Chase Elliott wins 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship
Chase Elliott wins 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship
Chase Elliott won the biggest race of his life – rallying from a last place starting position to cross the Phoenix Raceway finish line first in the Series Finale 500 - earning his first career NASCAR Cup Series championship at the age of 24 – the youngest champion in NASCAR’s premier series in 25 years.
Ultimately Elliott won by 2.74-seconds over former fellow title contenders, Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. The fourth championship-eligible driver, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, finished fourth.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, 45, was fifth in his final race as a fulltime driver, congratulating his young Hendrick Motorsports teammate Elliott on-track and later on pit lane – a fitting symbol of the sport’s 'passing of the guard'.
“Awesome, awesome, awesome," Elliott screamed into his team radio after taking the checkered flag. “We are the champions!"
Three of the four title contenders led laps on the day at the famed one-mile desert oval. Logano was out front 125 laps and Keselowski led 16 laps, but Elliott’s 154 laps led were indicative of his motivation, talent and the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team’s preparedness for this race. He only earned his place in the four-driver championship field with a clutch victory last week at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and made the most of that work on Sunday.
Ultimately Elliott wrestled the lead away from Logano for good with 42 laps of the 312-lap race remaining. It was the result of a determined driver and team after the car failed pre-race inspection Sunday morning and had to start last in the 39-car field.
His focus was evident, however, from the drop of the green flag. Elliott’s Chevrolet was 15th by Lap 15. He took the lead for the first time at Lap 79 and led seven different times on the afternoon.
Once Elliott rallied to the front, the four title contenders were predominantly the top four drivers on track the remainder of the race – truly settling the championship among themselves.
“Obviously when you don’t win it hurts, it definitely stings," Logano said. “I told the guys before the race, you can’t lose. You either win or you get stronger. Unfortunately, we got stronger today."
With this championship, Elliott and his father Bill (the 1988 series champion) now become only the third father-son NASCAR Cup Series championship combination in the sport’s history joining Lee and Richard Petty and Ned and Dale Jarrett. Elliott’s father stood trackside for the race and joked afterward that he had given his son some simple advice for the big day. Advice Chase readily admits went through his head as he challenged for the life-changing trophy.
“He told me, ‘all you have to do is beat three people'," a smiling Elliott said of father’s pre-race advice. “He said all week he felt confident that we could come out here and do this. And he was right.
“This is a moment I’ve dreamed about. This is all I’ve wanted to do is be a race car driver and race in NASCAR. To be honest, I’m humbled."
Elliott’s good friend Ryan Blaney finished sixth followed by regular season champion Kevin Harvick, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron and Martin Truex Jr.
Clint Bowyer, who is moving to the FOX television booth, and former series champion Matt Kenseth, who is returning to retirement, finished 14th and 25th, respectively in their final race. Crew chief Chad Knaus, at the helm for Johnson’s seven titles, led Hendrick driver Byron to that ninth-place showing.
And Stewart-Haas Racing's Cole Custer, who qualified for the Playoffs with a victory at Kentucky Speedway this summer, finished 28th officially wrapping up the 2020 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
“I'm at a loss for words, this is unbelievable," Elliott said. “Oh, my gosh. We did it. I mean, we did it. That's all I've got to tell you. Unreal.
“Crew chief, Alan Gustafson, is now a NASCAR Cup Series champion, and very deserving. I just can't say enough about our group. I felt like we took some really big strides this year, and last week was a huge one. To come out of that with a win and a shot to come here and have a chance to race is unbelievable. Heck, I don't know. I don't even know. This is unreal.”
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Team Penske's Austin Cindric wins Xfinity Series championship
After establishing the pace most of the afternoon, 22-year old Austin Cindric ultimately relied on raw determination to claim the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. The Team Penske driver pulled off the most clutch lap-pass of his young career to take the race victory in Saturday’s Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 and earn his first NASCAR title.
After pitting for tires just before a final overtime restart, Cindric was able to work his way forward at the final green flag and got around Noah Gragson on the last lap - driving away to a .162-second victory for his sixth win of the season, easily the most celebrated of his career.
After celebratory donuts in his car, Cindric pulled himself out of the driver’s window, climbed on top of his bright yellow No. 22 Team Penske Ford and flashed No. 1 victory signs on both hands before waving a giant champion’s flag.
“There was a lot of work put into this race car," a grinning Cindric said, carefully taking the time to thank everyone from his team owner, NASCAR Hall of Famer Roger Penske, to his sponsors, his team, pit crew, spotter and ultimately his mom and dad.
“I’m speechless, I can’t believe it. You know the equipment you’re in is the best of the best and the people you’re working with are the best of the best," he added.
Certainly as exuberant as Cindric understandably was, the other three members of the Championship 4 felt disappointment and dismay. Veteran Justin Allgaier, who led a race high 77 laps – five more laps out front than Cindric – was in position to try and secure his first NASCAR title.
The 34-year old driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet kept the field honest consistently throughout the evening but ultimately on that last restart Allgaier was unable to hold off Cindric who had fresher tires and was able to muscle around Allgaier and Allgaier's JR Motorsports teammate Gragson.
Allgaier finished fifth and the other Championship 4 drivers: Justin Haley and Chase Briscoe finished eighth and ninth, respectively.
Gragson (second), Brandon Jones (third) and Michael Annett (fifth) were the non-Playoff drivers to finish in the top-five. Harrison Burton, Ross Chastain, Haley, Briscoe and Jeremy Clements round out the top-10.
“So close but so far away," Allgaier said. “First of all, hats off to Austin and the entire Team Penske group, they’ve been strong competitors all year. To have the race they did tonight, they were obviously the best car and they deserved to win. I’m proud of my guys, proud of everybody at JR Motorsports.
“We had a shot at it at the end and when it’s all said and done, that’s all you can really ask for."
For most of the race the title contending quartet ran up front. In addition to Cindric and Allgaier, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver Chase Briscoe showed the speed that had made him the winningest driver in the series this year. He won a career-high and season-best nine races and led 41 laps on this championship night, but a struggle to get his car comfortable, a late race spin and the loss of track position was a setback he ultimately couldn’t overcome.
“Just a frustrating day, this is by far not my best race track," said Briscoe, who will move into the SHR team’s No. 14 NASCAR Cup Series ride next year.
“At the start of the race for me, just to lead laps here, I was like ‘wow this is different.’ I was just so loose at the beginning of the race and as the night came I was freer and freer and I don’t know how many times I about wrecked into one. I ended up hitting the wall. I’ve got to do a whole lot better job. There’s just something about this place that I really struggle at. We have a lot of homework to do.
“Definitely frustrating to finish fourth in the championship after the year we had, but overall to win nine races, it’s been a phenomenal year."
Haley, a three-race winner in 2020, didn't lead any laps in his No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet, but he rallied from a slow start and kept his car competitively among the top 10.
"It's been awesome," Haley said of his Playoff berth. "Just the growth of this Kaulig Racing team from when I stepped into it last year and were out in the first round of the Playoffs.
"Just the courage and the faith and everyone at Kaulig Racing, we bet on each other. I love it. I love everyone there. Super excited and super blessed to have another year. Doesn't sting as much because I know next year I get another chance at it."
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Sheldon Creed makes daring move to win Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship
Championship finalist Sheldon Creed had already apologized to his race team as his No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado began to fall back in the closing laps of Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway.
And then a yellow flag came out – with three laps remaining. Creed gambled on a pit stop for fresh tires even as the race leaders – fellow championship contenders Brett Moffitt and Grant Enfinger stayed on track. Creed restarted eighth but made an amazing four-wide move on the bottom of the track to pull back into the lead with a lap to go and held off rookie teammate Zane Smith by a mere .617-seconds to earn his first NASCAR national series championship trophy in a dramatic season finale at the one-mile track.
“I can’t believe it, thank you so much," the 23-year old Californian, Creed screamed into his team radio as he crossed the finish line.
“The caution came out and we were like, ‘we’ve got nothing to lose’," Creed said of the decision to pit for tires. “I pride myself on my restarts week-in and week-out and just nailed the restart right there.
“I was just driving as hard as I can, I wanted this thing so bad.”
It was particularly heart-wrenching for Creed’s teammate Brett Moffitt, who led a race best 78 of the 155 laps and had held the front position for 59 laps when that final caution came out for Dawson Cram’s spinning No. 41 Chevrolet. The 2018 series champion, Moffitt, was essentially left helpless on the restart as all the trucks with fresh tires – plus a pair of title contenders – came at him in a five-wide title-on-the-line run for the checkered.
“It’s frustrating losing like that," Moffitt said. “It would have been an honor to win with this paint scheme in honor of [NASCAR Cup Series champion] Jimmie Johnson," said Moffitt, adding, “I guess if broken legs isn’t enough of a handicap, race strategy is.”
Moffitt , driver of the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet, was referring to an accident he had prior to the COVID-19 NASCAR pause in competition, that broke both his legs. He recovered and valiantly made a run for the title despite the physical setback.
Smith, the third GMS Racing team driver, was similarly frustrated on pit road after the race. He earned two wins on the season and the series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Honors, but the disappointment in Friday night’s outcome was obvious post-race.
“Honestly, I’m happy for Sheldon, he had an amazing year along with us," said the 21-year old Californian. “Man, nothing hurts more than to be the first loser."
Non-championship contenders Chandler Smith finished third, Christian Eckes and Raphael Lessard rounded out the top five. Last year’s Phoenix winner Stewart Friesen, Ben Rhodes, Tyler Ankrum, Todd Gilliland and Moffitt rounded out the top-10.
The fourth member of the Championship 4, Grant Enfinger certainly turned in an impressive rally on the night. After earning his championship chance last week in a wild finish at Martinsville, Va. Enfinger was chasing Moffitt down in the closing laps before the yellow flag.
Like Moffitt, he stayed out during the caution and was also passed on the frantic ensuing restart by trucks with fresher tires. He finished 13th in the No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford.
“We just couldn’t go on a short run," Enfinger said. “We had good speed on a long run, but just couldn’t pass after that. So we got off sequence. That worked. [Crew chief Jeff] Hensley was leaning towards tires at the end. I was leaning against it just to do something different, and we ended up staying out. That cost us.
“It just is what it is. We didn’t have quite the short run speed to legitimately contend tonight, but, man, a great season by these guys. I’m gonna try not to be too sad leaving here because it’s been a great year. It’s just unfortunate the way it turned out tonight.”
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2021 NASCAR season right around the corner
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season opens in February at Daytona and will make its first of two stops at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 28 for the much-anticipated Food City Dirt Race, the first time the premier auto racing circuit in the United States will race on dirt since 1970. In September, The World's Fastest Half-Mile will once again host a round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs where sparks are sure to fly during the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race on Saturday September 18 under the lights. For ticket information, please click here or call 423-BRISTOL.
- Stories by NASCAR Newswire
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WEEKEND RACE RESULTS FROM PHOENIX
NASCAR Cup Series Race - 33rd Annual Season Finale 500
Sunday, November 8, 2020
1. (1) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 312.
2. (3) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 312.
3. (2) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 312.
4. (4) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 312.
5. (26) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 312.
6. (5) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 312.
7. (11) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 312.
8. (12) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 312.
9. (25) William Byron, Chevrolet, 312.
10. (13) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 312.
11. (8) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 312.
12. (7) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 312.
13. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 311.
14. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 311.
15. (23) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 311.
16. (6) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 311.
17. (17) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 311.
18. (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 311.
19. (21) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 311.
20. (31) Chris Buescher, Ford, 311.
21. (22) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 311.
22. (14) Erik Jones, Toyota, 311.
23. (29) Michael McDowell, Ford, 311.
24. (19) Ryan Newman, Ford, 311.
25. (16) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 311.
26. (27) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 311.
27. (20) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 310.
28. (15) Cole Custer #, Ford, 310.
29. (35) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 309.
30. (32) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 306.
31. (30) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 306.
32. (37) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 302.
33. (36) James Davison, Ford, 302.
34. (24) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 299.
35. (38) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 296.
36. (33) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 288.
37. (39) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, Rear End, 261.
38. (28) Corey LaJoie, Ford, Suspension, 215.
39. (34) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, Handling, 149.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 112.096 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 47 Mins, 0 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.740 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 27 laps.
Lead Changes: 19 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Elliott (P) 0;J. Logano (P) 1-32;R. Blaney 33;J. Logano (P) 34-78;C. Elliott (P) 79;J. Logano (P) 80-119;C. Elliott (P) 120-138;J. Johnson 139-142;M. DiBenedetto 143;A. Almirola 144-150;C. Elliott (P) 151-163;K. Busch 164-167;C. Elliott (P) 168-172;B. Keselowski (P) 173-182;C. Elliott (P) 183-189;B. Keselowski (P) 190-195;C. Elliott (P) 196-260;R. Stenhouse Jr. 261;J. Logano (P) 262-269;C. Elliott (P) 270-312.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Chase Elliott (P) 7 times for 153 laps; Joey Logano (P) 4 times for 125 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 2 times for 16 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 7 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 4 laps; Jimmie Johnson 1 time for 4 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,11,9,2,12,18,88,14,1,21
Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,9,22,11,12,48,1,18,21,24
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NASCAR Xfinity Series Race - 22nd Annual Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200
Saturday, November 7, 2020
1. (3) Austin Cindric (P), Ford, 206.
2. (6) Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 206.
3. (8) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 206.
4. (10) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 206.
5. (1) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 206.
6. (5) Harrison Burton #, Toyota, 206.
7. (7) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 206.
8. (4) Justin Haley (P), Chevrolet, 206.
9. (2) Chase Briscoe (P), Ford, 206.
10. (13) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 206.
11. (9) Riley Herbst #, Toyota, 206.
12. (14) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 205.
13. (16) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 205.
14. (27) BJ McLeod, Toyota, 205.
15. (33) Bayley Currey(i), Chevrolet, 205.
16. (29) David Starr, Chevrolet, 205.
17. (31) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 205.
18. (15) Myatt Snider #, Chevrolet, 204.
19. (12) Brett Moffitt(i), Chevrolet, 204.
20. (25) Colby Howard, Chevrolet, 204.
21. (21) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 203.
22. (30) Kody Vanderwal #, Chevrolet, 203.
23. (19) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 203.
24. (24) Mason Diaz, Toyota, 202.
25. (18) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 201.
26. (34) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 200.
27. (23) Joe Graf Jr #, Chevrolet, 199.
28. (37) Stan Mullis, Toyota, 198.
29. (20) Jesse Little #, Chevrolet, 198.
30. (36) Jesse Iwuji(i), Chevrolet, 197.
31. (11) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 196.
32. (22) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 185.
33. (28) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 124.
34. (17) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, Engine, 73.
35. (32) Matt Mills, Toyota, Accident, 36.
36. (26) Donald Theetge, Chevrolet, Accident, 27.
37. (35) CJ McLaughlin, Chevrolet, Accident, 27.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 92.342 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 13 Mins, 51 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.162 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 47 laps.
Lead Changes: 16 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Allgaier (P) 1-6;C. Briscoe (P) 7-33;J. Allgaier (P) 34;C. Briscoe (P) 35-48;J. Allgaier (P) 49;T. Martins 50-52;J. Allgaier (P) 53-82;A. Cindric (P) 83-93;J. Allgaier (P) 94;B. Jones 95-97;J. Allgaier (P) 98-129;A. Cindric (P) 130-162;R. Chastain 163-172;A. Cindric (P) 173-199;J. Allgaier (P) 200-204;N. Gragson 205;A. Cindric (P) 206.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Justin Allgaier (P) 7 times for 76 laps; Austin Cindric (P) 4 times for 72 laps; Chase Briscoe (P) 2 times for 41 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 10 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 3 laps; Tommy Joe Martins 1 time for 3 laps; Noah Gragson 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 98,22,7,9,10,1,11,20,18,19
Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,7,98,19,9,1,11,20,51,21
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NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Race - 26th Annual Lucas Oil 150
Friday, November 6, 2020
1. (3) Sheldon Creed (P), Chevrolet, 156.
2. (2) Zane Smith # (P), Chevrolet, 156.
3. (21) Chandler Smith, Toyota, 156.
4. (7) Christian Eckes #, Toyota, 156.
5. (13) Raphael Lessard #, Toyota, 156.
6. (9) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 156.
7. (6) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 156.
8. (10) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 156.
9. (22) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 156.
10. (4) Brett Moffitt (P), Chevrolet, 156.
11. (16) Johnny Sauter, Ford, 156.
12. (17) Austin Hill, Toyota, 156.
13. (1) Grant Enfinger (P), Ford, 156.
14. (5) Matt Crafton, Ford, 156.
15. (23) Tanner Gray #, Ford, 156.
16. (32) Dylan Lupton, Ford, 156.
17. (15) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 156.
18. (12) Trevor Bayne, Chevrolet, 156.
19. (28) Tate Fogleman #, Chevrolet, 156.
20. (14) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 156.
21. (25) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 155.
22. (20) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 154.
23. (27) Spencer Davis #, Toyota, 154.
24. (8) Derek Kraus #, Toyota, 153.
25. (26) Tyler Hill, Chevrolet, 153.
26. (11) Danny Bohn, Toyota, 153.
27. (18) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 152.
28. (24) Dawson Cram, Chevrolet, 152.
29. (33) Robby Lyons(i), Chevrolet, 152.
30. (29) Akinori Ogata, Toyota, 150.
31. (30) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 147.
32. (19) Carson Hocevar, Chevrolet, Accident, 103.
33. (31) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, Brakes, 44.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 99.557 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 34 Mins, 1 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.617 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 28 laps.
Lead Changes: 8 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Z. Smith # (P) 1-48;G. Enfinger (P) 49;S. Creed (P) 50-74;B. Moffitt (P) 75-93;B. Rhodes 94;B. Moffitt (P) 95-153;G. Enfinger (P) 154;S. Creed (P) 155-156.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Brett Moffitt (P) 2 times for 78 laps; Zane Smith # (P) 1 time for 48 laps; Sheldon Creed (P) 2 times for 27 laps; Grant Enfinger (P) 2 times for 2 laps; Ben Rhodes 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 21,2,23,98,88,99,26,18,52,19
Stage #2 Top Ten: 23,21,2,99,98,52,26,4,18,24