NASCAR: Chase Elliott wins 2020 championship at Phoenix

Chase Elliott held off Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin to win the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway, his first career title.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott was supposed to have started his first career NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway from the pole position, but two pre-race inspection failures sent his #9 Chevrolet to the rear of the field when the green flag flew.

The last time that happened for a Championship 4 driver was in 2016, when it happened to Jimmie Johnson, also driving a Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Johnson went on to win the title, a record-tying seventh.

Since then, a Hendrick Motorsports driver had not won a championship. In fact, no Chevrolet driver had won a championship.

Elliott changed that by doing the same thing Johnson did, albeit a few thousand miles west.

Elliott led this afternoon’s 312-lap season finale around the four-turn, 1.022-mile (1.645-kilometer) oval in Avondale, Arizona a race-high seven times for a race-high 153 laps, despite starting from the rear. He took the lead for the final time with 43 laps remaining when he passed Team Penske’s Joey Logano on the inside of turn three, and he never looked back.

He had been leading Logano before the final round of pit stops, but Logano came into the pits one lap earlier to get onto new tires. Logano was able to come out of the pits ahead of Elliott for this reason, but Elliott ran him down within nine laps.

He needed to beat Logano, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin to win the title, and one week after winning his way into the Championship 4, he secured his 11th career victory, his career-high fifth victory of the 2020 season and his first career set of back-to-back victories to become the third youngest champion in Cup Series history at the age of 24.

While many were anticipating another caution flag period for a restart as the laps wound down, it didn’t happen like it did in both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series season finales earlier this weekend.

The race ended up with only one caution flag period for an incident, as well as three others: one competition caution, one to end stage one and another to end stage two. Logano won stage one and Keselowski won stage two.

Keselowski ended up finishing in second place behind the wheel of his #2 Ford with Logano in third behind the wheel of his #22 Ford. Hamlin, the only one of the four Championship 4 drivers who did not lead the race, finished in fourth behind the wheel of his #11 Toyota.

In his final start as a full-time driver, Johnson finished in fifth place behind the wheel of his #48 Chevrolet.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top 10 in sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th place behind the wheels of their #12 Ford, #4 Ford, #21 Ford, #24 Chevrolet and #19 Toyota, respectively.

Another driver making his final start, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer, finished in 14th behind the wheel of his #14 Ford.

Here are the full race results of the 2020 Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway.

Race Results
1st – Chase Elliott
2nd – Brad Keselowski
3rd – Joey Logano
4th – Denny Hamlin
5th – Jimmie Johnson
6th – Ryan Blaney
7th – Kevin Harvick
8th – Matt DiBenedetto
9th – William Byron
10th – Martin Truex Jr.
11th – Kyle Busch
12th – Kurt Busch
13th – Aric Almirola
14th – Clint Bowyer
15th – Bubba Wallace
16th – Alex Bowman
17th – Christopher Bell
18th – Austin Dillon
19th – Tyler Reddick
20th – Chris Buescher
21st – Ty Dillon
22nd – Erik Jones
23rd – Michael McDowell
24th – Ryan Newman
25th – Matt Kenseth
26th – John Hunter Nemechek
27th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
28th – Cole Custer
29th – Brennan Poole
30th – J.J. Yeley
31st – Daniel Suarez
32nd – Joey Gase
33rd – James Davison
34th – Ryan Preece
35th – Josh Bilicki
36th – Timmy Hill
37th – Garrett Smithley
38th – Corey LaJoie
39th – Quin Houff

Here are the updated playoff standings following Elliott’s win.

Rank – Driver, Car, Team, Manufacturer: Points (Behind),
1st – Chase Elliott, #9, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet: 5040 (0)
2nd – Brad Keselowski, #2, Team Penske, Ford: 5035 (-5)
3rd – Joey Logano, #22, Team Penske, Ford: 5034 (-6)
4th – Denny Hamlin, #11, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota: 5033 (-7)

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season is in the books, and the 2021 season is scheduled to open up in just over three months from now on Sunday, February 14 with the 63rd annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET.