Elliott claims Cup title
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Chase Elliott's first championship appearance didn't look like his first. Elliott controlled the final 40 laps of the race after making a title-winning pass of Joey Logano, who finished in third.
The race stayed green after Elliott took the lead, and he put nearly three seconds on the rest of the field by the checkered flag. Elliott said he was "just waiting on the caution" in the final laps, referencing late-lap yellow flags that foiled him earlier this season.
It never came, and Elliott sailed to his first NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
"All you can dream for is an opportunity and I've been very fortunate to have that over the years," Elliott said on NBC after his win.
Brad Keselowski finished in second and Denny Hamlin finished in fourth.
The Championship 4 drivers dominated the top spots through the race, but it was Elliott's car that looked the fastest from the start. The No. 9 Chevrolet twice failed pre-race inspection to force Elliott back of the field before the green flag, but Elliott raced up to third place within the first 50 laps.
Logano won the first stage of the race, but struggled with vibration in the second stage and lost pace. He was passed by Penske teammate Keselowski late in the race for the second place spot. Keselowski also edged ahead of Elliott for a Stage 2 win, but slow pit stops cost him positions multiple times throughout the 312-lap race.
It was the 24-year-old driver from Dawsonville, Georgia who capitalized with fast equipment to hoist a championship trophy in 2020. Elliott earned his fifth win of the season and 11th in his career with his latest victory. He secured his spot in the championship finale with a clutch win at Martinsville in the final Round of 8 race, then carried that speed through Phoenix.
Jimmie Johnson drove by Elliott's car just after his win in a symbolic passing of the torch between the Hendrick teammates before Johnson makes his exit from full-time NASCAR racing.
"To share a moment like that in Jimmie's last race and to win and to lock the championship, those are moments you can only dream of," Elliott said. "This is a dream. I'm just hoping I don't ever wake up."