Chase Elliott is a NASCAR Cup Series champion at the age of 24. The Georgia-native won Sunday’s Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway to secure his first NASCAR Cup Series title.
It was an incredible race, where the four Championship 4 drivers mixed it up at the front of the field all race long. In the end, it was Elliott, who started at the rear after multiple failures in pre-race inspection, who led a race-high 154 laps.
“We did it. We did it. That’s all I got to tell you,” Elliott explained. “Unreal. Championship crew chief Alan Gustafson is now a NASCAR Cup Series champion and very deserving. I can’t say enough about our group we took some strides this year.”
Elliott secured the championship with his fifth win of the day, and his No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro was battered by several drivers on his cool-down lap including Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. as they congratulated him on the win.
“Oh my gosh,” Elliott said holding back his emotions. “To share a moment like that — Jimmie’s last race and to win and to lock the championship, I just — those are moments you can only dream of. This is a dream, just hoping I don’t ever wake up.”
Elliott is the third-youngest NASCAR Cup Series champion in history. Only Bill Rexford and Jeff Gordon secured their first title at a younger age.
Brad Keselowski, who suffered from several issues on pit road during the race, rebounded but ultimately came up short in his bid for a second NCS title, as he finished runner-up. Keselowski was hoping for a late-race caution, which never came.
“I would have liked to have one of those late race yellows, like we saw in the Truck race, Xfinity race,” Keselowski explained. “We were pretty good there, just didn’t have the track position to make it show. I knew we had a good shot at the end of the second Stage, but just couldn’t keep it up in spot to keep it where we could have the lead. Really proud of the speed we had, solid day, just wish we had one more spot.”
Joey Logano, who led 125 laps on the day and was passed by Elliott on lap 262, which ended up being the race-winning pass, finished third.
Denny Hamlin, the fourth man in the championship battle finished fourth, and heartbreakingly misses out on the championship again.
Jimmie Johnson, who will retire from full-time competition after the 2020 season, finished an impressive fifth in a special silver paint scheme. Following climbing from his car, Johnson explained that his heart is full following a 19-year career.
“My heart is full,” Johnson said while embracing his daughters. “I’m just so happy to have this wonderful career and so many great people behind me. First and foremost, this one right here, my wife Chandra. Been with me every step of the way. My kids. This has just been quite a journey for all of us. My heart is full and I’m just happy for today. Had a great run on the track and I can’t go without congratulating Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports on another championship.”
Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-10 finishers in the event.
As far as other finishes in their last race, here are the notables:
- Chad Knaus finished ninth in his final race as a crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series.
- Clint Bowyer finished 14th in his final race as a full-time NCS driver.
- The No. 88 car finished 16th. Hendrick Motorsports will drop the car number for 2021.
- Leavine Family Racing’s final race resulted in a 17th place finish with Christopher Bell.
- Germain Racing’s final start ended with a 21st place effort for Ty Dillon.
- Matt Kenseth finished 25th in what seems to be the final start of his NCS career.
Post-Race stat pack:
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.