Chase Elliott Wins Season Finale and 2020 NASCAR Cup Championship

credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

The siren sounded long and loud at the Dawsonville Pool Room in Dawsonville, Georgia, Sunday evening after Chase Elliott dominated the 2020 Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway Sunday afternoon to capture both the race win and the NASCAR Cup Championship. Behind him, championship contenders Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin finished second through fourth respectively, with Jimmie Johnson finishing his final race of his final NASCAR season in fifth place. 

A season unlike any other came to an end with a race as close to normal as you can get in the top tier of motorsports. 


The win not only makes Elliott the youngest driver to heft the championship trophy since Jeff Gordon, whose seat Elliott filled at Hendrick Motorsports, did it in 1995. In addition, Chase and his father, NASCAR Hall-of-Famer and 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott joined the elite group of father-son duos who've both won NASCAR Cup championships. Only Lee Petty and his son, Richard, as well as Ned Jarrett and his son, Dale, were members of that club prior to Sunday.

 

credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs


When asked about adding to his family legacy, the younger 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.

“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. And then to have a championship sponsor like NAPA, all of our partners, and Chevrolet, huge thanks to Team Hendrick and everybody at our shop that peaked at the right time. That's all we can ask for.”

The victory also gave Hendrick Motorsports its 13th Cup Owner’s Championship. 

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer captured the Rookie of the Year title. Ford already clinched the Manufacturer's Championship at Martinsville. 

Elliott was awarded the pole position, but started in the rear of the field when the No. 9 NAPA Chevy failed pre-race inspection twice. After the race, crew chief Alan Gustafson explained, "We had our left rear quarter top was low, and there was a few spots on it, and we had to fix a couple other things." 


The car cleared on the third try and also cleared post-race inspection, making Gustafson the winning crew chief and giving him his first NASCAR Cup Championship.   


In Johnson’s post-race interview he was reminded of his Championship win coming from the back. He said, “That's what went through my mind today when I heard they were going to the back. I sent Alan and Chase a text and reminded them that I won a championship that way.”  


By lap 40, Elliott had already cracked the top 10, and he led seven times for a total of 153 laps. Keselowski took point twice for 16 laps total, while Logano was up front four times for 125 laps, but no one could catch Elliott at the end. He took the lead for the final time on Lap 270, and while he and his team were prepared for a late-race caution, and Keselowski and the No. 2 team wished for one, none came. 


“I felt like I did all I could do today,” said Keselowski. “I'm disappointed, but I'm also proud at the same time.  My team brought a great car, and we ran a hell of a race. You know, won Stage 2 and made a convincing case that we probably could have won the race today, but it just didn't come together with the track position. I can be disappointed in that. I think I'm probably more focused on the positives. We were really fast. I felt like I ran a great race, and I'm proud of that.” 


Logano said, “Well, obviously when you don't win it, it hurts. It definitely stings. Yeah, I told the guys before the race started, I said in these races when you get to the Championship 4, you can't lose. You either win or you become stronger. Unfortunately we got stronger today. We learned a lot about ourselves and learned that we are capable. We were capable of executing when we needed to. We just need to go faster.” 


 “Yeah, certainly disappointed,” Hamlin said. “Our organization hasn't really been very good on the short tracks this year. It's kind of a learning period for us. But we put our best effort forward. We had no mistakes today, did everything I possibly could, just I had nothing there to go.” 


In addition to being Johnson's final race, Chad Knaus called his final race from atop the No. 24 pit box. His driver William Byron earned a ninth-place finish. Clint Bowyer ended up in 14th for his final NASCAR Cup run, and Matt Kenseth, who finished 25th, again departs. 


Leavine Family Racing makes their exit from the sport with a 17th place from Christopher Bell, and Germain Racing finished their final season with a 21st from Ty Dillon. 

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Chase Elliott Wins Season Finale and 2020 NASCAR Cup Championship Chase Elliott Wins Season Finale and 2020 NASCAR Cup Championship Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Sunday, November 08, 2020 Rating: 5

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