Sunday, November 7th, there will be 39 drivers that start the Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway with a chance to win the race. However, only four of those drivers will have the chance to become the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion.
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin are the Championship Four. These four drivers will start the race Sunday with completely even points. For these four drivers there is only one thing that will matter. The Playoff Points no longer matter. The Stage Points no longer matter. The only thing that matters is finishing the race before the other three. For these four drivers that is how you become the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion.
Here is what all of the drivers including the Championship Four will face in the final race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Phoenix Raceway Data:
Track Size: 1-mile
Banking / Turn 1 & 2: 9 degrees
Banking / Turn 3 & 4: 11 degrees
Banking / Frontstretch: 3 degrees
Banking / Backstretch: 9 degrees
Championship Race Data:
Season Race #: 36 of 36 (11-07-21)
Playoffs Race #: 10 of 10
Race Length: 312 laps / 500 Kilometers
Stage 1 Length: 75 laps
Stage 2 Length: 115 laps
Final Stage Length: 122 laps
Here are the Championship Four drivers listed in order of overall driver rating in the Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway.
- Chase Elliott – 107.1
- Denny Hamlin – 99.2
- Kyle Larson – 93.5
- Martin Truex Jr. – 89.7
Here are the active drivers that have won a Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
- Kevin Harvick – 9 Wins
- Kyle Busch – 3 Wins
- Joey Logano – 2 Wins
- Denny Hamlin – 2 Wins
- Ryan Newman – 2 Wins
- Martin Truex Jr. – 1 Win (March 2021 Race)
- Chase Elliott – 1 Win (2020 Championship Race)
- Kurt Busch – 1 Win
The driver that wins the Championship does not have to win the Championship Race. That driver just has to beat the other three drivers in the Championship Four. However, the winner of the seven Championship Races since the start of the elimination style playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2014 has been the driver that won the championship.
The first six of those Championship Races were held at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 2020 Championship Race was the first not at that track and held at Phoenix Raceway instead.
Kevin Harvick was eliminated from the Playoffs after the Round of 12. He has yet to win a race in the 2021 season. Kevin has not gone a complete season without at least a single win since 2009. He has been a dominant driver at Phoenix Raceway winning nine (29% or nearly one third) of the last 31 races at the track. You can bet he will be doing all he can to get at least one win for the season and his 10th race at the track.
It has been more than three years since Kevin has won at the track. It has been just over seven months since Martin Truex Jr. has won at the track. Martin has won just a single championship back in 2017. Sweeping the season at Phoenix Raceway would give him his second title.
Chase Elliott won this race last year to win his first NASCAR Cup Series Championship. If he can repeat that feat he would become the 11th driver to win back-to-back championships and only the sixth to do it with the first two championships of their careers.
Kyle Larson has been the dominant driver in the 2021 season hands down. He has won nine point paying races and the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race. You know he will be racing harder than ever before to claim his 10th points race of the season and his first championship in NASCAR’s top division.
It will likely be a very exciting race to watch. The challenge of Phoenix Raceway is something that will add to the excitement.
The really are only two questions overall. Which drivers will see their hopes and dreams for the season fall short? Which driver will see those hopes and dreams fulfilled?
We will get the answers to those questions starting at 2 pm central time (3 pm eastern time) Sunday, November 7th in the Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway.
By: Buck Stevens