Chase Elliott tames Phoenix demons to win season finale and first Cup Series championship

As is usual at Phoenix Raceway in the Fall, Chase Elliott has a fast car that has a chance to win the race. The last three times at Phoenix, Elliott has fallen short at the track and was eliminated from advancing to the Championship 4. Sunday was not the case as Elliott tamed his desert demons in dominant fashion to win the NASCAR Cup Series season finale and his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

It was a bittersweet, cloudy afternoon at Phoenix Raceway Sunday. Prior to the start of the race, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer were honored as this was their final race as full-time drivers in NASCAR.

Chase Elliott’s string of bad luck continued at Phoenix prior to the start as he failed pre-race inspection twice. He started at the rear of the field but worked his way inside the top 10 before the competition caution on lap 30.

At the front of the field, Joey Logano pulled out to over a two-second lead as fellow championship competitors Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin battled for second.

After the restart, stage one remained caution-free as Logano cruised to the stage win, leading all 75 laps. The Championship 4 swept the top-four spots as Hamlin came second, Elliott finished third and Keselowski finished fourth.

Logano and Hamlin remained out front early in stage two. Later on, Logano had a piece of debris on his grille that he moved off swiftly. Soon after, he reported a vibration and faded back to Hamlin and Elliott to bring on a three-way battle for the lead.

As the battle ensued, Elliott took the lead from the two and continued having a fast hot rod.

On the green-flag pit cycle, Keselowski was first to enter as he also reported a vibration similar to his Penske teammate.

Outside of the Championship 4, Johnson was having a solid day as he entered the top five following Keselowski’s entrance to pit road. As pit stops continued, he was able to lead laps in his sendoff.

Elliott cycled back to the lead after pit stops and held a two-second lead over second-place Hamlin before a caution late in stage two involving James Davison.

On the ensuing restart, Elliott and Keselowski got great restarts and became the top two. They were the fastest to the end of the stage as Logano and Hamlin trailed. Elliott and Keselowski exchanged the lead three times in the closing laps as Keselowski came out on top with a pass on the final corner during the final lap of the stage.

The early portions of the final stage saw much of the same as Elliott remained a cut above the rest of the Championship 4 competitors.

With a few laps before the final pit stops of the race, Logano and Keselowski were able to reel in Elliott to within a second gap. Logano and Hamlin hit pit road first, while Elliott and Keselowski came down a lap later. Logano beat out Elliott and took a 1.5-second lead. Keselowski had a slow stop with issues from the rear tires.

Elliott was quickly able to pass Logano after the pit stops cycled through and he cruised from there to win the season finale and his first career Cup Series championship.

Keselowski finished second after getting around Hamlin and Logano in the closing laps. Logano rounded out the podium, while Hamlin finished last of the Championship 4.

Johnson rounded out the top five in his final NASCAR Cup Series race.

Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports win their first championship since 2016. Sunday also marked Hendrick’s 13th overall Cup Series title.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season begins Feb. 14 with the Daytona 500.

A marathon 2020 season with all of the ups-and-downs, midweek races, and lengthy delays is now in the books for NASCAR.

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