Chase Elliott wins 2020 NASCAR Cup Series title

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Chase Elliott is a NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Elliott had the best car throughout Sunday’s title race at Phoenix Raceway and easily cruised to his first Cup Series title over Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.

Elliott, 24, passed Logano for the race win and the championship with 42 laps to go and set sail as the three drivers he was racing for the title couldn’t come close to mounting a challenge. Elliott led 153 laps, the most of any driver.

The championship is Elliott’s first and will likely make him the first driver since his father, Bill, in 1988 to win the Cup Series title in the same season where he was voted NASCAR’s most popular driver. Chase Elliott has been NASCAR’s most popular driver for the past two seasons and is a shoo-in for his third straight.

Elliott had to start at the back of the field on Sunday after his car failed inspection multiple times. But he moved his way to the front quickly and took the lead for the first time on lap 79 of the 312 lap race.

Keselowski finished second, while Logano was third and Hamlin was fourth. Elliott’s teammate and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson was fifth in his final NASCAR Cup Series start as a full-time driver.

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 08: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the checkered flag  after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale 500 and the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 08, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott celebrates his first NASCAR Cup Series title. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Elliott’s number was fluorescent yellow in honor of Johnson on Sunday. And the young driver broke down in tears in his car as he realized that he had become a Cup Series champ.

The Elliott family is just the third to have a father-son combination to win Cup Series titles. The Pettys were the first with Lee and Richard, and Dale Jarrett joined his father, Ned, when he won the 1999 Cup Series title.

It was clear to Elliott that the reality of being a Cup Series champion was sinking in after he climbed from his car in front of the grandstands.

“To win and lock the championship, this is moments you can only dream of,” Elliott said. “This is a dream. I’m just hoping I don’t ever wake up.”

After he got out from his car, Elliott embraced his car owner Rick Hendrick and Johnson at the same time. Hendrick is the winningest owner in NASCAR history; he’s fielded championship cars for Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Johnson and now Elliott.

No one was a match for Elliott

Logano was ahead of Elliott in the final stage of the race because he pitted a lap earlier to take advantage of fresh tires. But Elliott quickly ran him down and made the pass for the lead look easy.

It was all customary after that. Elliott’s margin of victory at the end was over three seconds as the other three title contenders were left wishing for a late caution flag for a chance at a restart. It wasn’t a crazy wish either. The Truck Series and Xfinity Series title races had come down to two-lap restarts on Friday and Saturday night. But there was no reason for NASCAR to throw a caution over the last 100-plus laps of Sunday’s Cup Series race.

The win was Elliott’s second straight and his fifth of the season. He won the final race of the third round at Martinsville to make it to the final four. That victory not only ensured that he would be a contending part of the title race but also knocked Kevin Harvick out of the playoffs. Harvick was the winningest driver in the series in 2020 with nine wins.

Final playoff standings

1. Chase Elliott

2. Brad Keselowski

3. Joey Logano

4. Denny Hamlin

5. Kevin Harvick

6. Alex Bowman

7. Kyle Busch

8. Martin Truex Jr.

9. Ryan Blaney

10. Kurt Busch

11. Austin Dillon

12. Clint Bowyer

13. Matt DiBenedetto

14. William Byron

15. Aric Almirola

16. Cole Custer

Race results

1. Chase Elliott

2. Brad Keselowski

3. Joey Logano

4. Denny Hamlin

5. Jimmie Johnson

6. Ryan Blaney

7. Kevin Harvick

8. Matt DiBenedetto

9. William Byron

10. Martin Truex Jr.

11. Kyle Busch

12. Kurt Busch

13. Aric Almirola

14. Clint Bowyer

15. Bubba Wallace

16. Alex Bowman

17. Christopher Bell

18. Austin Dillon

19. Tyler Reddick

20. Chris Buescher

21. Ty Dillon

22. Erik Jones

23. Michael McDowell

24. Ryan Newman

25. Matt Kenseth

26. John Hunter Nemechek

27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

28. Cole Custer

29. Brennan Poole

30. JJ Yeley

31. Daniel Suarez

32. Joey Gase

33. James Davison

34. Ryan Preece

35. Josh Bilicki

36. Timmy Hill

37. Garrett Smithley

38. Corey LaJoie

39. Quin Houff

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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