Lap 128. The caution allowed the field to pit under yellow and avoid green flag stops in this segment of the race.
Elliott was first off pit road followed by Harvick, Larson, Truex, and William Byron(24). Hamlin was 9th leaving the pits.
Separate crashes by Stenhouse and Chase Briscoe(14) slowed the pace of the race at the midway point. The Briscoe incident at Lap 154 brought the field back to pit road for fresh tires. With 36 laps to go in Stage 2
Tyler Reddick(8), Kurt Busch(1), Alex Bowman(48), and Daniel Suarez(99) stayed on the track and led the pack back to the green. It did not take long for the contenders to re-establish themselves as the running order changed to Larson, Elliott, Hamlin, and Truex with 25 laps to go in the Stage.
Larson won Stage 2 followed by Elliott, Hamlin, and Truex as the Championship Four now enter the Final Stage all primed to fight it out for the victory.
The Final Stage
The Championship Four lead the race back to green at the beginning of the Final Stage. Larson, Elliott, Hamlin, and Truex run 1st to 4th. At least one pit stop, for fuel, will be required to finish the race. Cautions may provide teams additional chances to change tires and final chassis adjustments.
With 76 laps to go Elliott move past Larson to retake the lead. But Hamlin and Truex are closing on the Top 2. With 68 to go, Hamlin moved into 2nd.
Truex was the first of the four to pit coming for service with 64 laps to go. No sooner than the #19 car rolled to a stop, Anthony Alfredo(38) wrecked bringing out the 8th caution of the day.
The timing of the accident was beneficial to Truex, he inherited the lead when the other three contenders came to pit road for their final pit stop. Hamlin, Larson, and Elliott returned to the track in the top 6.
With 54 laps to go all four ran nose to tail, Truex, Hamlin, Elliott, and Larson.
With 30 laps to go, a brake rotor on the David Starr(13) car exploded and scattered debris across the race track. The caution came out setting up a final pit stop for fresh tires and a sprint to the finish. 5-11-19-9
All of the Championship contenders took four tires with Larson winning the race off pit road. Hamlin, Truex, and Elliott followed. The green flag flew with just 24 laps to go to the checkered.
Larson shot to the lead, Truex passed Hamlin for 2nd, with Elliott 4th. Elliott passed Hamlin, but Larson and Truex pulled away. With 10 to go Hamlin passed Elliott for 3rd, however, the gaps between the leaders are remaining steady.
With 5 laps to go Larson led by almost a second over Truex with time running out. Truex closed on the white flag lap but could not get to the bumper of the #5 car.
Kyle Larson, a year after sitting out the playoffs while suspended, is the NASCAR Cup Series Champion.
Winning the pole proved to be a big advantage for Larson. It gave him the first choice of pit stalls. Choosing the last spot on pit road allowed him to fire off quickly out of the pits and proved to be the deciding factor along with fabulous performances by his crew.
Results of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race from Phoenix Raceway
|1||5||Kyle Larson (P)||—||312|
|2||19||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||0.398||312|
|3||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||1.193||312|
|5||9||Chase Elliott (P)||3.925||312|
|36||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-172||140|