NASCAR Championship Preview: Phoenix Raceway

NASCAR’s most popular driver wins Martinsville and locks himself into the championship race


Brett Cira

The field preparing to go green at Kansas Speedway on October 18, 2020

Brett Cira, Reporter

Chase Elliott was in a deep points hole headed into Martinsville- he needed a win, and did just that. The Dawsonville, Georgia native, is the son of Bill Elliott who won the Most Popular Driver award 16 times, one more than Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Another major heartbreak was for Kevin Harvick and his team, after being dominant all season long and getting eliminated from the playoffs by one single point. The No. 4 Team won nine races and captured the regular-season championship with ease. Now heading into the final race of the season, people are in disbelief knowing he will not be battling for a championship this weekend.

Joey Logano’s clutch wins holding off “The Closer”, Kevin Harvick at Kansas Speedway locked him into the Round of 4. This win not only saves his season but gives him a shot at the title at a track he won in the spring. 

The Championship field is set for Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. Four drivers will battle it out at the one-mile short track. Denny Hamlin has been the best of the four drivers all season, but Team Penske has very strong short track cars with Brad Keselowski dominating the short tracks and Joey Logano winning Phoenix in the Spring. Chase Elliott starts on the pole looking for his first Cup Series Championship in his young career.

Taken at Kansas Speedway where Joey Logano, No. 22, held on to win and lock himself into the Championship race. Chase Elliott, No. 9, went on to lock himself in by winning at Martinsville (Brett Cira)

This Sunday’s race will be 7-time Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson’s final full-time start. Only two other drivers have won seven championships, Richard Petty (The King) and Dale Earnhardt Sr. The effect he’s had on so many fans is truly unbelievable and his legacy will last forever. As his NASCAR career is coming to an end, his Indycar career is just about to start. Jimmie Johnson will run the road courses on the Indycar schedule in 2021. Rumors have gone around suggesting that he should run the legendary Indy 500, but as of now, he worries about the safety of Indy Cars on oval tracks.

Alex Bowman will switch numbers next season to take over the legendary number 48 for Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson, who got fired for saying a racial slur in a virtual race during the pandemic shutdown, signs with Hendrick Motorsports to officially replace Jimmie Johnson. Larson has completed sensitivity training and put in a lot of effort to change himself for the better. 

Here’s how the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs work:

There are 16 spots in the playoffs. If you win, you make the playoffs. The rest are determined by regular-season points. There are 10 races in the playoffs, 3 for the Round of 16, 12, and 8 each. After each round, the four drivers lowest in points or haven’t won in that round are eliminated. If you win in the playoffs, you advance to the next round. After the Round of 8, the championship race consists of the last four remaining playoff drivers and whoever finishes the highest wins the championship.

Playoff points are awarded all season long for drivers who win a stage or the race. Playoff points are also given out depending on where you finish in the regular season standings. You get one point for a stage win and five for a race win, but these are separate from normal points. These can be obtained all season and they come in effect in the playoffs. This gives a less likely chance for someone to pull an upset and take out drivers who dominated all season long. For example, Kevin Harvick, the regular season champion who won nine races this season started the playoffs with 52 bonus points and they carried on with him throughout each round of the playoffs.

The 2020 NASCAR season has been crazy. From Ryan Newman’s scary crash at Daytona, to the COVID-19 pandemic changes, it’s time to crown a champion.

Brett Cira