The NASCAR Cup Series 2020 season finale will go down as one of the most memorable races in the history of the sport. It did have a major racing incident that would be talked about for years to come, but the emotions that surrounded the entire day at Phoenix Raceway made it special.
A major ‘changing of the guard’ or ‘passing of the torch’ was witnessed, with legends of the sport running their last races and young champions being crowned. It all began with the farewell introductions of Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, and Matt Kenseth.
With their families in the presence and the crowd on its feet, both Johnson and Bowyer were quite emotional ahead of their final race. “Let’s get this thing done for one final time today,” said Johnson’s Crew Chief Cliff Daniels on the radio as Johnson got ready for his last green flag.
As the race began, the attention shifted to Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano. Elliott, the pole-sitter, started from the rear after a pre-race penalty. However, he found his range from the word ‘go’ and raced to the front in no time.
“I thought it fired off really nice,” Elliott said of his car, to his team over the radio.
Logano won the opening stage and dominated much of that phase of the race. Elliott soon fought for the lead and was neck-to-neck with Keselowski at the end of stage 2, which Keselowski won.
As the final stage began, the problems for Logano and Hamlin also started.
“The vibration is really hurting us. Be ready,” said Logano as he was approaching a pit-stop. Seeing them pit, Keselowski’s spotter Coleman Pressley reached out to the driver. “Joey just pitted and the 11 pitted. Pit this time,” he said.
Logano grabbed the lead again with just under 50 laps to go, but Elliott was right on his tail. The nerves were showing and Logano asked his team for an update on Elliott. “Where’s he running back there?” Elliott asked.
Spotter TJ Majors replied, “He’s diving to the bottom of one and two. Just rolling the line on entry.” However, Elliott used all the momentum to soon make the pass that defined the end result.
The crowd was on its feet and so was Chase’s Hall of Famer dad, Bill Elliott, and Rick Hendrick. As Chase kept running down the laps, everyone in attendance could see the win coming.
As Elliott earned the checkered flag, an ecstatic Eddie D’hondt (Elliott’s spotter) said, “We are the champions. Yes!”.
“Ahhhhh. Yes. Yeahhh!” Elliott shot back with a huge roar of delight. The moments that followed were quite memorable. Johnson, who finished in fifth place, celebrated with Elliott.
He then thanked his team. “Thank you, boys. What a great way to finish ‘er up. Love you guys, Love this company. Love this sport,” said Johnson. Crew Chief Daniels urged Johnson to do a burnout. However, Johnson would not steal Elliott’s moment.
“No, those donuts are for Chase. I’m just going to give a little wave,” Johnson replied.
An emotional Johnson then said his final goodbyes, while the newest champion got his trophy and celebrated with loved ones. Elliott, one of the most popular drivers in the sport, became the third-youngest driver to win a Cup title.