Chase Elliott Wins 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship
It may not have been the most exciting race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series, but it was a nail-bitter from the drop of the green flag. In fact, before the flag fell, Chase Elliott got his first piece of bad news. His Rick Hendrick-prepared Chevrolet failed two pre-race inspections, which sent the 24-year old son of Hall of Fame driver, Bill Elliott, to the rear of the 39-car field for the final race of season at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday. But, crew chief Alan Gustafson, who was also looking for his first NASCAR Cup Championship, settled his young driver and the team went to work.
By the end of Stage 1, Elliott had worked his way to third place. Then, the kid from Dawsonville, GA, moved up to second by the end of Stage 2. He methodically moved the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet to the lead and led a race-high 153 laps to give Hendrick Motorsports its 13th Cup Championship and its first since teammate Jimmy Johnson’s 2016 title. Chase and Bill Elliott are now the third father-son duo to be crowned NASCAR champions, joining Lee and Richard Petty and Ned and Dale Jarrett in stock-car racing's exclusive club.
Final Four Determined by NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the March 8th Fan Shield 300 at Phoenix Raceway was the last normal race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series, which was won by championship contender Joey Logano. After a two-month delay, NASCAR officials kicked off a revised schedule in mid-May with back-to-back races at Darlington Raceway (won by Kevin Harvick and championship contender Denny Hamlin) followed by dual races at Charlotte Motor Speedway (won by championship contenders Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott, respectively). From that point forward, those five drivers won a majority of the Cup Series races, with the last spot in the Final Four, clinched by Elliott with a win the Playoffs at Martinsville Speedway on November 1 in the Round of 8.
The “Torch” Was Passed from the Seven-Time Champ
With the NASCAR Cup Championship final being held for the first time at the one-mile Phoenix oval, Elliott did not have to win the race, but he did have to beat the other three finalists in Playoff Four. Denny Hamlin, who was driving a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, was also seeking his first Cup Championship. Both Ford Penske Racing drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have one Cup Championship each. Unbelievably, but not necessarily unexpected, all four of the championship contenders ran at the front of the pack for most of the race. Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmy Johnson put the most pressure on the group and finished fifth behind Elliott, Keselowski, Logano, and Hamlin. After the drop of the checkered flag, Johnson celebrated his final drive with a reverse “Polish Victory Lap” that was made popular by the late 1993 NASCAR Cup Champion Alan Kulwicki. When the retiring-Johnson came alongside Elliott, race fans across the nation felt the significance of the “Torch” being passed.
2021 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series will be the 73rd season for professional stock car racing in America and the 50th season in NASCAR’s modern era featuring the Cup Series. The season opener will be the “Clash at Daytona RC” on Tuesday, February 9, 2021. The race will be run on the Daytona International Speedway’s 3.61-mile road course. The opening round will be followed by the Daytona Duel 1 and Daytona Duel 2 on Thursday, February 11th, which set the field for Sunday’s 200-lap Daytona 500 on the high-banked Superspeedway oval. Click here for the complete 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule, which will once again see the Playoffs|Championship 4 hosted at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 7, 2021.