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  nascar cup series Xfinity series CAMPING WORLD truck series

 

Kyle Larson comes full circle in winning NASCAR Cup Championship Race

 

getty images

November 7, 2021

 

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

AVONDALE, Ariz. – At the end of an almost mythical season came the quintessential story of redemption.

 

Taking advantage of an opportune caution and a blazingly fast pit stop by his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet crew, Larson held off Martin Truex Jr. during a 24-lap green-flag run to the finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race.

 

The victory—Larson’s 10th of the season and the 10th at a track where he had never won before—made a deserving series champion of the 29-year-old Californian, who honed his racing skills in open-wheeled cars on dirt.

 

As Larson slowed his car for the cool-down lap, the tears started flowing.

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“I can’t… I cannot believe it,” Larson said after climbing from his car. “I didn’t even think I’d be racing a Cup car a year and a half ago. To win a championship is crazy. I’ve got to say first-off thank you so much to (team owner) Rick Hendrick, Hendrickcars.com, Jeff Gordon, NASCAR, every single one of my supporters in the stands, watching at home and my family.

 

“There were so many points in this race where I did not think we were going to win. Without my pit crew on that last stop (on Lap 285), we would not be standing right here. They are the true winners of this race. They are true champions. I’m just blessed to be a part of this group. Every single man and woman at Hendrick Motorsports, this win is for all of us, and every one of you.

 

“This is unbelievable. I’m speechless.”

 

This was the Kyle Larson who watched last year’s Cup championship race from afar after drawing a suspension from NASCAR and losing his ride with Chip Ganassi Racing for using a racial slur during a non-NASCAR-related virtual race in April 2020.

 

But after Larson did yeoman work to earn reinstatement, team owner Rick Hendrick hired the virtuoso driver, who won 46 dirt races in multiple divisions during his absence from NASCAR.

 

Hendrick’s decision paid immediate dividends and culminated in the 14th series championship for the organization (series-most).

 

Until Lap 282 of 312, however, Larson’s chances of victory were all but nonexistent. He was fourth among the Championship 4 drivers and trailing Truex, the leader at the time, by more than four seconds.

 

But on the lap that changed the race, the brakes in David Starr’s exploded and dropped a rotor in the low lane in Turn 3. Under the resulting the caution, the ninth of the race, Larson’s crew performed its second-fastest stop of the year and got Larson off pit road in the lead from pit stall No. 1, which the driver had earned by winning the pole during Saturday’s qualifying.

 

Larson restarted from the outside on Lap 289 with Hamlin beside him. Truex, who lost two positions on pit road, lined up behind Larson, with defending Chase Elliott to his inside. Larson surged into the lead, and Truex followed, passing Hamlin.

 

Truex contested the lead early in the run before Larson established a more comfortable margin. But Truex was closing at the finish and was just .398 seconds behind when Larson crossed the stripe for the final time to earn the 16th victory of his career.

 

“I don’t know what the caution was for, but just untimely caution for us and lost two spots on pit road, and that was the race,” Truex said. “Twenty (laps) to go, you’re not going to pass one of the fastest cars out there. We just didn’t have the short-run speed all day, and then certainly with 20 to go, it’s going to be hard to pass anybody out front in clean air.

 

“I think if we would have had the lead, we could have held him off. But hindsight is 20-20, and we didn’t have the lead, so here we are. Really proud of our team and our season. Come in here once again as underdogs and had a shot at it, so that was fun.”

 

Before the Lap 282 caution Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota was closing on Truex, but the yellow flag foiled a well-executed game plan by Hamlin’s team.

 

“I really liked where we were at with about 25 to go,” said Hamlin, who came home third in front of Ryan Blaney and Elliott. “We were just exceptional in the long run, which wasn’t too surprising, but started running the 19 (Truex) back down there and got within a couple car lengths, and obviously that debris caution changed a lot.

 

“Special congrats to Larson and his team. Those guys, any time you can win 10 races in a year, you’re absolutely a deserving champion. They did a great job on the last pit stop and got him out there, and it was just set sail after that.”

 

Had he won, the 25-year-old Elliott would have become the youngest driver to win multiple Cup championships, but his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet didn’t have either the track position or the necessary speed in the final run.

 

“I felt like our NAPA Chevy was really good, and I thought our team did a really good job preparing this week,” said Elliott, who led 94 laps, second only to Larson’s 107. “I was really proud of our group. I thought we brought a really good car and did a lot of things that we were wanting to do today. Just didn’t work out, and the sequence of the way all that went certainly was unfortunate for us.

 

“But look, proud of our team, a lot to build on, and also congrats to Kyle and (crew chief) Cliff (Daniels). What an amazing season. Very, very deserving champions, and glad to see Kyle have success. When you’re a good driver and a good person, and you surround yourself with good people, success is warranted. It’s good to see that.

 

“But we’ll be back stronger next year and try to give them a run.”

getty images

 

NASCAR Cup Series Race – 34th Annual NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race

Phoenix Raceway

Avondale, Arizona

Sunday, November 7, 2021

 

  1. (1)  Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 312.
  2. (12)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 312.
  3. (6)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 312.
  4. (4)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 312.
  5. (2)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 312.
  6. (18)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 312.
  7. (13)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 312.
  8. (9)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 312.
  9. (8)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 312.
  10. (11)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 312.
  11. (10)  Joey Logano, Ford, 312.
  12. (15)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 312.
  13. (7)  Cole Custer, Ford, 312.
  14. (16)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 312.
  15. (23)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 312.
  16. (5)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 312.
  17. (3)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 312.
  18. (14)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 312.
  19. (20)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 312.
  20. (31)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 312.
  21. (17)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 312.
  22. (27)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 312.
  23. (19)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 312.
  24. (28)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 312.
  25. (26)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 311.
  26. (29)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 310.
  27. (32)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 309.
  28. (33)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 306.
  29. (34)  Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, 303.
  30. (37)  Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, 303.
  31. (38)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 301.
  32. (24)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 281.
  33. (36)  David Starr(i), Toyota, Brakes, 273.
  34. (30)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, Accident, 242.
  35. (22)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, Accident, 153.
  36. (21)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 140.
  37. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, Accident, 122.
  38. (39)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Handling, 57.
  39. (25)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 5.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  100.348 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 6 Mins, 33 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .398 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  9 for 51 laps.

Lead Changes:  18 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson (P) 1;C. Elliott (P) 2-16;R. Blaney 17-48;K. Harvick 49;R. Blaney 50;M. Truex Jr. (P) 51-78;K. Larson (P) 79;C. Elliott (P) 80-119;M. Truex Jr. (P) 120-130;K. Larson (P) 131;C. Elliott (P) 132-155;K. Larson (P) 156;T. Reddick 157-160;K. Busch 161;K. Larson (P) 162-235;C. Elliott (P) 236-250;K. Larson (P) 251;M. Truex Jr. (P) 252-284;K. Larson (P) 285-312.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson (P) 7 times for 107 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 4 times for 94 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 3 times for 72 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 33 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 4 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,4,9,11,5,24,41,12,1,21

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,9,11,19,12,4,2,18,22,24

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: NASCAR Cup Series Championship

The Place: Phoenix Raceway

The Date: Sunday, November 7

The Time: 3 p.m. ET

TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 312 miles (312 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 190), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 312)

 

NASCAR Cup Series

 

Spotlight turns to Phoenix Raceway for Championship Weekend

The anticipation and intensity that has been building over the last 35 races of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season will culminate this Sunday (Nov. 7) in the Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Four drivers have scratched and clawed their way into the series’ Championship 4 Round. Two are former Cup champions – Martin Truex Jr. (2017) and Chase Elliott (2020) – and the other two - Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin - are hoping to etch their name on the NASCAR Cup Series champions list.

 

It was announced in March of 2019 that the NASCAR Cup Series would be moving its Playoffs’ Championship Race from Homestead-Miami Speedway, where it had resided since the inception of the Playoffs in 2004, to Phoenix Raceway for the first time in 2020. Prior to the 2020 season, Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs season finale for 16 seasons (from 2004-2019). Phoenix Raceway is just the second track to host the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race in the Playoffs.

 

2021 marks just the second year the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race will be held at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona (2020-2021). Since the inception of the Playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2004, Phoenix Raceway has occupied three different positions on the postseason schedule. In 2004, Phoenix Raceway hosted the eighth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. Then from 2005 – 2019 (15 seasons), Phoenix Raceway has hosted the penultimate race (ninth) in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

 

A total of 10 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Phoenix Raceway. Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup Series in Playoff race wins at Phoenix Raceway with four victories (2006, 2012, 2013 and 2014). Last season, Chase Elliott secured his first NASCAR Cup Series title by winning the season finale at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 8, 2020).

 

NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway Playoff Race Winners

Track

Playoff Race Winners

Date

Race No.

Phoenix

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Sunday, November 7, 2004

34

Phoenix

Kyle Busch

Sunday, November 13, 2005

35

Phoenix

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 12, 2006

35

Phoenix

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 11, 2007

35

Phoenix

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 9, 2008

35

Phoenix

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 15, 2009

35

Phoenix

Carl Edwards

Sunday, November 14, 2010

35

Phoenix

Kasey Kahne

Sunday, November 13, 2011

35

Phoenix

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 11, 2012

35

Phoenix

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 10, 2013

35

Phoenix

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 9, 2014

35

Phoenix

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Sunday, November 15, 2015

35

Phoenix

Joey Logano

Sunday, November 13, 2016

35

Phoenix

Matt Kenseth

Sunday, November 12, 2017

35

Phoenix

Kyle Busch

Sunday, November 11, 2018

35

Phoenix

Denny Hamlin

Sunday, November 10, 2019

35

Phoenix

Chase Elliott

Sunday, November 8, 2020

36

 

Four non-Playoff drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway:

 

  • In 2005, Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was ranked 19th in the point standings at the time of the win.

 

  • In 2011, Kasey Kahne won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was ranked 14th in the point standings at the time of the win.

 

  • In 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was seventh in point standings at the time of the win. Earnhardt Jr. had made the Playoffs in 2015 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

 

  • In 2017, Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was seventh in points at the time of the win. Kenseth had made the Playoffs in 2017 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

 

The worst finish in a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway by a driver that went on to win the title the same season was 38th by Jimmie Johnson in 2016. In 2016, Phoenix occupied the penultimate event of the season.

 

In total, Phoenix Raceway had hosted 50 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 25 different pole winners and 26 different race winners. Of the 26 NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix race winners, 10 are active this weekend and three are Championship 4 drivers. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine victories.

 

A closer look at the Cup season finale in the Playoffs

When it comes time to put up or shut up, there is no bigger stage in NASCAR than the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Championship Race. Below is a look at the performances in the season finale during the Playoff Era (2004-2021).

 

A total of 12 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series championship race (2004-2020). Greg Biffle leads the NASCAR Cup Series in championship race wins with three victories (2004, 2005, 2006 – all at Homestead-Miami Speedway).

 

NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Season Finale Race Winners

Track

Playoff Race Winners

Date

Homestead

Greg Biffle

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Homestead

Greg Biffle

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Homestead

Greg Biffle

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Homestead

Matt Kenseth

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Homestead

Carl Edwards

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homestead

Denny Hamlin

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Homestead

Carl Edwards

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homestead

Tony Stewart

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Homestead

Jeff Gordon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homestead

Denny Hamlin

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Homestead

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Homestead

Kyle Busch

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Homestead

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Homestead

Martin Truex Jr

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Homestead

Joey Logano

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Homestead

Kyle Busch

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Phoenix

Chase Elliott

Sunday, November 8, 2020

 

Eight times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series season finale race has won the championship during the Playoff Era (2004-Present) – the most of any of the Playoff races:

 

  • In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the 15th starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and as a result secured his third-career NASCAR Cup Series championship in the closest points battle in series history – tied with Carl Edwards – Stewart won the title by virtue of the tiebreaker: most wins.

 

  • In 2014, Kevin Harvick won from the fifth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the first year of the elimination-style format of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, as a result he won his first series title.

 

  • In 2015, Kyle Busch won from the third starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the second year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, as a result he won his first series championship. 

 

  • In 2016, Jimmie Johnson won from the 14th starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the third year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he tied NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the series-most championships with seven each.

 

  • In 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won from the second starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the fourth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship. 

 

  • In 2018, Joey Logano won from the fifth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the fifth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship.

 

  • In 2019, Kyle Busch won from the fourth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the sixth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he became just the second active driver at the time with multiple titles (20115, 2019) joining seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.   

 

  • In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the first starting position at Phoenix Raceway in the seventh year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship. Worth noting, Elliott was served a pre-race penalty and as a result of serving the penalty he actually started the race from back of the field and still won.  

 

The worst finish in a championship race by the eventual series champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway was 15th (three times): Tony Stewart in 2005, Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and Brad Keselowski in 2012.

 

Two non-Playoff drivers have won the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale Playoff race: Greg Biffle (2004 and 2006) and Denny Hamlin (2013).     

 

Full Championship Weekend at Phoenix

Obviously, the ultimate goal is to crown a champion this weekend in Phoenix but before we do that fans will be treated to a full schedule of action this weekend, making it feel like it was back in 2019.

 

The NASCAR Cup Series will hold practice this weekend on Friday, Nov. 5 at 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. ET.

 

The series will then set the starting lineup by good ole pole qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. ET.

 

Last season’s starting lineup for the championship race at Phoenix was set by Metric Qualifying and as a result Chase Elliott earned the first starting position. This season he will have to earn it on the 1-mile track.

 

By The Numbers: Phoenix Raceway / Season Finale

0.10 – Since the advent of electronic scoring (1993), the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway is the Spring race of 2016 (March 13, 2016) when Kevin Harvick beat Carl Edwards to the line by 0.010 seconds – which is tied with Atlanta (3/12/2000), Daytona (2/21/2016), and Rockingham (2/22/2004) for the eighth closest finish in series history.

1 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series championship races Phoenix Raceway has hosted (2020).

3 – Number of 2021 Championship 4 drivers with a former win at Phoenix Raceway – Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott.

6 – Number of wins from the pole or first starting position at Phoenix Raceway – most recent was Chase Elliott’s win in the championship race last season.

8 – Number of times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series championship season finale race has won the title during the Playoff Era (2004-Present); including the last seven seasons in the elimination-style format of the Playoffs - Tony Stewart, 2011; Kevin Harvick, 2014; Kyle Busch, 2015; Jimmie Johnson, 2016; Martin Truex Jr., 2017; Joey Logano, 2018; Kyle Busch, 2019; and Chase Elliott (2020) – Note: All the wins listed were at Homestead-Miami Speedway except for Elliott’s last season.

10 – Number of former NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix race winners entered in this weekend’s season finale –

Active Race Winners

Wins

Seasons

Kevin Harvick

9

2018, 2016, 2015, 2014 sweep, 2013, 2012, 2007 sweep

Kyle Busch

3

2019, 2018, 2005

Joey Logano

2

2020, 2016

Denny Hamlin

2

2019, 2012

Ryan Newman

2

2017, 2010

Martin Truex Jr

1

2021

Chase Elliott

1

2020

Kurt Busch

1

2005

 

7 – Number of former NASCAR Cup Series champions entered in this year’s season finale race at Phoenix:

Rank

No. of Titles

Active Champions (7)

Years

1

2

Kyle Busch

2019, 2015

2

1

Chase Elliott

2020

 

1

Joey Logano

2018

 

1

Martin Truex Jr.

2017

 

1

Kevin Harvick

2014

 

1

Brad Keselowski

2012

 

1

Kurt Busch

2004

 

9 – The degrees of banking in Turns 3 and 4 of Phoenix Raceway.

11 – The degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2 of Phoenix Raceway.

12 – The most cautions in a single NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway; has happened twice – most recently earlier this season (03/08/2020).

15 – The worst finish by the eventual series champion in the season finale race (at Homestead-Miami Speedway) - it happened three times: Tony Stewart in 2005, Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and Brad Keselowski in 2012. 

17 – Total number of NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races held at Phoenix Raceway (2004-2020).

20 – The age of the youngest NASCAR Cup Series race winner at Phoenix Raceway: Kyle Busch (November 13, 2005 – 20 years, 6 months, 11 days).

25 – Number of different NASCAR Cup Series Busch pole winners at Phoenix Raceway; led by Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick with four each.

26 – Number of different NASCAR Cup Series winners at Phoenix Raceway; led by Kevin Harvick with nine victories.

28 – The greatest number of lead changes in a single race at Phoenix Raceway (Feb. 27, 2011) – earlier this season the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix produced 22 lead changes.

29 – The lowest starting position by a race winner at Phoenix Raceway (Ricky Rudd, 1995).

37 – Most NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway starts; led by Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman with 37 each. 

50 – Total number of NASCAR Cup Series races held at Phoenix Raceway.

93 – Number of different drivers that have led at least one lap in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway. 

312 – Number of laps scheduled for this weekend’s Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

Season Finale Title-Clinching Performances

Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will mark the conclusion of the 2021 season. Below is a look at how the last 11 NASCAR Cup Series season finales (2010-2020) have turned out:

 

2010 – Jimmie Johnson Tracks Down Denny Hamlin For Fifth Straight Title

Denny Hamlin held a comfortable 15-point lead on Jimmie Johnson for the championship heading into the season finale. However, Hamlin could not close out the title. Hamlin damaged his Toyota with an early-race spin and finished 14th as a result. Kevin Harvick, who was third in points entering the race, finished third. Johnson placed runner-up to take home his fifth consecutive championship.

 

2011 – Tony Stewart Wins Third Championship In Epic Race

Trailing leader Carl Edwards by three points entering the 2011 season finale, Tony Stewart virtually needed a win to capture the title – especially considering that Edwards ultimately finished runner-up in the race.

 

Stewart drove to the front from the back of the field twice and edged out Edwards to get to Victory Lane.

 

The pair finished the season tied in points, but Stewart held the tiebreaker over Edwards of most wins during the season (five to one). It was the first title for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series.

 

2012 – Brad Keselowski Fends Off Jimmie Johnson For First Championship

Brad Keselowski entered the 2012 season finale 20 points ahead of second-place Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings.

 

Keselowski, who won two Playoff races to help put himself in championship-clinching position, didn’t produce his best performance with a 15th-place showing at Homestead-Miami.

 

But problems in the pits for Johnson caused the five-time champion to finish 36th and helped Keselowski secure his first championship, as well as the first title for Team Penske.

 

2013 – Jimmie Johnson Closes In On Earnhardt And Petty With Sixth Title

After building up his points lead on the strength of six wins, 16 top fives and 23 top 10s, Jimmie Johnson needed to finish 23rd to capture his sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship.

 

Following an incident on a restart just shy of the 200-lap mark, Johnson ended up 23rd when it all sorted itself out.

 

By the end of the race, he worked his way up to finish ninth, earning Hendrick Motorsports a record 11th championship.

 

2014 – Harvick Rides To Two ‘Do Or Die’ Victories To Earn First Series Title

Kevin Harvick started the penultimate race of the 2014 season needing a win to get into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix. He dominated the contest, leading 264 laps to earn the victory and a spot in the Championship 4. After playing mind games throughout Homestead week with the rest of the field, Harvick held off runner-up Ryan Newman to earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series title and the second for Stewart-Haas Racing.

 

2015 – Kyle Busch Overcomes Injury For Improbable Comeback

Just ninth months after breaking his right leg and fracturing his left foot, Kyle Busch edged out defending champion Kevin Harvick for the Homestead race win and his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. Busch missed the first 11 races of the season after sustaining his injuries in a crash in the season-opening NASCAR Xfinity race at Daytona. He came back to win five races in the NASCAR Cup Series that year and cement his name in NASCAR history.

 

2016 – Johnson Ties Series Record With Seventh Championship

Jimmie Johnson proved once again to not count him out in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. He won his way into the Round of 8 with a victory at Charlotte, then took the checkered flag at Martinsville to punch his ticket to Homestead. He provided a walk-off win at Homestead to capture his seventh championship, tying NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the NASCAR Cup Series record.

 

2017 – Martin Truex Jr. Earns First Championship

Driving for the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing, Truex turned a career-best season into a championship for the ages. His victory in the Homestead finale was a personal best eighth on the year. He led the final 34 laps and held off a hard charging Kyle Busch by .681-seconds to earn the trophy hoist. It was an emotional victory with team owner, Barney Visser recovering from a recent heart attack back in Denver and Truex’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex trackside after a year of major medical obstacles.

 

2018 – Joey Logano Wins First Championship

After qualifying for the Championship 4 in the Round of 8 opening race at Martinsville Speedway, the 28-year old Logano headed to Homestead-Miami largely considered the “underdog” to 2018’s “Big 3” – Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. The threesome (Busch, 9, Harvick, 8 and Truex, 4) won 21 of the first 35 races in 2018. However, the Team Penske driver grabbed his opportunity and took it to the Big 3, winning the season finale by a sizable 1.7-seconds over Truex, Harvick and Busch and taking his career first NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy – Team Penske’s second.

 

2019 – Kyle Busch grabs second title, fifth for JGR

After putting up four wins early in the 2019 NACAR Cup Series season, Kyle Busch went winless for 21 races. He pointed his way into the Championship 4 but when his back was against the wall he answered and won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway passing Kevin Harvick in the closing laps and the holding off his hard charging Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. by 4.578-seconds to win his second championship. With the feat, Busch became just the second active multiple champion joining Jimmie Johnson (seven titles). The title was also the fifth for Joe Gibbs Racing - Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019).

 

2020 – Chase Elliott comes from the rear to win first title at Phoenix

After putting up just two wins during the 2020 NACAR Cup Series regular season, Chase Elliott stepped up his game in the Playoffs winning at the Charlotte Road Course to advance to the Round of 8 and then winning the penultimate race at Martinsville Speedway to earn his spot in the Championship 4 Round.  Elliott and the No. 9 team would head to Phoenix for the season finale only to lose their first starting position to multiple pre-race inspection failures. But the setback didn’t hold Elliott down, instead it made even more hungry for the title. He methodically worked his way through the field taking the lead for the first time in the event on Lap 79 of 312. Elliott would go on to hold off a hard charging Brad Keselowski to win the race by 2.740-seconds. With the feat, Elliott became seventh active champion. The title was also a series leading 13th for Hendrick Motorsports.

 

Chances a spoiler steals the show this weekend at Phoenix

Since the introduction of the "win and you’re in" elimination-style Playoff format, the eventual champion has won the season finale race (at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix Raceway) each of the seven previous years (Kevin Harvick, 2014; Kyle Busch, 2015; Jimmie Johnson, 2016; Martin Truex Jr., 2017; Joey Logano, 2018; Kyle Busch, 2019; Chase Elliott, 2020). Still, with Phoenix Raceway hosting the championship event, there is still a chance a driver out of championship contention can win the race.

 

The name that rises to the top of the list of possible spoilers this weekend, is NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway wins leader, Kevin Harvick, who has spent a career mastering the 1-mile raceway putting up nine series victories, including four Playoff wins. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver, Harvick, failed to make the Championship 4 this season, and is riding a winless streak that dates back to Bristol in 2020 (42 races ago). So, the Californian would like nothing more than to steal a win this weekend.

 

Expect Harvick to be in the mix for the lead no matter what this weekend. Phoenix Raceway is his best track. At Phoenix, Harvick leads the series in wins (nine), top fives (18), top 10s (26) laps completed (11,530), laps led (1,662) and average finish (8.8). Plus, he leads the series in key pre-race Loop Data categories with an Average Running Position of 8.290 and a Driver Rating of 110.4. 

 

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

ARCA Menards Series ties to NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 - All four of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 contenders have stock car racing roots in the ARCA Menards Series platform, developing their skills in at least one of the series that currently races under the ARCA Menards Series banner.

 

Kyle Larson was the 2012 champion in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East, racing the full season of 14 races for Rev Racing. He won a pair of races in that series, at Gresham Motorsports Park (Jefferson, Georgia) and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He also tallied a pair of second-place results amongst eight top-five finishes that year.

 

He also made three ARCA Menards Series starts, winning at Pocono in 2014 and finishing as runner-up at Daytona in 2013. And recorded a win in his lone start in what is now the ARCA Menards Series West, taking the checkered on the road course at Sonoma in 2014.

 

Chase Elliott made 12 ARCA Menards Series starts, recording a win at Pocono in 2013 and finishing second at Martinsville in 2012, recording six top-five results total. He also had a win in each of the other two ARCA developmental series – at Iowa in the current East series, and then at Sonoma in 2016 in the current West series.

 

Martin Truex Jr. raced only in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East but tallied 62 starts in the series between 1999 and 2003. He had five wins (New Hampshire in 2000, Thompson and Stafford in 2001, and Stafford and New Hampshire in 2003). Overall, he had 23 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes in those 62 starts.

 

Denny Hamlin made two ARCA Menards Series starts – one each in 2004 and 2005. He finished third at Talladega in 2004.

 

Sunoco Rookie of the Year Update – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe has mathematically clinched the 2021 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors but will not be officially awarded until he finishes the season in good standing, per the program guidelines and eligibility. Briscoe is currently 304 points ahead of Anthony Alfredo in second.

 

Sunoco Rookie of the Year

 

Rookies

Points

Awards

Chase Briscoe

653

29

Anthony Alfredo

349

6

 

Briscoe’s rookie campaign has produced three top-10 finishes in 35 starts. His average starting position in 2021 is 22.2 and his average finish is 19.2. He has led 18 laps and has won 29 Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards. 

 

Cup Manufacturers Championship – Chevrolet has clinched the NASCAR Cup Series Manufacturers Championship this season. The manufacturer mathematically clinched the title following Kyle Larson’s win at Kansas. Chevrolet currently has 18 wins on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.

 

Nine different manufacturers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Manufacturers Championship. This is Chevrolet’s series leading 40th NASCAR Cup Series Manufacturers Championship,

 

NCS Manufacturer Champions

OEM

No. of Manufacturers Championships

Most Recent

Chevrolet

40

2021

Ford

17

2020

Toyota

3

2019

Hudson

3

1954

Buick

2

1982

Dodge

2

1975

Oldsmobile

1

1955

Plymouth

1

1971

Pontiac

1

1962

 

 

NASCAR Cup Series

 

NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (In Alphabetical Order)

All the sweat, the tears, the heart-warming pains and the back breaking gains have all culminated to this one last shot for the Championship 4 contenders to vie for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Phoenix Raceway.

 

Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin have worked harder, done more with what they had and minimized mistakes better in the first 35 races, all while navigating the rigors of the postseason to make the Playoffs’ final round. Now the stage is set for the Championship 4 drivers to contend for the title and the prestigious Bill France Cup trophy which will be awarded to the highest finishing driver of the four at Phoenix Raceway. Two of the four drivers are former champions – Truex (2017) and Elliott (2020) - with Hamlin and Larson looking for their first Cup titles this season.

 

Here’s an in-depth look at the championship contenders in 2021: 

 

Chase Elliott (No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)

 

Elliott By The Numbers:

1 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series Championships (2020).

1 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series wins at Phoenix Raceway (2020).

2 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2020, ‘21).

2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2021.

4 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway. 

4.7 – Average starting position at Phoenix Raceway.

6 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season.

7 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.

8.2 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of 2021 season.

11.1 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.

11.5 – Average finishing position during the first 35 races of 2021 season.

14 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of 2021 season.

16.0 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.

20 – Number of top-10 finishes in the first 35 races of 2021 season.

22 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021.

101.5 – Season-to-date driver rating – third-best among active drivers in 2021.

107.1 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – second-best among active drivers.

402 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.

858 - Total number of laps led in the 2021 season.

8,738 - Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (98.3%).

 

Elliott has chance to become 11th different driver all-time to win back-to-back Cup titles

Hendrick Motorsports driver and 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott has the opportunity this Sunday (Nov. 7) in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to become the 11th different driver in series history to win back-to-back titles; joining Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Joe Weatherly and Buck Baker. Elliott would be the first driver to win consecutive championships since Jimmie Johnson’s record five straight titles from 2006-2010.

 

Drivers with Multiple Championships (1949-2020)

Rank

No. of Titles

Driver

Years

1

7

Jimmie Johnson

2016, ‘13, ’10, ‘09, ‘08, ‘07, ‘06

  

Dale Earnhardt

1994, ’93, ‘91, ‘90, ‘87, ‘86, ‘80

  

Richard Petty

1979, ‘75, ‘74, ‘72, ‘71, ‘67, ‘64

4

4

Jeff Gordon

2001, ‘98, ‘97, ‘95

5

3

Darrell Waltrip

1985, ‘82, ‘81

  

Cale Yarborough

1978, ‘77, ‘76

  

David Pearson

1969, ‘68, ‘66

  

Lee Petty

1959, ‘58, ‘54

  

Tony Stewart

2011, ‘05, ‘02

10

2

Kyle Busch

2019, '15

  

Terry Labonte

1996, ‘84

  

Ned Jarrett

1965, ‘61

  

Joe Weatherly

1963, ‘62

  

Buck Baker

1957, ‘56

  

Tim Flock

1955, ‘52

  

Herb Thomas

1953, ‘51

* 16 total multiple NASCAR Cup Series champions

 

Elliott would also become the 17th driver all-time in the series with multiple championships and just the second active driver with more than one title, joining Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).

 

Family Affair: Chase Elliott keeps piling on the Elliott racing legacy

NASCAR was built by hard working and dedicated families like the Frances, Pettys, Jarretts and Earnhardts, and this weekend Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott has the chance to build on his family’s legacy by adding another championship to the family name in the highest form of stock car racing – the NASCAR Cup Series.

 

If Elliott accomplishes the feat the Elliotts (Bill: 1988 and Chase: 2020) would join the Pettys (Lee: 1954, 1958, 1959 and Richard: 1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979), and the Jarretts (Ned: 1961, 1965 and Dale: 1999) as just the third father-son combo to win multiple NASCAR Cup Series titles.

 

Elliott’s talent was apparent early on in his career. The Dawsonville, Georgia native jumped in the national NASCAR scene in 2013 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on a part-time basis, making nine starts and winning at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in just his sixth start. He then climbed up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsport and became the first rookie in series history to win the series championship in 2014. He ran one more season in Xfinity, finishing runner-up in the points in 2015 before moving up to the NASCAR Cup Series fulltime in 2016 with Hendrick Motorsports.

 

Elliott has qualified for the Playoffs all six seasons he has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, and this is the second time he has earned a spot in the Championship 4 Round (2020, 2021). Since running fulltime in the series, Elliott has made 220 starts putting up 13 wins, 73 top fives and 116 top 10s.

 

Mr. ‘Most Popular’ is looking to add to his championship resume

Embraced by the overwhelming cheers in his favor by the fans at the race track, there is no doubt Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott is the NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular driver. The year-end award he has taken home for that special distinction the last three seasons is just confirmation on top of the songs of fans singing his praises on a weekly basis.

 

The reigning 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Elliott, has answered his title winning season with quite the comparative performance heading into Phoenix Raceway this weekend. Elliott was strong out of the gate this season nearly winning the Daytona 500 (finished runner-up) and held the momentum throughout the regular season never falling out of the top 10 in points. He grabbed two wins during the regular season, at Circuit of The Americas and Road America.

 

Elliott entered the 2021 Playoffs as the 10th seed with 21 Playoff points to his credit.

 

Unfortunately, a late race incident with Christopher Bell at Darlington to open the 2021 Playoffs relegated him to a 31st-place finish to open the postseason, but Elliott was quick to rebound, finishing fourth-place at Richmond and had earned enough points following a 25th-place finish at Bristol to advance to the Round of 12.

 

Elliott reversed course at the start of the next round, finishing runner-up at Las Vegas but found his momentum slowed at Talladega with an 18th-place finish. He was able to secure his spot in the Round of 8 with a 12th-place finish at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.

 

Elliott then turned up the wick and finished seventh at Texas and runner-up at Kansas in the Playoffs Round of 8. As a result, Elliott was 34 points up on the Championship 4 cutoff heading into the penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway. Mr. ‘Most Popular’ then dominated the first two stages at Martinsville clinching his spot in the Championship 4 Round for the second time in his career. 

 

Through 35 races this season Chase Elliott has put up two wins, 14 top fives and 20 top 10s. He has led 858 laps and has an average finish of 11.5. He also has the third-best season-to-date driver rating (101.5) on the year. 

 

Elliott’s prowess in the Valley of the Sun

For just the second time in NASCAR Cup Series history, Phoenix Raceway will host the season finale race and set the stage for the Championship 4 to battle it out for the NASCAR Cup Series title. And the recent change could not have come at a better time for Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott, who has performed much better at Phoenix than the previous season finale venue Homestead-Miami Speedway; including winning the championship race last season and taking the title.

 

Elliott has made 11 series starts at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, posting one win (2020), four top fives, seven top 10s and a pole. His average finish at Phoenix is a strong 11.2, fourth-best in the series and third-best among the 2021 Championship 4.

 

Elliott is also near the top of the charts in several pre-race Loop Data categories at Phoenix with an Average Running Position of 8.709, second-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 107.1, second-best, 306 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best and 2,917 Laps in the Top 15 (84.5%), 12th-most.

 

Earlier this season at Phoenix, he started sixth and finished fifth.

 

Crew Chief Corner: Alan Gustafson  

Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Hendrick Motorsport’s crew chief in 2005, Alan Gustafson has proven that he is one of the best in the sport. Now the 2020 series crew chief champion has the chance to become the 11th different crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series to win back-to-back titles and the 16th to win multiple titles all-time. If Gustafson and the No. 9 team pull off consecutive titles in the NASCAR Cup Series, he would join fellow crew chiefs Dale Inman, Chad Knaus, Kirk Shelmerdine, Ray Evernham, Bud Moore, Lee Petty, Andy Petree, Herb Nab, Jake Elder and Carl Kiekhaefer in accomplishing the feat.

 

Crew Chiefs with Multiple Championships (1949-2020)

Rank

No. of Titles

Crew Chiefs

Years

1

8

Dale Inman

1964, '67, '71, '72, '74, '75, '79, '84

2

7

Chad Knaus

2006, '07, '08, '09, '10, '13, '16

3

4

Kirk Shelmerdine

1986, '87, '90, '91

4

3

Ray Evernham

1995, '97, '98

  

Bud Moore

1957, '62, '63

  

Lee Petty

1954, '58, '59

7

2

Adam Stevens

2019, '15

  

Greg Zipadelli

2002, '05

  

Andy Petree

1993, '94

  

Jeff Hammond

1982, '85

  

Tim Brewer

1978, '81

  

Herb Nab

1976, '77

  

Jake Elder

1968, '69

  

Carl Kiekhaefer

1955, '56

  

Smokey Yunick

1951, '53

* 15 total multiple NASCAR Cup Series Crew Chief champions

 

During his 17 seasons of full-time competition, Gustafson has worked with five different drivers: Kyle Busch (2005-2007), Casey Mears (2008), Mark Martin (2009, 2010), Jeff Gordon (2011-2015) and Chase Elliott (2016-Present). And during those 17 seasons he led his drivers to 14 Playoff appearances and to wins in 13 of the 17 seasons. This weekend at Phoenix will mark his third appearance in the Championship 4 Round, his first appearance was with NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon in 2015 when they finished the season third in points.

 

The Elliott-Gustafson pair has combined for the following achievements in 215 NASCAR Cup Series races together since 2016:

  • 13 wins
  • 73 top fives
  • 116 top 10s
  • 3,949 laps led
  • 9 poles
  • One NASCAR Cup Series Championship (2020)
  • Two NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearances (2020, 2021)
  • Six consecutive NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances (2016-2021)

 

The two will look to capture their second NASCAR Cup Series championship together this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Last season, Gustafson became the 41st different crew chief in the series with a championship.

 

Adding to the historic legacy of Hendrick Motorsports

When it comes to winning titles in the NASCAR Cup Series, no organization does it better than Hendrick Motorsports with their series leading 13 championships among four drivers – Chase Elliott (2020), Jimmie Johnson (2016, ’13, ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07, ’06), NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (2001, ’98, ’97, ’95) and Terry Labonte (1996).

 

Overall Hendrick Motorsports has 16 NASCAR national series owner championships, the all-time record in NASCAR (13 in Cup and three in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – 1997, 1999, 2001).

 

And to boot, Hendrick Motorsports was the first organization in the series history to win four straight, from 1995-98 (Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1997-98; Terry Labonte 1996) and then upped their record in the series with five straight, from 2006-2010 (Jimmie Johnson). Hendrick Motorsports has won 13 of the last 26 NASCAR Cup Series championships (1995-2020), putting the team's title-winning percentage during that span at 50% - series-best.

 

But the 2021 season has been extra special with what the Hendrick Motorsports organization has been able accomplish. Heading into Phoenix this weekend, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 16 NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2021; Hendrick Motorsports’ second-most in a single season and third-most by any team in NASCAR’s Modern Era (1972-Present). 2021 is the organization’s 36th straight season with a victory; longest-ever streak by a team in the series and its 37th season overall with a win; the most-ever by a team in the series. Plus, Hendrick Motorsports swept first and second in seven races this season; tied for the second-most all-time and most by a team in NASCAR’s Modern Era. They also became one of two teams in Cup Series history to finish 1-2 in four straight races (between Dover and Sonoma). And to top all of that, the organization became the all-time wins leader in the NASCAR Cup Series with 279 total Cup wins - lead all other teams by 11 victories. Kyle Larson’s win in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway broke the all-time record previously held by Petty Enterprises (268 wins).

 

The Hendrick Motorsports foursome of Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman also became the only team in NASCAR’s Modern Era to win six straight races (between Dover and Pocono) and

the only team in Cup history to have all four Cup cars entered in a race sweep the top-four finishes positions (Dover). They also became the first team in history with four winners under age 30 in a single season.

 

This season Hendrick Motorsports led a combined 3,918 laps; fifth-most by any team in NASCAR’s Modern Era (1972)-Present); 100 laps led away from a new Hendrick Motorsports team record (4,017 in 2009). Junior Johnson and Associates holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era organization record for the most laps led in a single season with 4,296.

 

Hendrick Motorsports 2021 dominance doesn’t end there, they also posted 32 finishes inside the top two; currently tied with Joe Gibbs Racing (2019) for the most in the Modern Era (since 1972), scored 81 top-10 finishes; the team’s third-most (84 in 2007, 82 in 2012), posted 53 top-five finishes; the team’s second-most (57 in 2007) and won 27 stages; had only won 33 prior to 2021.

 

Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs elimination-style format in 2014, the 2021 season is the first time Hendrick Motorsports has placed two drivers in the Championship 4 Round (Elliott, Larson). Impressively, Hendrick Motorsports has won at least one Playoff race in each of the 17 Playoff seasons (since 2004) for a combined 52 postseason wins, most all-time.

 

Chase Elliott can add to the legacy of Hendrick Motorsports this weekend by winning the title and extending the organization’s record in series championships. In total, 13 different organizations have won at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Hendrick Motorsports with 11 victories.

 

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)

 

Hamlin By The Numbers:

2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series career wins at Phoenix Raceway (2012, 2019).

2 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins during the 2021 season.

4 – Number of appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 (2014, ’19 ’20, ‘21)

10 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season.

6.4 – Average starting position for the first 35 races of the 2021 season.

7.2 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.

8.6 – Average finishing position for the first 35 races of the 2021 season.

9.8 – Average starting position at Phoenix Raceway.

10.8 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway. 

15 – Number of career top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway. 

18 – Number of top-five finishes during the 2021 season.

19 – Number of career top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.

24 – Number of top-10 finishes during the 2021 season.

30 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021.

99.2 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway, fourth-best among active drivers.

109.2 – Season-to-date driver rating, second-best among active drivers in 2021.

854 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.

1,502 - Total number of laps led in the 2021 season (career-high in a single season).

8,884 - Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (99.9%).

 

Denny Hamlin seeks first career Cup title

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin burst on the NASCAR Cup Series scene fulltime in 2006, and ever since he has been a force in the series year-in and year-out. The 40-year-old has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for 16 full-time seasons, qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in a series record 15 of them (tied with Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch for series-most at 15 each). This season will mark the fourth time the Virginia has made the Championship 4 Round (2014, 2019, 2020, 2021) tied with Joey Logano for second-most appearances in the series and Hamlin is hoping this is the year he gets his first title. If Hamlin were to accomplish the feat this weekend, he would become the first NASCAR Cup Series driver from Virginia to win a championship.

 

In 2014, he qualified for the final round in the Playoffs, but finished seventh in the season finale at Homestead-Miami and ultimately third in the championship standings. Last season he advanced to the Championship 4 for the second time in his career, but a tough call on pit road in the season finale was costly for Hamlin and he finished the race in 10th and ultimately fourth in the final championship standings.

 

Hamlin’s best finish in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings came in 2010 when he finished runner-up in the points behind Jimmie Johnson.

 

Hamlin’s 2021 championship campaign started with a fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500, and then a third-place finish at the Daytona Road Course in the opening two weeks of the schedule and as a result, he took the points lead and then held it for 22 straight races. It has been Hamlin’s relentless consistency that has made the different this season. In 35 starts, he has posted two wins, 18 top fives and 24 top 10s. His average finish this season is a stout 8.6.

 

The path to Phoenix almost got rocky for Hamlin

The Joe Gibbs Racing standout, Denny Hamlin, had to bank on his 32 Playoff points to help him advance to the Championship 4 Round this season after a late race incident with Alex Bowman almost derailed his Playoff hopes last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. But none of that matters now, as he has another chance at a Cup title this weekend. 

 

Hamlin shot out of the gate this Playoffs winning the open race at Darlington Raceway, then finished runner-up at Richmond and ninth at Bristol to advance to the Round of 12. He then did it again, winning the opening race to the Round of 8 at Las Vegas and the followed it up with a seventh at Talladega and a fifth-place finish at the Charlotte Roval. Then Hamlin rallied off an 11th at Texas and another fifth-place finish at Kansas, but nearly had his postseason squandered at Martinsville after being wrecked from the lead by Alex Bowman. Bowman would go on to win and Hamlin would finish 24th nearly missing the Championship 4, but thanks to his Playoff points he earned enough to move on.  

 

Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott are the only two drivers from last season’s Championship 4 (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano) to make it back to the final round in 2021. Hamlin has finished fourth in the final Cup standings the last two seasons. Hamlin ranks second among drivers with the most NASCAR Cup Series wins (46) without a championship behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson (50).

 

Hamlin’s previous performance in cactus country

For just the second time in series history Phoenix Raceway will host the season finale race and set the stage for the Championship 4 to compete for the NASCAR Cup Series title. And the change in venue is a welcome one for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.

 

The one-mile Phoenix Raceway is one of the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s best tracks in the NASCAR Cup Series, having made 32 series starts at the 1-mile track collecting two wins (2012, 2019), 15 top fives, 19 top 10s and two poles. His average finish at Phoenix is 10.781, second-best in the series and best among the Championship 4.

 

Hamlin also ranks in the top five in several key pre-race Loop Data categories at Phoenix with an Average Running Position of 10.989, fourth-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 99.2, fourth-best, 530 Fastest Laps Run, third-best and 7,383 Laps in the Top 15 (73.9%), third-most.

 

Earlier this season, Hamlin started third and led 33 laps en route to a third-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.

 

Crew Chief Corner: Chris Gabehart

The powerful duo of driver Denny Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart are the only Championship 4 team entered this weekend that has made the Playoffs’ final round the last three consecutive seasons (2019-2021), proving they are a force to be reckoned with.

 

Since joining forces with Hamlin and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team, Gabehart has led the crew to 15 wins, including two Daytona 500 victories (2019, 2020), three Playoff appearances and three Championship 4 appearances (2019, 2020, 2021).

 

The Hamlin-Gabehart pair have combined for the following achievements in 104 NASCAR Cup Series races together since 2017:

 

  • 15 wins
  • 54 top fives
  • 68 top 10s
  • 3,376 laps led
  • 3 poles
  • Three consecutive NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearances (2019, 2020, 2021)
  • Three consecutive NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances (2019, 2020, 2021)

 

Under Gabehart’s leadership this season, Hamlin has earned 18 top fives, 24 top 10s and has hoisted two trophies (Darlington, Las Vegas) in Victory Lane.

 

If Hamlin and Gabehart win the championship this season, Gabehart will become the 42nd different crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series to win a title.

 

Continuing Joe Gibbs Racing’s excellence

Winning and excellence are ingrained in the foundation of the Joe Gibbs Racing and since joining the NASCAR Cup Series in 1992 the organization has collected five series championships among three drivers - Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002, 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).

 

Overall, Joe Gibbs Racing has 10 NASCAR national series owner championships (five in Cup and five in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016).

 

Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the last 21 NASCAR Cup Series championships (2000-2020), putting the team's title-winning percentage during that span at 25%. The organization also holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) record for the most wins in a single season with 19 victories in 2019.

 

Heading into Phoenix this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing has earned nine NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2021. The 2021 season is the organization’s 29th straight season with at least one victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

 

This season Joe Gibbs Racing led a combined 2,792 laps. The team ranks second in laps led in a single season in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Presnt) with 4,047 laps out front in 2019. Junior Johnson and Associates holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era organization record for the most laps led in a single season with 4,296.

 

Joe Gibbs Racing’s recent dominance doesn’t end there, they also set a NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era record for the most finishes (32) inside the top two in 2019; a feat Hendrick Motorsports tied this season. This season the JGR foursome of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. scored 79 top-10 finishes; the team’s third-most (92 in 2019, 84 in 2016), posted 51 top-five finishes; the team’s third-most (61 in 2019 and 55 in 2020) and also won 22 stages.

 

Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs elimination-style format in 2014, Joe Gibbs Racing has placed at least one driver in the Championship 4 Round each season (Denny Hamlin: 2014, ’19, ’20, ’21; Kyle Busch: 2015-2019; Martin Truex Jr.: 2019, ’21; Carl Edwards: 2016). Impressively, Joe Gibbs Racing has placed more than one driver in the Championship 4 Round in three of the seven Playoffs with the elimination-format (2016, 2019 and 2021) and set the series record for the most drivers to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round by an organization in a single season when Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin all made the Championship 4 in 2019. 

 

Joe Gibbs Racing has won at least one Playoff race in 13 of the 17 Playoff seasons (since 2004) for a combined 33 postseason wins, second-most all-time. Joe Gibbs Racing is also tied with Hendrick Motorsports for the most Playoff wins in a single season with six victories each (JGR, 2019 and HMS 2007).

 

Denny Hamlin made his fulltime NASCAR Cup Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2006 and he immediately started things on the right foot, winning the Daytona Speedweeks season-opening exhibition event, then known as the Budweiser Shootout, in his first appearance. Since then, Hamlin has earned 46 Cup points-race victories – picking up his third Daytona 500 win last season. Now the 40-year-old is looking to bring the Joe Gibbs Racing organization its sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship and his first; joining Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019).

 

 

Kyle Larson (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)

 

Larson By The Numbers:

1 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2021).

5 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway. 

8 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.

9 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2021 (career-high).

6.2 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of 2021 season.

8.1 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.

9.3 – Average finishing position during the 2021 season.

11.6 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.

17 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season (series-most in 2021).

19 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of the 2021 season.

25 – Number of top-10 finishes during the first 35 races of the 2021 season.

65 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021 (series-most in 2021).

72 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.

93.5 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – eighth-best among active drivers.

111.9 – Season-to-date driver rating – series-best among active drivers.

2,474 - Total number of laps led in the 2021 season (career-high).

8,688 - Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (97.7%).

 

Larson looks to cement name in history with NASCAR Cup Series championship

Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson heads to Phoenix Raceway this weekend looking to become the 35th different driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to win the championship and the fifth different driver to accomplish the feat for Hendrick Motorsports joining Chase Elliott (2020), Jimmie Johnson (2016, ’13, ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07, ’06), and NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (2001, ’98, ’97, ’95) and Terry Labonte (1996).

 

Of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 drivers, Larson is the only one making his final round debut. The Elk Grove, California native’s previous best finish in the NASCAR Cup Series final standings was sixth back in 2019.

 

Larson, one of the most accomplished Dirt racers on the planet, graduated from the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program and immediately pounced on the NASCAR national series scene. In 2012, Larson signed Turner Scott Motorsports and made four starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series posting three top 10s; including a runner-up finish at Phoenix. He made the jump to fulltime racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series the next season (2013) with Turner Scott Motorsports posting nine top fives and 17 top 10s. He finished the season eighth in points. He also made his NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2013. He competed in four of the final six races of the season for Turner Scott Motorsports after it was announced he would drive the No. 42 Chevrolet full-time in 2014 for Chip Ganassi Racing.

 

Ever since 2014, Larson has been scheduled to run fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series. He spent almost seven full seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing putting up six wins with organization from 2014-2020. But in 2020, Chip Ganassi Racing released Larson just four races into the season following his suspension by NASCAR for using a racial slur over the radio during a public iRacing event. Larson would sit out the remainder of the 2020 season. Following Larson fulfilling the requirements by NASCAR to lift his suspension, Hendrick Motorsports reached out to him to see if he wanted another shot. And as they say, the rest is history.

 

Hendrick Motorsports brought back the No. 5 team and paired crew chief Cliff Daniels with Larson for the 2021 season. Since joining the No. 5 team at the beginning of the year the duo has put up a series leading nine victories leading into the Championship race this weekend.   

 

Kyle Larson is looking to cap off a career season

Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson is having a career year and not only because he made the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s Championship 4 Round for the first time, but also because he has racked up a career-high and series leading nine victories on the season – also a career first.

 

Larson got up to speed at Hendrick Motorsports fairly quickly this season winning in just his fourth race (Las Vegas-1) with the organization – a team record for fewest races before a Cup win. And once Larson found his groove, the wins just kept coming. He has rallied off nine total victories this season (Las Vegas, Charlotte, Sonoma, Nashville, Watkins Glen, Bristol, Charlotte Road Course, Texas and Kansas) and became the first driver in series history to win at three different road courses in a single year. The 24-year-old also joined NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt (1987), Davie Pearson (1968) and Richard Petty (1967, 1971) as just the fourth driver in series history to win three or more consecutive races multiple times in a single season. In total he put up career-highs in top-five (19) and top-10 finishes this season, as well as a career-high in laps led at 2,474 laps out front this season.

 

And to top it all off, Larson won the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championship and entered the 2021 Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with 53 Playoff points to his credit.

 

Larson kicked the postseason’s Round of 16 off with a runner-up finish at Darlington and then a sixth-place finish at Richmond and won at Bristol to clinch a spot in the Round of 12. From there he finished 10th at Las Vegas and then followed it up with 37th-place finish at Talladega. Larson then switched it to high gear and won at the Charlotte Road Course to advance to the Round of 8. Once in the third round of the Playoffs he proceeded to win the two consecutive races at Texas and Kansas and for the first time in his career lock himself into the Championship 4 Round. He would finish 14th at Martinsville to close out the Round of 8. 

 

Through 35 races this season Kyle Larson has put up nine wins, 19 top fives and 25 top 10s. He has led 2,474 laps and has an average finish of 9.3. He also has the series-best season-to-date driver rating (111.9) on the year. 

 

Larson’s performance at Phoenix

The only driver of this season’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 that has not previously won at Phoenix Raceway is Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson.

 

Larson has made 14 starts at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, posting five top fives, eight top 10s. His average finish at Phoenix is a strong 11.6, fifth-best in the series and third-best in the 2021 Championship 4.

 

Larson is also near the top of the charts in several pre-race Loop Data categories at Phoenix with an Average Running Position of 11.956, ninth-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 93.5, eighth-best, 141 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best and 3,010 Laps in the Top 15 (70.1%), 11th-most.

 

Earlier this season at Phoenix, he started second and finished seventh.

 

Crew Chief Corner: Cliff Daniels

Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Hendrick Motorsport’s crew chief in 2019, Cliff Daniels has shown that he is one of the rising stars in the sport. During his two seasons of full-time competition, Daniels has worked with three different drivers: Jimmie Johnson (2020), Justin Allgaier (2020) and Kyle Larson (2021). But it wasn’t until this season he earned a spot in the Playoffs and won nine races. This weekend at Phoenix will mark his first appearance in the Championship 4, his previous best finish in the final Cup standings was 18th with driver Jimmie Johnson in 2020. 

 

The Larson-Daniel pair has combined for the following achievements in 35 NASCAR Cup Series races together:

  • 9 wins
  • 19 top fives
  • 25 top 10s
  • 2,474 laps led
  • 1 pole
  • One NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearance (2021)
  • One NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances (2021)

 

The two will look to capture their first NASCAR Cup Series championship together this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. If they accomplish the feat, Daniels will become the 42nd different crew chief in the series with a championship.

 

Adding to the historic legacy of Hendrick Motorsports

When it comes to winning titles in the NASCAR Cup Series, no organization does it better than Hendrick Motorsports with their series leading 13 championships among four drivers – Chase Elliott (2020), Jimmie Johnson (2016, ’13, ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07, ’06), NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (2001, ’98, ’97, ’95) and Terry Labonte (1996).

 

Overall Hendrick Motorsports has 16 NASCAR national series owner championships, the all-time record in NASCAR.

 

And to boot, Hendrick Motorsports was the first organization in the series history to win four straight, from 1995-98 (Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1997-98; Terry Labonte 1996). And then upped their record in the series with five straight, from 2006-2010 (Jimmie Johnson). Hendrick Motorsports has won 13 of the last 26 NASCAR Cup Series championships (1995-2020), putting the team's title-winning percentage during that span at 50% - series-best.

 

But the 2021 season has been extra special with what the Hendrick Motorsports organization has been able accomplish. Heading into Phoenix this weekend, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 16 NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2021; Hendrick Motorsports’ second-most in a single season and third-most by any team in NASCAR’s Modern Era (1972-Present). 2021 is the organization’s 36th straight season with a victory; longest-ever streak by a team in the series and its 37th season overall with a win; the most-ever by a team in the series. Plus, Hendrick Motorsports swept first and second in seven races this season; tied for the second-most all-time and most by a team in NASCAR’s Modern Era. They also became one of two teams in Cup Series history to finish 1-2 in four straight races (between Dover and Sonoma). And to top all of that, the organization became the all-time wins leader in the NASCAR Cup Series with 279 total Cup wins - lead all other teams by 11 victories. Kyle Larson’s win in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway broke the all-time record previously held by Petty Enterprises (268 wins).

 

The Hendrick Motorsport’s foursome of Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman also became the only team in NASCAR’s Modern Era to win six straight races (between Dover and Pocono) and

the only team in Cup history to have all four Cup cars entered in a race sweep the top-four finishes positions (Dover). They also became the first team in history with four winners under age 30 in a single season.

 

This season Hendrick Motorsports led a combined 3,918 laps; fifth-most by any team in NASCAR’s Modern Era (1972)-Present); 100 laps led away from a new Hendrick Motorsports team record (4,017 in 2009). Junior Johnson and Associates holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era organization record for the most laps led in a single season with 4,296.

 

Hendrick Motorsports 2021 dominance doesn’t end there, they also posted 32 finishes inside the top two; currently tied with Joe Gibbs Racing (2019) for the most in the Modern Era (since 1972), scored 81 top-10 finishes; the team’s third-most (84 in 2007, 82 in 2012), posted 53 top-five finishes; the team’s second-most (57 in 2007) and won 27 stages; had only won 33 prior to 2021.

 

Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2004, the 2021 is the first time Hendrick Motorsports has placed two drivers in the Championship 4 Round (Elliott, Larson). Impressively, Hendrick Motorsports has won at least one Playoff race in each of the 17 Playoff seasons (since 2004) for a combined 52 postseason wins, most all-time.

 

Kyle Larson can add to the legacy of Hendrick Motorsports this weekend by winning the title and extending the organization’s record in series championships. If he accomplishes the feat, he will be the organization’s fifth different driver that has earned a NASCAR Cup Series championship. In total, 13 different organizations have won at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Hendrick Motorsports with 11 victories.

 

 

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)

 

Truex By The Numbers:

1 – Number of career NASCAR Cup Series Championships (2017).

4 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2021.

5 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2015, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19, ‘21).

5 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season.

5 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway. 

8.3 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of 2021 season.

10.3 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.

12 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of 2021 season.

12.3 – Average finishing position during the 2021 season.

13 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.

15.3 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.

19 – Number of top-10 finishes during the 2021 season.

29 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021.

89.7 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – 10th-best among active drivers.

96.7 – Season-to-date driver rating – sixth-best among active drivers in 2021.

187 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.

793 - Total number of laps led in the 2021 season.

8,822 - Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (99.3%).

 

Martin Truex Jr. wants to be the next multiple Cup champion

Martin Truex Jr. returns to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round for a series record-tying fifth time since the inception of the elimination-style format in 2014; joining Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch with five Champ 4 appearances each. And in the process, he became just the fourth different driver to enter the penultimate race under the Playoff cutline and race his way into the postseason’s final round; joining Kevin Harvick in 2014, Denny Hamlin in 2019 and Chase Elliott in 2020.

 

The 2021 season marks his 16th full season in the NASCAR Cup Series and over that time the Mayetta, New Jersey native has collected 31 wins, 128 top fives and 247 top 10s.

 

He joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019 after two very successful seasons with Furniture Row Racing that saw him earn a Cup championship (2017) and two Championship 4 Round appearances (2017, 2018).

 

After missing the Champ 4 last season, Truex is back to his championship contending form this season. In 35 starts he has put up four wins (Phoenix-1, Martinsville-1, Darlington-2, Richmond-2), 12 top fives and19 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 8.3 and his average finish is 12.3. He has also led 793 laps.

 

Truex jumped into the 2021 Playoffs with both feet posting fourth at Darlington, a win at Richmond to advance to the next round and a seventh-place finish at Bristol. He then put up a fourth at Las Vegas, a 12th at Talladega and a 29th at the Charlotte Roval to skate into the Round of 8. From there Truex finished 25th at Texas and seventh at Kansas. As a result, he went to Martinsville either having to win or race his way in on points as he was below the cutline. The 2017 series champ answered the bell and finishing fourth and making the final round by three points over his teammate Kyle Busch.

 

Now the 41-year-old is looking to become the 17th different driver in series history to win multiple championships and just the second active driver to accomplish the feat joining his JGR teammate Kyle Busch (2015, 2019). 

 

Truex’s stats in the Arizona desert

Though there have been some “rough patches” in Martin Truex Jr.’s overall Phoenix Raceway resume, his resume of late has been outstanding. Truex won at the 1-mile Phoenix track earlier this season and returns to not only get the season sweep but take home his second Cup title.

 

Truex has made 31 series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting one win (2021), five top fives, 13 top 10s and has led 187 laps. His average starts at the track is 11.9 and his average finish is 15.4, 12th-best in the series.

 

Truex is also near the top of the charts in several pre-race Loop Data categories at Phoenix with an Average Running Position of 13.889, 11th-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 89.7, 10th-best, 361 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best and 6,659 Laps in the Top 15 (68.8%), fifth-most.

 

Earlier this season at Phoenix, Truex led 64 laps after starting fifth en route to his first win at the track.

 

Multi-team champion a possibility

Should Martin Truex Jr. claim the NASCAR Cup Series championship on Sunday evening at Phoenix Raceway he would become just the seventh driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to earn the season-ending trophy for multiple teams.

 

Truex won the Cup championship in 2017 driving for the Furniture Row Racing team. And he is one of two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in the Championship 4 this weekend in Arizona.

 

Buck Baker, Ned Jarrett, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte and Tony Stewart all won NASCAR’s most prestigious title for more than one team. Stewart was the last to do so – winning a Cup championship at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2002 and 2005 and then for his own Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2011.

 

Crew Chief Corner: James Small

Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief in 2017, James Small has proven that he is one of the rising stars in the sport to keep an eye on. He made his Cup debut with Erik Jones running two races in 2017 before moving the No. 19 and driver Martin Truex Jr. in 2020. During his two seasons of full-time competition (2020, 2021) with Truex the pair have made 70 starts posting five wins and have qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in consecutive seasons (2020-21). This is the first year Small has earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 Round; his previous best final Cup standings finish was seventh in 2020. 

 

The Truex-Small pair has combined for the following achievements in 70 NASCAR Cup Series races together:

  • 5 wins
  • 25 top fives
  • 41 top 10s
  • 1,690 laps led
  • 0 poles
  • One NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearance (2021)
  • One NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances (2021)

 

Small will look to capture his first NASCAR Cup Series championship this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. If he accomplishes the feat, Daniels will become the 42nd different crew chief in the series with a championship.

 

Continuing Joe Gibbs Racing’s excellence

Winning and excellence are ingrained in the foundation of the Joe Gibbs Racing and since joining the NASCAR Cup Series in 1992 the organization has collected five series championships among three drivers - Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002, 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).

 

Overall, Joe Gibbs Racing has 10 NASCAR national series owner championships (five in Cup and five in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016).

 

Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the last 21 NASCAR Cup Series championships (2000-2020), putting the team's title-winning percentage during that span at 25%. The organization also holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) record for the most wins in a single season with 19 victories in 2019.

 

Heading into Phoenix this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing has earned nine NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2021. The 2021 season is the organization’s 29th straight season with at least one victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

 

This season Joe Gibbs Racing led a combined 2,792 laps. The team ranks second in laps led in a single season in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Presnt) with 4,047 laps out front in 2019. Junior Johnson and Associates holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era organization record for the most laps led in a single season with 4,296.

 

Joe Gibbs Racing’s recent dominance doesn’t end there, they also set a NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era record for the most finishes (32) inside the top two in 2019; a feat Hendrick Motorsports tied this season. This season the JGR foursome of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. scored 79 top-10 finishes; the team’s third-most (92 in 2019, 84 in 2016), posted 51 top-five finishes; the team’s third-most (61 in 2019 and 55 in 2020) and also won 22 stages.

 

Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs elimination-style format in 2014, Joe Gibbs Racing has placed at least one driver in the Championship 4 Round each season (Denny Hamlin: 2014, ’19, ’20, ’21; Kyle Busch: 2015-2019; Martin Truex Jr.: 2019, ’21; Carl Edwards: 2016). Impressively, Joe Gibbs Racing has placed more than one driver in the Championship 4 Round in three of the seven Playoffs with the elimination-format (2016, 2019 and 2021) and set the series record for the most drivers to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round by an organization in a single season when Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin all made the Championship 4 in 2019. 

 

Joe Gibbs Racing has won at least one Playoff race in 13 of the 17 Playoff seasons (since 2004) for a combined 33 postseason wins, second-most all-time. Joe Gibbs Racing is also tied with Hendrick Motorsports for the most Playoff wins in a single season with six victories each (JGR, 2019 and HMS 2007).

 

Martin Truex Jr. is looking to bring the Joe Gibbs Racing organization its sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship and his second becoming the fourth driver for JGR to win a title; joining Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019).

Statistical Advance: Analyzing the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 1, 2021) – Below is a look at the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 contenders at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona leading into the Championship Race on November 7 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). For additional information visit NASCARMedia.com’s digital track bio page at the following link: Phoenix Raceway

 

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Outlook Following Martinsville Speedway-2

Rank

Drivers

Points

Starts

Race Wins

Stage Wins

Playoff Pts

Top 5

Top 10

DNFs

1

Kyle Larson (P)

5,000

35

9

17

65

19

25

2

2

Chase Elliott (P)

5,000

35

2

6

22

14

20

2

3

Martin Truex Jr. (P)

5,000

35

4

5

29

12

19

2

4

Denny Hamlin (P)

5,000

35

2

10

30

18

24

0

5

Brad Keselowski

2,323

35

1

2

8

10

16

3

6

Kevin Harvick

2,318

35

0

0

2

10

23

2

7

Ryan Blaney

2,308

35

3

4

24

10

19

3

8

Joey Logano

2,308

35

1

5

13

10

19

5

9

Kyle Busch

2,285

35

2

7

23

14

21

4

10

William Byron

2,280

35

1

4

14

12

20

5

11

Kurt Busch

2,274

35

1

3

8

6

14

4

12

Christopher Bell

2,251

35

1

0

5

7

15

4

13

Tyler Reddick

2,232

35

0

3

3

3

16

2

14

Alex Bowman

2,221

35

4

0

15

8

16

5

15

Aric Almirola

2,184

35

1

0

5

2

4

5

16

Michael McDowell

2,139

35

1

0

5

2

5

4

 

PHOENIX-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

*Playoff drivers are seeded by best finishes from the Playoffs Round of 8; Loop Data from 2005-2021.

 

1 - Kyle Larson (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)

·       Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 111.9, series-best

 

2021 Rundown:

·       Nine wins, 19 top fives, 25 top 10s, two poles

·       Led 2,474 laps

·       Average Finish of 9.3

 

Phoenix Raceway Outlook:

·       Five top fives, eight top 10s

·       Average Finish of 11.643, fifth-best

·       Average Running Position of 11.956, ninth-best

·       Driver Rating of 93.5, eighth-best

·       141 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best

·       3,010 Laps in the Top 15 (70.1%), 11th-most

·       393 Quality Passes, 11th-most

 

 

2 - Chase Elliott (No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)

·       Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 101.5, third-best

 

2021 Rundown:

·       Two wins, 14 top fives, 20 top 10s

·       Led 858 laps

·       Average Finish of 11.5

 

Phoenix Raceway Outlook:

·       One win, four top fives, seven top 10s, one pole

·       Average Finish of 11.182, fourth-best

·       Average Running Position of 8.709, second-best

·       Driver Rating of 107.1, second-best

·       306 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best

·       2,917 Laps in the Top 15 (84.5%), 12th-most

·       349 Quality Passes, 12th-most

 

 

3 - Martin Truex, Jr (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)

·       Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.7, sixth-best

 

2021 Rundown:

·       Four wins, 12 top fives, 19 top 10s

·       Led 793 laps

·       Average Finish of 12.3

 

Phoenix Raceway Outlook:

·       One win, five top fives, 13 top 10s, two poles

·       Average Finish of 15.387, 12th-best

·       Average Running Position of 13.889, 11th-best

·       Driver Rating of 89.7, 10th-best

·       361 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best

·       6,659 Laps in the Top 15 (68.8%), fifth-most

·       756 Quality Passes, fifth-most

 

 

4 - Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)

·       Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.2, second-best

 

2021 Rundown:

·       Two wins, 18 top fives, 24 top 10s,

·       Led 1502 laps

·       Average Finish of 8.6

 

Phoenix Raceway Outlook:

·       Two wins, 15 top fives, 19 top 10s, two poles

·       Average Finish of 10.781, second-best

·       Average Running Position of 10.989, fourth-best

·       Driver Rating of 99.2, fourth-best

·       530 Fastest Laps Run, third-best

·       7,383 Laps in the Top 15 (73.9%), third-most

·       718 Quality Passes, sixth-most

 

 

Active NASCAR Cup Series Drivers with Championships (1949-2020)

Rank

No. of Titles

Active Champions (7)

Years

1

2

Kyle Busch

2019, 2015

2

1

Chase Elliott

2020

 

1

Joey Logano

2018

 

1

Martin Truex Jr.

2017

 

1

Kevin Harvick

2014

 

1

Brad Keselowski

2012

 

1

Kurt Busch

2004

 

 

NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale Playoff Fast Facts: Phoenix Raceway

·        The 2021 season marks the second year the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race will be held at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona (2020-2021). 

·        Since the inception of the Playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2004, Phoenix Raceway has occupied three different positions on the postseason schedule:

o   In 2004, Phoenix Raceway hosted the eighth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr.

o   From 2005 – 2019 (15 seasons), Phoenix Raceway has hosted the penultimate (ninth) race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.  

·        A total of 10 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Phoenix Raceway.

·        Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup Series in Playoff race wins at Phoenix Raceway with four victories (2006, 2012, 2013 and 2014).

·        Last season, Chase Elliott secured his first NASCAR Cup Series title by winning the season finale at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 8, 2020).

NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway Playoff Race Winners

Track

Playoff Race Winners

Date

Race No.

Phoenix

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Sunday, November 7, 2004

34

Phoenix

Kyle Busch

Sunday, November 13, 2005

35

Phoenix

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 12, 2006

35

Phoenix

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 11, 2007

35

Phoenix

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 9, 2008

35

Phoenix

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 15, 2009

35

Phoenix

Carl Edwards

Sunday, November 14, 2010

35

Phoenix

Kasey Kahne

Sunday, November 13, 2011

35

Phoenix

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 11, 2012

35

Phoenix

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 10, 2013

35

Phoenix

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 9, 2014

35

Phoenix

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Sunday, November 15, 2015

35

Phoenix

Joey Logano

Sunday, November 13, 2016

35

Phoenix

Matt Kenseth

Sunday, November 12, 2017

35

Phoenix

Kyle Busch

Sunday, November 11, 2018

35

Phoenix

Denny Hamlin

Sunday, November 10, 2019

35

Phoenix

Chase Elliott

Sunday, November 8, 2020

36

 

 

·        Four non-Playoff drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway:

o   In 2005, Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was ranked 19th in the point standings at the time of the win.

o   In 2011, Kasey Kahne won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was ranked 14th in the point standings at the time of the win.

o   In 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was seventh in point standings at the time of the win. Earnhardt Jr. had made the Playoffs in 2015 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

o   In 2017, Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was seventh in points at the time of the win. Kenseth had made the Playoffs in 2017 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

·        The worst finish in a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway by a driver that went on to win the title the same season was 38th by Jimmie Johnson in 2016. In 2016, Phoenix occupied the penultimate event of the season.

·        Prior to the 2020 season, Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s season finale from 2004-2019 (16 seasons). Phoenix Raceway is just the second track to host the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race in the Playoffs.

·        A total of 12 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race (2004-2020).  

·        Greg Biffle leads the NASCAR Cup Series in Championship Race wins with three victories (2004, 2005, 2006 – all at Homestead-Miami Speedway).

 

NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Season Finale Race Winners

Track

Playoff Race Winners

Date

Homestead

Greg Biffle

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Homestead

Greg Biffle

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Homestead

Greg Biffle

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Homestead

Matt Kenseth

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Homestead

Carl Edwards

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homestead

Denny Hamlin

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Homestead

Carl Edwards

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homestead

Tony Stewart

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Homestead

Jeff Gordon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homestead

Denny Hamlin

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Homestead

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Homestead

Kyle Busch

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Homestead

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Homestead

Martin Truex Jr

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Homestead

Joey Logano

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Homestead

Kyle Busch

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Phoenix

Chase Elliott

Sunday, November 8, 2020

  

 

·        Eight times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series season finale race has won the championship during the Playoff Era (2004-Present):

o   In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the 15th starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and as a result secured his third-career NASCAR Cup Series championship in the closest points battle in series history – tied with Carl Edwards – Stewart won the title by virtue of the tiebreaker: most wins.

o   In 2014, Kevin Harvick won from the fifth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the first year of the elimination-style format of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, as a result he won his first series title.   

o   In 2015, Kyle Busch won from the third starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the second year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, as a result he won his first series championship.  

o   In 2016, Jimmie Johnson won from the 14th starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the third year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he tied NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the series-most championships with seven each.

o   In 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won from the second starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the fourth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship.  

o   In 2018, Joey Logano won from the fifth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the fifth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship.  

o   In 2019, Kyle Busch won from the fourth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the sixth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he became just the second active driver at the time with multiple titles (20115, 2019) joining seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.    

o   In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the first starting position at Phoenix Raceway in the seventh year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship. Worth noting, Elliott was served a pre-race penalty and as a result of serving the penalty he actually started the race from back of the field and still won.   

·        The worst finish in a Playoff race by the eventual series champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway is 15th (three times): Tony Stewart in 2005, Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and Brad Keselowski in 2012. 

·        Two non-Playoff drivers have won the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale Playoff race: Greg Biffle (2004 and 2006) and Denny Hamlin (2013).     

 

NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 Comparisons:

2021

Starts

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

Poles

Laps Led

Laps Completed

% Led

Avg. Start

Avg. Finish

Driver Rating

Kyle Larson

35

9

19

25

1

2474

8,688

28.48%

6.2

9.3

111.9

Chase Elliott

35

2

14

20

0

858

8,738

9.82%

8.2

11.8

101.5

Martin Truex Jr.

35

4

12

19

0

793

8,822

8.99%

8.3

12.3

96.7

Denny Hamlin

35

2

18

24

0

1,502

8,884

16.91%

6.4

8.6

109.2

Totals & Averages

 

17

63

88

1

5,627

35,132

16.05%

7.3

10.5

104.8

Winning Percentage

47.22%

      
            

2020

Starts

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

Poles

Laps Led

Laps Completed

% Led

Avg. Start

Avg. Finish

Driver Rating

Joey Logano

35

3

11

20

0

814

9,473

8.59%

6.5

12.1

101

Chase Elliott

35

4

14

21

1

1,094

9,229

11.85%

9.2

12

102.3

Brad Keselowski

35

4

12

23

0

936

9,427

9.93%

7.7

10.3

99.4

Denny Hamlin

35

7

17

20

0

1,083

9,579

11.31%

9

9.5

100.3

Totals & Averages

 

18

54

84

1

3,927

37,708

10.42%

8.1

11

100.8

Winning Percentage

51.43%

      

 

           

2019

Starts

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

Poles

Laps Led

Laps Completed

% Led

Avg. Start

Avg. Finish

Driver Rating

Denny Hamlin

35

6

19

23

3

920

9,857

9.30%

11.3

9.5

97.7

Kyle Busch

35

4

16

26

1

1,462

9,900

14.80%

12.5

9.2

107.5

Martin Truex Jr.

35

7

14

23

0

1,268

9,885

12.80%

13.4

10

102.7

Kevin Harvick

35

4

14

25

6

912

9,537

9.60%

8.7

10.2

104.9

Totals & Averages

 

21

63

97

10

4,562

39,179

11.60%

11.5

9.7

103.2

Winning Percentage

60.00%

         
            

2018

Starts

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

Poles

Laps Led

Laps Completed

% Led

Avg. Start

Avg. Finish

Driver Rating

Joey Logano

35

2

12

25

1

854

9,559

8.90%

9.9

10.9

96.1

Kyle Busch

35

8

21

27

4

1,448

9,734

14.90%

7.6

8.4

109.3

Martin Truex Jr.

35

4

19

20

4

996

9,493

10.50%

10.1

11

101.2

Kevin Harvick

35

8

22

28

4

1,932

9,424

20.50%

8.7

9

115.2

Totals & Averages

 

22

74

100

13

5,230

38,210

13.70%

9.1

9.8

105.5

Winning Percentage

62.90%

         
            

2017

Starts

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

Poles

Laps Led

Laps Completed

% Led

Avg. Start

Avg. Finish

Driver Rating

Martin Truex Jr.

35

7

18

25

3

2,175

10,101

21.50%

6.9

9.7

115.7

Kyle Busch

35

5

13

21

8

1,980

10,017

19.80%

7.3

11.8

108.2

Brad Keselowski

35

3

15

20

2

777

9,226

8.40%

8.9

12.6

95.9

Kevin Harvick

35

2

13

22

4

850

9,888

8.60%

8.8

11.3

102.7

Totals & Averages

 

17

59

88

17

5,782

39,232

14.70%

8

11.3

105.6

Winning Percentage

48.60%

         

 

2016

Starts

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

Poles

Laps Led

Laps Completed

% Led

Avg. Start

Avg. Finish

Driver Rating

Jimmie Johnson

35

4

10

15

1

734

9,963

7.40%

12

14.3

95.7

Kyle Busch

35

4

17

24

2

1,378

9,657

14.30%

9.6

11.6

104.7

Carl Edwards

35

3

9

18

6

871

10,046

8.70%

7.1

13.3

97.6

Joey Logano

35

3

15

25

3

697

9,892

7.00%

7.9

10.7

100.8

Totals & Averages

 

14

51

82

12

3,680

39,558

9.30%

9.1

12.5

99.7

Winning Percentage

40.00%

         
            

2015

Starts

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

Poles

Laps Led

Laps Completed

% Led

Avg. Start

Avg. Finish

Driver Rating

Kyle Busch

35

4

11

15

1

695

6,485

10.70%

8.4

11.2

107.1

Kevin Harvick

35

3

22

27

1

2,248

9,913

22.70%

8.2

8.9

118.9

Martin Truex Jr.

35

1

8

22

0

564

10,005

5.60%

12.5

12.2

100

Jeff Gordon

35

1

5

20

4

256

10,025

2.60%

12

13.9

92.5

Totals & Averages

 

9

46

84

6

3,763

36,428

10.30%

10.3

11.5

104.6

Winning Percentage

25.70%

         
            

2014

Starts

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

Poles

Laps Led

Laps Completed

% Led

Avg. Start

Avg. Finish

Driver Rating

Joey Logano

35

5

16

22

1

993

10,127

9.80%

9.8

11.2

106.7

Kevin Harvick

35

4

13

19

8

2,083

9,765

21.30%

9.2

13.3

109.9

Denny Hamlin

35

1

7

17

3

313

9,443

3.30%

14.7

14.5

90.7

Ryan Newman

35

0

4

15

0

41

10,212

0.40%

13.1

13

86.1

Totals & Averages

 

10

40

73

12

3,430

39,547

8.70%

11.7

13

98.4

Winning Percentage

28.60%

         

 

 

NASCAR Cup Series 2021 Championship 4 Round Drivers at Phoenix Raceway

Rank

Driver

Races

Poles

Wins

Top Fives

Top 10s

DNFs

Average Finish

Driver Rating

 
 

1

Kyle Larson

14

0

0

5

8

1

11.6

93.5

 

2

Chase Elliott

11

1

1

4

7

1

11.2

107.1

 

3

Martin Truex Jr

31

2

1

5

13

4

15.4

89.7

 

4

Denny Hamlin

32

2

2

15

19

1

10.8

99.2

 

 

* – Based on last 32 races at Phoenix Raceway (2005 – 2021).

 

Phoenix Raceway:

Season Race #: 36 of 36 (11-07-21)

Track Size: 1-mile

Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 9 degrees

Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 11 degrees

Banking/Frontstretch: 3 degrees

Banking/Backstretch: 9 degrees

Race Length: 312 laps / 500 Kilometers

Stage 1 Length: 75 laps

Stage 2 Length: 115 laps

Final Stage Length: 122 laps

 

 

QUALIFYING / RACE RECORDS

Track Qualifying Record:

Jimmie Johnson

Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

143.158 mph, 25.147 secs.

November 13, 2015

 

2020 Championship Race Pole Winner:

Starting Lineups were determined by Metric Qualifying.

Chase Elliott started from the pole position.

 

Track Race Record:

Tony Stewart

Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac

118.132 mph, (02:38:28)

November 7, 1999

 

2020 Championship Race Winner:

Chase Elliott, Chevrolet

112.096 mph, (02:47:00), 11-08-20

 

 

HISTORY

·        Construction was completed, on what was then known as Phoenix International Raceway, in January 1964. The facility consisted of a one-mile oval and a 2.5-mile road course.

·        NASCAR Hall of Famer Alan Kulwicki won the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway on November 6, 1988.

·        The first spring race at Phoenix Raceway was held on April 23, 2005 and was also the first night race, which was won by Kurt Busch.

·        The track underwent its first repave in 2011. The construction began in March and concluded in September of that year.

·        The following changes were made during the construction period (March – Sept. 2011):

o   Widened the frontstretch from 52 to 62 feet and reconfigured pit road with the installation of concrete pit stalls

o   Pushed the dog-leg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet and tightened the turn radius of the dog-leg from 800 to 500 feet

o   Implemented banking, including 11-degree banking between Turn 1 and Turn 2; 10-11-degree banking in the apex of the dog-leg; and 9-degree banking in Turns 3 and 4.

·        Phoenix Raceway underwent reconstruction following the Spring race of 2018, with many new fan amenities added to the track, as well as the track itself being reconfigured so that the start/finish line is now just before the dog leg. 

·        There have been 50 NASCAR Cup Series races at Phoenix Raceway, one per season from 1988-2004 and two each season since.

·        Phoenix Raceway has participated in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs since 2004. The 2020 season marked the first year Phoenix Raceway hosted the championship finale race.

 

STARTS

·        In total 234 different drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway; 174 have competed in more than one.

·        Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman lead the NASCAR Cup Series in starts at Phoenix Raceway with 37 starts each.

·        In total 25 different drivers have made their first NASCAR Cup Series career start at Phoenix Raceway; three of the 25 are active this season – Ryan Newman (11/5/2000), Matt DiBenedetto (03/15/2015) and Quin Houff (03/10/2019).

·        Chase Elliott leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series in average starting position at Phoenix Raceway with a 4.727 in 11 starts.

Top 10 in Average Starting Position at Phoenix Raceway (All-Time & Active)

Rank

All-Time Drivers

Avg Start

Race

Rank

Active Drivers

Avg Start

Races

1

Chase Elliott

4.727

11

1

Chase Elliott

4.727

11

2

Ryan Blaney

6.182

11

2

Ryan Blaney

6.182

11

3

Kyle Larson

7.286

14

3

Kyle Larson

7.286

14

4

Rusty Wallace

8.053

19

4

Denny Hamlin

9.813

32

5

Alan Kulwicki

8.600

5

5

Erik Jones

10.000

10

6

Denny Hamlin

9.813

32

6

Kyle Busch

10.281

32

7

Erik Jones

10.000

10

7

Joey Logano

10.440

25

8

Kyle Busch

10.281

32

8

Martin Truex Jr

11.903

31

9

Joey Logano

10.440

25

9

Christopher Bell

12.000

3

10

Jeff Gordon

10.794

34

10

Kurt Busch

12.243

37

 

 

POLES

·        There have been 25 different NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at Phoenix Raceway.

·        10 of the 25 NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway pole winners are active this weekend.

Active Pole Winners

Poles

Seasons

Kyle Busch

4

2006, 2012, 2016, 2019

Ryan Newman

4

2002, 2003, 2004, 2008

Denny Hamlin

2

2005, 2014

Kevin Harvick

2

2015, 2018

Martin Truex Jr

2

2009, 2018

Ryan Blaney

2

2017, 2019

Alex Bowman

1

2016

Brad Keselowski

1

2014

Chase Elliott

1

2020

Joey Logano

1

2017

 

 

·        Ryan Newman (2002, 2003, 2004, 2008) and Kyle Busch (2006, 2012, 2016, 2019) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Phoenix Raceway with four each.

·        Geoffrey Bodine won the first NASCAR Cup Series pole at Phoenix Raceway in 1988 at a speed of 123.203 mph (29.220 secs.) in a Chevrolet.

·        Youngest series Phoenix pole winner: Kyle Busch (April 22, 2006 – 20 years, 11 months, 20 days).

·        Oldest series Phoenix pole winner: Mark Martin (March 3, 2013 – 54 years, 1 month, 22 days).

·        Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards are the only drivers to win consecutive poles at Phoenix Raceway. Newman won three-straight (2002-04), Gordon won in the Fall of 2006 and the Spring of 2007. Edwards won in the Fall of 2010 and Spring of 2011.

·        Four drivers have won their first career NASCAR Cup Series pole at Phoenix Raceway: Casey Atwood (October 2001), Denny Hamlin (November 2005), AJ Allmendinger (April 2010) and Alex Bowman (November 2016).

·        Five different manufacturers have won a pole in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway, led by Chevrolet with 18 and followed by Ford (15), Toyota (7), Dodge (4) and Pontiac (4).

 

 

WINS

·        A total of 26 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won at Phoenix Raceway.

·        10 of the 26 NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway winners are active this weekend.

Active Race Winners

Wins

Seasons

Kevin Harvick

9

2018, 2016, 2015, 2014 sweep, 2013, 2012, 2007 sweep

Kyle Busch

3

2019, 2018, 2005

Joey Logano

2

2020, 2016

Denny Hamlin

2

2019, 2012

Ryan Newman

2

2017, 2010

Martin Truex Jr

1

2021

Chase Elliott

1

2020

Kurt Busch

1

2005

 

 

·        Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Phoenix Raceway with nine victories (2006 sweep, 2012 Playoff race, 2013 Playoff race, 2014 sweep, 2015 Spring race, 2016 Spring race, 2018 Spring race).

·        A total of 13 drivers have multiple wins at Phoenix Raceway: Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins with nine followed by Jimmie Johnson (four), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (three), Kyle Busch (three), Davey Allison (two), Jeff Burton (two), Jeff Gordon (two) Carl Edwards (two), Mark Martin (two), Matt Kenseth (two), Ryan Newman (two), Joe Logano (two) and Denny Hamlin (two).

·        Of the 13 drivers with multiple wins at Phoenix Raceway, Mark Martin (Ford; 1993 and Chevrolet; 2009) and Kyle Busch (Chevrolet; 2005 and Toyota; 2018, 2019) are the only two drivers to win in two different manufacturers.

·        Six drivers have won consecutive races at Phoenix Raceway: Davey Allison (1991,1992); Jeff Burton (2000, 2001); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004); Kevin Harvick (swept 2006, then 2013 Playoff race, swept 2014 and 2015 spring race); Jimmie Johnson (fall race of 2007, swept 2008); Kyle Busch (Playoff race 2018, Spring race 2019).

·        Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Bobby Hamilton (10/27/1996) are the only two drivers to post their first NASCAR Cup Series career win at Phoenix Raceway.

·        In total 22 different starting positions on the grid have resulted in victories in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix.

·        Six of the 50 NASCAR Cup Series races (12%) at Phoenix Raceway have been won from the pole or first starting position: Jeff Gordon (Spring race of 2007), Jimmie Johnson (Playoff race of 2008), Mark Martin (Spring race of 2009), Carl Edwards (Playoff race of 2010), Kevin Harvick (Spring race of 2015), Chase Elliott (2020).

·        Eight of the 50 (18%) NASCAR Cup Series races at Phoenix Raceway have been won from the front row: six from the first starting position and three from second starting position. 

·        The third starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field producing more winners (seven) than any other starting position – the most recent was Denny Hamlin’s win in this race in 2019.

NASCAR Cup Series Wins by Starting Positions at Phoenix Raceway

Starting Position

Wins

Winning %

Starting Position

Wins

Winning %

1

6

12.0%

13

5

10.0%

2

3

6.0%

14

2

4.0%

3

7

14.0%

15

3

6.0%

4

2

4.0%

17

1

2.0%

5

1

2.0%

18

1

2.0%

6

3

6.0%

19

2

4.0%

7

2

4.0%

20

1

2.0%

9

2

4.0%

21

1

2.0%

10

2

4.0%

22

1

2.0%

11

2

4.0%

28

1

2.0%

12

1

2.0%

29

1

2.0%

Stats

Winning %

Wins

Winning from the Pole:

12.0%

6

Winning from the Front Row:

18.0%

9

Winning from a Top-Five Starting Position:

38.0%

19

Winning from a Top-10 Starting Position:

56.0%

28

Winning After Starting Outside the Top 20:

8.0%

4

 

 

·        Ricky Rudd won the 1995 Phoenix Raceway race from the 29th-place starting position, the furthest in the field a NASCAR Cup Series race winner has started at the one-mile raceway. 

·        Ryan Newman won the 2017 Phoenix Raceway race from the 22nd starting position, the furthest back an active NASCAR Cup Series race winner has started. 

·        Youngest NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix winner: Kyle Busch (November 13, 2005 – 20 years, 6 months, 11 days).

·        Oldest NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix winner: Mark Martin (April 18, 2009 – 50 years, 3 months, 9 days).

·        24 of the 26 NASCAR Cup Series drivers who have won at Phoenix Raceway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. NASCAR Hall of Famers Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Tony Stewart (11/7/1999) are the only two drivers to win at Phoenix Raceway in their first appearance.

·        Brad Keselowski leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Cup Series starts at Phoenix Raceway without visiting Victory Lane with 24 starts.

·        In total 13 different organizations have won at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Hendrick Motorsports with 10 victories.

 

NASCAR Cup Series Organization Wins at Phoenix Raceway

Organizations

Wins

Hendrick Motorsports

11

Joe Gibbs Racing

7

Roush Fenway Racing

7

Richard Childress Racing

6

Stewart-Haas Racing

6

Robert Yates Racing

3

Team Penske

3

Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

2

Petty Enterprises

1

Red Bull Racing

1

Melling Racing

1

Rudd Performance Motorsports

1

AK Racing

1

 

·        Hendrick Motorsports leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Phoenix Raceway with 11 victories among seven drivers: Terry Labonte (1994), Kyle Busch (2005), Jeff Gordon (2007, 2011), Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep, 2009), Mark Martin (2009), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2015) and Chase Elliott (2020).

·        In total four different manufacturers have won at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Chevrolet with 24 victories and followed by Ford (17), Toyota (7) and Pontiac (2).

 

 

LAP LEADERS

·        In total 93 different drivers have led at least one lap in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway. 

·        Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup Series in laps led at Phoenix with 1,662 laps led in 33 starts.   

Top 10 Lap Leaders at Phoenix Raceway in NASCAR Cup Series (All-Time & Active)

Rank

All-Time Drivers

Led

Completed

% Led

Rank

Active Drivers

Led

Completed

% Led

1

Kevin Harvick

1,662

11,530

14.4%

1

Kevin Harvick

1,662

11,530

14.4%

2

Kyle Busch

1,190

9,785

12.2%

2

Kyle Busch

1,190

9,785

12.2%

3

Jimmie Johnson

998

10,619

9.4%

3

Denny Hamlin

854

9,925

8.6%

4

Mark Martin

911

10,477

8.7%

4

Kurt Busch

817

11,470

7.1%

5

Rusty Wallace

867

5,406

16.0%

5

Joey Logano

717

7,467

9.6%

6

Denny Hamlin

854

9,925

8.6%

6

Chase Elliott

402

3,301

12.2%

7

Kurt Busch

817

11,470

7.1%

7

Brad Keselowski

283

7,155

4.0%

8

Joey Logano

717

7,467

9.6%

8

Ryan Newman

242

10,612

2.3%

9

Dale Earnhardt Jr

569

8,734

6.5%

9

Alex Bowman

194

3,422

5.7%

10

Tony Stewart

555

8,690

6.4%

10

Martin Truex Jr

187

8,945

2.1%

 

 

·        The most laps led by the race winner in a single NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway was 264 of the scheduled 312 laps (84.6%) by Kevin Harvick on November 9, 2014 – he started from the third position.

·        The most laps led by a driver that did not win in a single NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway was 237 of the scheduled 312 laps (74.3%) by Kyle Busch on November 11, 2012 – he started from the pole but finished third.   

·        The fewest laps led by the race winner in a single NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway was four of the scheduled 378 laps (1.05%) by Ryan Newman on April 10, 2010 – he started from the 14th position.

 

 

ADDITIONAL FINISHING POSITIONS

Runner-Up Finishes:

·        A total of 30 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have finished runner-up at Phoenix Raceway.

·        NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Phoenix Raceway with five.

·        Kyle Busch leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in runner-up finishes at Phoenix with four second-place finishes.

Top Five in Runner-Up Finishes at Phoenix Raceway (All-Time & Active)

Rank

All-time Drivers

Runner-Ups

Rank

Active Drivers

Runner-Ups

1

Mark Martin

5

1

Kyle Busch

4

2

Kyle Busch

4

2

Kevin Harvick

3

3

Jimmie Johnson

3

3

Brad Keselowski

2

 

Kevin Harvick

3

 

Ryan Newman

2

 

Tony Stewart

3

5

Chase Elliott

1

   

 

Denny Hamlin

1

    

Joey Logano

1

   

 

Kurt Busch

1

    

Kyle Larson

1

   

 

Martin Truex Jr

1

 

 

Top-Five Finishes:

·        A total of 51 different drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series have finished inside the top-five at Phoenix.

·        Kevin Harvick leads the series in top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway with 18 top fives.

Top Five in Top-Five Finishes at Phoenix Raceway (All-Time & Active)

Rank

All-time Drivers

Top Fives

Rank

Active Drivers

Top Fives

1

Kevin Harvick

18

1

Kevin Harvick

18

2

Jimmie Johnson

16

2

Denny Hamlin

15

3

Denny Hamlin

15

3

Kyle Busch

12

4

Jeff Gordon

12

4

Ryan Newman

10

 

Kyle Busch

12

5

Brad Keselowski

8

 

Mark Martin

12

   

 

Top-10 Finishes:

·        A total of 86 different drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series have finished inside the top-10 at Phoenix Raceway.

·        Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup Series in top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway with 26 top 10s. 

Top Five in Top-10 Finishes at Phoenix Raceway (All-Time & Active)

Rank

All-time Drivers

Top 10s

Rank

Active Drivers

Top 10s

1

Kevin Harvick

26

1

Kevin Harvick

26

2

Jeff Gordon

24

2

Kyle Busch

22

3

Jimmie Johnson

22

3

Kurt Busch

20

 

Kyle Busch

22

4

Denny Hamlin

19

5

Mark Martin

21

5

Joey Logano

14

 

Average Finish:

·        Alan Kulwicki (five starts) leads the series in average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway with a 5.200.

·        Kevin Harvick (37 starts) leads all active drivers in average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway with a 8.838.

Top 10 in Average Finishing Position at Phoenix Raceway (All-Time & Active)

Rank

All-time Drivers

Avg Finish

Races

Rank

Active Drivers

Avg Finish

Races

1

Alan Kulwicki

5.200

5

1

Kevin Harvick

8.838

37

2

Kevin Harvick

8.838

37

2

Denny Hamlin

10.781

32

3

Dale Earnhardt

9.538

13

3

Kyle Busch

10.969

32

4

Mark Martin

9.588

34

4

Chase Elliott

11.182

11

5

Jimmie Johnson

10.229

35

5

Kyle Larson

11.643

14

6

Jeff Gordon

10.765

34

6

Brad Keselowski

12.625

24

7

Denny Hamlin

10.781

32

7

William Byron

12.714

7

8

Kyle Busch

10.969

32

8

Joey Logano

13.400

25

9

Davey Allison

11.000

5

9

Aric Almirola

14.619

22

10

Chase Elliott

11.182

11

10

Ryan Blaney

15.182

11

 

 

TRACK / EVENT STATS

·        Since the advent of electronic scoring (1993), the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway is the Spring race of 2016 (March 13, 2016) when Kevin Harvick beat Carl Edwards to the line by 0.010 seconds – which is tied with Atlanta (3/12/2000), Daytona (2/21/2016), and Rockingham (2/22/2004) for the eighth closest finish in series history.

Top Five Closest Margins of Victory at Phoenix Raceway

Margin of Victory

Race Winner

Runner-Up

Date

0.010

Kevin Harvick

Carl Edwards

Sunday, March 13, 2016

0.130

Ryan Newman

Jeff Gordon

Saturday, April 10, 2010

0.170

Mark Martin

Ernie Irvan

Sunday, October 31, 1993

0.250

Kevin Harvick

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 12, 2006

0.276

Joey Logano

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, March 8, 2020

·        Qualifying has never been cancelled due to weather at Phoenix Raceway.

·        Nine of the 50 races at Phoenix Raceway have ended with NASCAR Overtime (18%):

Date

Scheduled

Actual

Overtime

Winner

Runner-Up

Sunday, March 8, 2020

312

316

4

Joey Logano

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, March 19, 2017

312

314

2

Ryan Newman

Kyle Larson

Sunday, November 13, 2016

312

324

12

Joey Logano

Kyle Busch

Sunday, March 13, 2016

312

313

1

Kevin Harvick

Carl Edwards

Sunday, March 3, 2013

312

316

4

Carl Edwards

Jimmie Johnson

Sunday, November 11, 2012

312

319

7

Kevin Harvick

Denny Hamlin

Saturday, April 10, 2010

375

378

3

Ryan Newman

Jeff Gordon

Sunday, November 9, 2008

312

313

1

Jimmie Johnson

Kurt Busch

Sunday, November 7, 2004

312

315

3

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Ryan Newman

 

·        Only two of the 50 NASCAR Cup Series races at Phoenix Raceway have been shortened due to weather:

Date

Scheduled

Actual

Fewer

Winner

Runner-Up

Sunday, November 15, 2015

312

219

-93

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Kevin Harvick

Sunday, October 25, 1998

312

257

-55

Rusty Wallace

Mark Martin

 

Additional Phoenix Raceway NASCAR Cup Series Race Statistics:

Previous Races

Last Race

Most/Largest

Fewest/Smallest

Cars:

38

44 - 2 Times (10/27/1996)

36 (03/10/2019)

Lead Changes:

22

28 (02/27/2011)

1 (11/04/1990)

Leaders:

9

15 (03/04/2012)

2 (11/04/1990)

Cautions:

7

12 - 2 Times (03/08/2020)