A look at some of the story lines for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway, which can be heard live on the Motor Racing Network starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Phoenix hosts the championship race for the first time where Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin will compete for the title. Hamlin and Logano are the only previous winners at Phoenix among the Championship 4 with two each. Non-Playoff drivers that have gone to Victory Lane at the 1-mile track are: Kevin Harvick (9), Jimmie Johnson (4), Kyle Busch (3), Matt Kenseth (2), Ryan Newman (2) and Kurt Busch (1).
Logano Hopes to Repeat History
Joey Logano’s march to the Championship 4 is reminiscent of when he won the title in 2018, when he also was victorious early in the season and didn’t win again until the opening race of the Round of 8. Logano, who finished fifth in the standings last season, is making his fourth appearance in the Championship 4, the most among this year’s field.
"Honestly I feel like this year feels a lot like 2018," Logano said. "It’s actually kind of funny because I think about 2018 where we had not the best summer months, then we kind of picked it up as the Playoffs started. Won Martinsville, the first race of the third round, which set us up to race for a championship in Miami that year."
NASCAR.com: Why Logano Will Win the Title
Elliott Brings Momentum
Chase Elliott is the only among the Championship 4 that is making his debut in the title race, but is coming in with the momentum of his big win last weekend at Martinsville. His crew chief Alan Gustafson is looking to win at Phoenix for the fourth time with four different drivers. He previously won with Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch.
"This is a big opportunity – it’s not an easy thing to make the final four, it’s not something you should ever take for granted, may not ever be here again, so I recognize that and I recognize that we have a very solid team," said Elliott, who has a runner-up finish at Phoenix in this event in 2017. "As the No. 9 team in general, I think we are very capable of going and contending this weekend and I believe that and I think we just have to make the most of a great opportunity and enjoy it and try to thrive in the moment and hope for the best."
UPDATE: Elliott to Start from Rear
NASCAR.com: Why Elliott Will Win the Title
Keselowski Confident for Phoenix
The championship race will feature the 750 horsepower, reduced downforce rules package that has been used at nine oval tracks this season starting at Phoenix in the spring. Each of the Championship 4 have at least a victory at those tracks, but Brad Keselowski leads the way with three. Keselowski hopes that plays to his favor in his quest for his second Cup Series championship as two of the tracks he won at – New Hampshire and Richmond – had the same tire combination that will be used this weekend.
"There’s nothing guaranteed, but I’m very confident we’re going to go there and be very competitive and have a great shot to win the race," Keselowski said. "That’s what I can guarantee is that we’ll be there, we’ll be focused, my team is going to bring a great car, and the chips will fall where they will from there, but our preparation and all that will it’s already at a very high level, and I feel good about that."
NASCAR.com: Why Keselowski Will Win the Title
Hamlin Looking to Bookend the Season
Denny Hamlin won the season opening Daytona 500 and is looking to bookend the 2020 season with his first championship. Hamlin made the Championship 4 for the third time and leads the group with 14 Playoff appearances. He leads the four drivers in wins this season, with seven, and is tied with Logano with two Phoenix victories.
"This one is a tough one to handicap," Hamlin said. "From my perspective, I’m a numbers guy, I like the law of averages. If I just keep putting myself in that Final Four, eventually things will fall my way."
NASCAR.com: Why Hamlin Will Win the Title
On Final Time
Sunday’s season finale will also mark the final race as full-time drivers for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, who will be joining FOX Sports in 2021. Johnson, an 83-time winner, will be making his 686th start before transitioning to Chip Ganassi Racing where he’s scheduled to compete in the NTT IndyCar Series at road and street courses.
"It’s been an amazing journey and one that I could have never dreamed of," Johnson said. "To be here at the end of what has been a crazy year, going out on my terms, is really special."
Chad Knaus, who won seven championships as Johnson’s crew chief, will be calling his final race for William Byron as he will move to vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports.
"I’m sure that when we get to the end of the race Sunday that it’s going to be a tough moment for me and for my brother Jimmie (Johnson)," Knaus said. "Obviously, it’s going to be tough to walk away from this full time on the crew chief level, but it will be a good thing. It’s a good opportunity for me and it’s a great opportunity for the No. 24 team and for Rudy (Fugle) to really get started on their future."
Matt Kenseth will also make his final start in the No. 42 Chevrolet after joining Chip Ganassi Racing in late April. He returned to the sport for the first time since 2018 to replace Kyle Larson, who was let go by the team and suspended by NASCAR. Larson will move to Hendrick Motorsports next season after being reinstated, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021. Ross Chastain will drive the No. 42 in 2021.
A Perfect 10?
Kevin Harvick was eliminated from championship contention last weekend, but is looking for his 10th win at both Phoenix and of the season. His nine wins are the most in a year in the Cup Series since Carl Edwards won nine in 2008. If Havrick can pull off the win he would become the first driver since 2007 to win 10 races when Jimmie Johnson accomplished the feat along with the first non-Playoff driver to win the final race in the elimination era.