The final NASCAR race of the 2020 pandemic season was completed at the Phoenix Raceway this past weekend with a champion crowned.
The winner of this race and the winner of the NASCAR Cup Title was Chase Elliott, who hasn’t quite reached his 25thbirthday yet. This win does more than simply give this young driver his first championship, it places him among the elite racers in a sport that has been dominated by names we’ve known for a long time.
A Tough Start to the Race for Elliott
Every car is put through a pre-race inspection by NASCAR officials and the Number 9 car of Chase Elliott failed this inspection. This meant he lost the pole position and would have to start the race in the back of the pack. As one of only four of the racers qualified to win the overall championship, Elliott needed to beat the other three qualified racers to capture the cup.
A Long Race With Lots of Lead Changes
Chase Elliott did manage to lead the most laps during this NASCAR race in Phoenix. He led seven times and led an overall 153 laps. This was the race-high number, which gave him control of the championship. The only threat to his win came from Joey Logano, another racer qualified to win the championship, who led 125 laps, but most of them were early.
A NASCAR Torch is Being Passed
Not to take anything away from the earned spotlight for Chase Elliott, but Jimmie Johnson had announced earlier in the year this would be his final year. That meant the race in Phoenix was his last. Johnson won seven cup titles in his career, five of them consecutive from 2006-2010, and 83 race wins. The fact that Chase Elliott won the race meant Johnson was passing the torch of Hendrick Motorsports onto a teammate.
A Moment Shared on the Track
During the cool-down lap at the end of the race, Johnson pulled up alongside Elliott and gave him a fist bump to signify the passing of the torch. Once the cars were parked, Johnson and his family waked to Elliott’s car and shared hugs with Elliott. Without a doubt, Jimmie Johnson passed on the torch of racing under the Hendrick name with class, joy, and grace.
The Most Popular NASCAR Driver is the Champion
Chase Elliott became the most popular driver in NASCAR starting in 2018 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired. After his win this weekend, he became the first most popular driver to win the championship since his father won the title in 1988. That win for Bill Elliott was his only Cup Championship win but with Chase’s win, it puts their family in rare company.
The Rare Company of NASCAR
Consider them racing royalty, consider them the best father-son combinations to be part of this sport, or just consider them to be the heritage of the sport. The Elliotts join Le and Richard Petty along with Ned
and Dale Jarrett as only the third father-son combination to win a NASCAR Cup title. The Elliotts and Tim Flock are the only three drivers from Georgia to win this title.
Continued Excellence at Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports has had a strong history of success in NASCAR. The win by Chase Elliott marks the 13thtitle for the racing team. Jimmie Johnson blessed the company with seven titles and Jeff Gordon brought four, and Terry Labonte had the other single title. Hopefully, this will be the first of many titles for Chase Elliott as the Hendrick team looks to add more titles to the trophy case.
The COVID-19 Bubble Was Loosened in Phoenix
Much like other sports, when the final game or race is conducted, the leaders in that sport have lifted the restrictions that COVID-19 has required. This was the case in Phoenix as families and guests were allowed at the race for the first time since the last time a race was held at this track. This meant that Jimmie Johnson got to see Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, for the first time since March.
A Great Finish to the Year for NASCAR
NASCAR was one of the first sports to resume competition after the pandemic began and the finish couldn’t have been much better at all. The massive schedule shuffling across all three of the national series brought us to the point of crowing champions. Congratulations to Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, and Jimmie Johnson on such an amazing event and a great win for the Hendrick team.