Chase Elliott's repeat bid as Cup Series champion falls short

Chase Elliott, who capped a tumultuous 2020 NASCAR season with his first series championship, fell short on a chance to repeat on Sunday.

The sport’s most popular driver won last season’s Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway and the series title, bringing a celebratory end to a difficult year in which NASCAR faced numerous hurdles just to complete its season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And he almost did it again.

Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson together led 201 of the 312 laps in Sunday’s title race at Phoenix but Elliott faded down the stretch to finish fifth as Larson won his first series championship.

Elliott, 25, was disappointed but not dejected after the race, believing he and his No. 9 Chevrolet team had a solid opportunity to win consecutive titles.

Read Also:

“I thought our team did a really good job preparing this week. I was really proud of our group,” Elliott said. “I thought we brought a really good car and did a lot of things that we were wanting it to do (in the race), just didn’t work out, and the sequence of the way all that went certainly was unfortunate for us.

“I thought we had a really good car. Honestly, I thought all four guys (eligible to win the title) were good. I felt like we all kind of had our moments really throughout the day.

“You get a caution with 20 laps to go, it’s going to be very difficult to run down and pass the guy that jumps out front in the restart.”

Martin Truex Jr. appeared in good position to win his second series title down the stretch but a caution for debris on the track – a broken brake rotor – on Lap 283 sent the field all down pit road to take on new tires.

Larson edged Denny Hamlin off pit road to take the lead and over the final 24-lap green-flag run to the finish held off a late charge from Truex to win the race.

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts, Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro HendrickCars.com, Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Express

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts, Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro HendrickCars.com, Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Express

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Elliott, who came off pit road fourth on the final stop, ended up finishing fifth in the race and fourth in the final series standings.

Elliott led four times in the race for a total of 94 laps (second to Larson’s 107). Each time Elliott got the lead in the race – twice off pit road and twice on the track – he got it from passing Larson.

He led for the final time with 62 laps to go.

“Look, proud of our team, a lot to build on, and also congrats to Kyle and Cliff (Daniels, Larson’s crew chief). What an amazing season. Very, very deserving champions, and glad to see Kyle have success,” Elliott said.

“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.”

shares
comments

Related video

Denny Hamlin: "There's nothing else I could have done"
Previous article

Denny Hamlin: "There's nothing else I could have done"

Next article

2022 NASCAR Clash race features heat races, 150-lap main event

2022 NASCAR Clash race features heat races, 150-lap main event
Load comments
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021