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NASCAR Cup Series at the Phoenix Finale: Elliott races from last to first to win the title

NASCAR Cup Series Race Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway
• Chase Elliott becomes the second Elliott to win the NASCAR Cup championship

Phoenix, AZ, Nov 8/20 (GRW): A week earlier at Martinsville, Chase Elliott had been in a ‘must win’ situation or lose out on the chance to contest the winner-take-all championship finale at Phoenix. He won at Martinsville. Then, at Phoenix, instead of starting from the pole where NASCAR had slotted him, he had to start from the back of the field after his car failed pre-race inspection a number of times.

But, once the green flag dropped here, this was his race. He charged though the entire field, taking lead on lap 79 of the 312-lap race. After that, he was always in contention up among the front five, except momentarily during the cycle of green-flag pit stops mid-way though the final Stage. But when that round of pit stops was completed, he was back in the lead and he stayed in touch with the lead the rest of the laps.

PHOTO NCS PHOENIX ELLIOTT PIT STOPChase Elliott pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale 500 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

On lap 270, he passed Joey Logano to regain the lead for good and he led the field home the rest of the way, taking the checker by a 2.7-second margin over Brad Keselowski.

Chase Elliot’s father Bill Elliott had won the Cup championship in 1988. He was present with his wife (Chase’s mother) to cheer on his son.

After the race, Elliott said, “Oh, it's unbelievable. All you can dream for is an opportunity, and I've been very fortunate to have that over the years. You know, and that's all thanks to some great people. You know, my parents obviously have played a huge role. The past year has been tough. I lost my best friend about a year ago tonight. Lost my grandmother last year. And all those things bring families closer, so I really can't thank them enough.

“[Thanks to] Mr. Hendrick, for taking a chance on me and believing in me when a lot of people didn't. I think it really says a lot about him.”

Logano had to settle for a third-place finish ahead of Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson. The four drivers of the ‘Championship 4' finished one-two-three-four in this finale.

This race was announced as Johnson’s final race in the NASCAR Cup Series although he has signed with Chip Ganassi to race an Indy car in the road course races in that series next year – and he seems to have left the door open to occasional starts in NASCAR races in the future. Needless to say, Johnson, with his seven Cup championships, is a huge figure in the NASCAR world and, despite the pandemic precautions, he was given an appropriate send off.

Two other drivers were thought to have driven their last NASCAR race here: Clint Bowyer is moving on to be a regular television commentator and Matt Kenseth, who came out of retirement to drive Ganassi’s No. 42 car after Kyle Larson was sat down for uttering an unfortunate word into a live mike, will be replaced in that car by Ross Chastain. Johnson’s long-time crew chief Chad Knaus, who is now filling that role for William Byron, is leaving his track-side assignment for an executive role within the Hendrick organization.

This race marks the conclusion of the 2020 NASCAR season, an unusual season with all the adjustments to the schedule and to the rules to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. As things stand now, NASCAR, like all the other racing organizations, seems to be making plans for next year assuming it will once again be business as normal. Stay tuned.

• Click HERE for the results of the NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix
• Click HERE for the final driver points standings for 2020.

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