The NASCAR Cup Series 2020 season will be decided by a one-race shootout on Sunday. Despite all the controversy surrounding the playoff system since Kevin Harvick‘s elimination despite winning nine races this season, the excitement of the Season Finale 500 cannot be undermined.
Phoenix Raceway, which has seen season-defining results in past years, will now host the biggest race of them all, for the first time.
Chase Elliott starts the race on pole position as he chases his first title. Phoenix has not always spelled good news for the Hendrick Motorsports star, and he has just one top-five finish in his last five races there.
However, Elliott has proved that he can come up with the goods when it matters most, with wins at Charlotte and Martinsville in the playoffs.
Elliott finished 7th at Phoenix earlier this year, which is his best finish in the last four races there. Expect Elliott to, once again, go all in for the win on Sunday.
Denny Hamlin finished 20th at Phoenix in the spring race. However, that won’t bother him much. Phoenix is historically a great track for the Joe Gibbs Racing star, who has two wins there, one of which came in last year’s playoff race. The absence of Kevin Harvick certainly makes Hamlin a favorite to win the title.
While he knows that he does not necessarily need his 8th win this season to win the title, Hamlin will certainly push for it.
Joey Logano is one of only two of the title contenders who have won the title before. He is the only one among the four who knows how it is to win a ‘championship 4’ race. Logano also won the spring race at Phoenix and has had extra time to prepare for Sunday’s race as compared to the other three drivers, having sealed his place at Kansas itself.
Logano’s 2018 title win is still fresh in memory. His confidence is sky high, and he even termed himself as the favorite to win on Sunday. There is no reason why he would not be. He will not shy away from some ‘good hard racing’ if push comes to shove on Sunday.
Brad Keselowski is the other former title winner. The key for Keselowski is to look back to his other wins this season. Two of those came at New Hampshire and Richmond, the tracks that hold quite a bit of resemblance to Phoenix. Keselowski also confirmed that he will bring the same car on Sunday, which won him those two races.
Keselowski has four finishes of 10th or lower in his last five races at Phoenix. However, a championship race is all about responding to pressure and having strategies in place, and the 2012 champion knows what it is to thrive under such challenges.
Harvick, although not in title contention, is a driver everyone fears at Phoenix. He might still be hurting after what happened last weekend and would come in with a point to prove.
The NASCAR circuit will also bid adieu to one of its greatest drivers ever as Jimmie Johnson runs his final NASCAR race. Joining him is veteran Clint Bowyer, and expect both men to give it their everything in the most emotional race of their full-time NASCAR careers.
The championship race, ever since the playoff system began in 2014, has always been won by a title contender. In all probability, the same could happen on Sunday as the championship four are more than capable to seal the title with a win.
PREDICTION: Brad Keselowski to win the race and the title, with Denny Hamlin challenging him for the win.